The Bermuda government said it planned to push through new legislation on Monday empowering it to force arriving passengers to self-quarantine as the island braced for the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
Finance Minister Curtis Dickinson told a news conference the island’s debt ceiling could be raised by US$150 million to combat the killer virus which has already claimed the lives of thousands globally.
Dickinson outlined a series of steps being taken by his ministry to try to offset some of the economic impacts of the virus.
He warned that unemployment was expected to increase and retail sales in an already struggling sector were likely to slow even more.
Supermarket heads advised customers to shop sensibly because panic buying was straining supplies. One manager said the stampede of shoppers at his store had been “absolutely crazy”.
Cancel non-essential travel
Residents were urged to cancel non-essential travel as the government tries to prevent COVID-19 from entering the island. So far, no cases have been confirmed.
The Bermuda zoo has closed until the end of next month and the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital has suspended elective surgeries.
On Sunday, Premier Davis Burt said that he would ask the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the President of the Senate to swiftly pass amendments enabling the government to enforce quarantines, effective from Tuesday.
The government “strongly urged” passengers arriving from Britain, New York and Miami on Sunday to self-quarantine for the next 14 days, even before the new legislation takes effect.
Passengers must complete a questionnaire setting out their travel history for the past two weeks. The restrictions are expected to remain until the end of this month.
Persons under quarantine will be contacted by health personnel, who will be the first point of contact in the event the person develops a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.