Audio: House Of Assembly Emergency Session

April 6, 2020

[Updated] During an emergency session held this morning — with social distancing in place — the House of Assembly approved the extension of the State of Emergency until April 18th. The Government had already indicated that it would last until April 18th, however it had to be formally done via Parliament

This Parliamentary session followed after the State of Emergency, the first in some 40 years, which was declared by the Governor on April 1st. The Bermuda Constitution states that after a proclamation of emergency has been made, if the Houses “are not due to meet within five days of the making of that proclamation the Governor shall, by proclamation published in the Gazette, summon them to meet within that period.”

Copy of the Official Proclamation:

State Of Emergency Official Proclamation Bermuda April 2020

Prior to the sitting a Government spokesperson said, “Under Orders of the Day, the Premier of Bermuda, the Hon. David Burt, JP, MP will table the Proclamation of Emergency and move the following motion/resolution for consideration of the House:

Whereas the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic; And Whereas COVID-19 is an unprecedented and severe threat to public health in Bermuda;

And Whereas a Proclamation of a state of emergency existing in Bermuda has been issued and gazetted by His Excellency the Governor pursuant to section 14[3] of the Constitution;

Be It Resolved that, pursuant to section 14[6] of the Constitution, this Honourable House approves the extension of the continuance of the said Proclamation of Emergency to 18th April 2020.”

“The Premier will make a few brief remarks, followed by the Opposition Leader only. The Premier will ask for a suitable message to be sent to HE, per section 18 [2] of the Emergency Powers [COVID-19 Shelter in Place] Regulations 2020. Afterwards, the Speaker will put the motion to the House which would be agreed by a voice vote.”

Audio of the Emergency session in the House of Assembly

Update 3.15pm: Premier David Burt’s statement:

Premier David Burt said, “Mr. Speaker, on Saturday morning the people of Bermuda awoke to more than an unseasonably cool north wind. For the first time in at least four decades this country awoke to a state of emergency. Provisions in the Constitution that are rarely read, never mind invoked, were activated by a proclamation signed by the Governor and published in the online Official Gazette and now laid before this Honourable House. The accompanying Regulations then imposed a 24 hour ‘shelter in place’ order on the residents of the Island, restricting the most basic of freedoms, that of freedom of movement and of assembly.

“Mr. Speaker, the enemy whose presence has precipitated this extraordinary series of events cannot be bombed into oblivion by modern weaponry, there is no wanted poster offering a reward for his arrest and without the assistance of a microscope we cannot hope to ever catch a glimpse of it.

“But, Mr. Speaker, from New York to Dubai, this enemy has descended on the world and although invisible has shifted global reality to the point where systems and institutions of historic vintage will be changed forever.

“Mr. Speaker, Covid19 has torn apart families, shredded economies and strained healthcare systems to the point of breaking. In Bermuda, we are not there yet and the actions this Government has taken in the weeks since this was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization are based on lessons learned from other countries whose misfortunes are being played out almost in real time complements of social media and online news. As the positive test results tell us, Mr. Speaker, Covid19 is here and it is not going away. The proclamation of emergency laid before this House is the only vehicle provided within our existing laws that permits this Government to take the actions required to reduce the risk of Covid19 spreading through what is referred to as community transmission.

“Mr. Speaker, in a recent interview with the New York Times, Professor of Biology Lauren Meyers said: “ I worry that many local officials are waiting until there is clear evidence of local transmission before taking action..the message is, we should not wait.”
“She continued: “You have to intervene against threats you can’t see.” Mr. Speaker, we did not wait and we have intervened.

“Mr. Speaker, in whatever way we brought in the new year that was 2020, this third decade of the 21st century, I am certain that none of us considered this current state of affairs a remote possibility. But here we are. In the wake of spirited and properly partisan debate on the 2020/21 Budget, this pandemic has demanded that we put aside partisanship and work together. I have steadily kept the Honourable Member, the Leader of the Opposition, informed of our actions and proposed next steps and I continue to be grateful for his support as we mount a whole-Island effort to respond to this pandemic.

“Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Health, has led a ‘round the clock’ public health effort which I know has been exhausting; but she and the dedicated public health professionals led by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball and the Nurse Epidemiologist Mrs. Jennifer Wilson have administered the response to this pandemic with considerable skill and professionalism. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

“Mr. Speaker, the threat is real. Unchecked community transmission would so overwhelm our hospital and our existing system of healthcare that, as it was in 1918 and as we have seen in so many other countries, there would certainly be wide scale death in Bermuda. As surreal as it may feel to see shuttered businesses and schools and to be told when to shop and when to be at home, this is what we must do to save lives.

“Mr. Speaker, there is also genuine economic concern for countries and individuals. The assistance developed and provided by this Government to those of our citizens made unemployed by this pandemic is a bridge to see them through this period. I wish to assure the people of Bermuda that in the midst of managing this crisis; their Government is also focused on rebuilding. The manner in which we reconstruct this economy will be unorthodox. Occasionally politicians use the slogan “no more business as usual” as a means by which to signal a mantra of change. Mr. Speaker, in the post Covid19 Bermuda and indeed the world, that will be no slogan, it will be the means of survival. This economy will be different and from the remains of what we have now must emerge a new set of values, a new set of norms and a new set of opportunities. No more business as usual.

“Mr. Speaker, the Motion before this Honourable House is an administrative one. The proclamation of emergency takes effect from the time it is made and is for 14 days unless its duration is extended by a resolution passed by both Houses of the Legislature. The Governor having signed it on the 1st of April, Honourable Members will have noted in the subsequent Regulations that the state of emergency therefore currently expires on Wednesday, 15th April. To accord with the public health advice of a 14-day shelter in place for proper impact on restricting any possible community transmission, and having come into force on 4th April, I am inviting this House to extend the state of emergency through to 6am on 18th April. This, Mr. Speaker, will achieve the full 14-day shelter in place intended by this action.

“Mr. Speaker, this commencement of this state of emergency coincided with an infamous historical event. On April 4th 1968 an assassin’s bullet rang out in Memphis, Tennessee and the world was robbed of a man of peace and justice, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His death was one of the hallmarks of what historians agree is one of history’s most tumultuous years. But Dr. King’s death did not rob the world of his wisdom or his timeless witness of inspiration in the face of fearful odds.

“In words that set the stage for the challenge we must meet on the other side of this pandemic, Dr. King said:

“Through our scientific genius we made of the world a neighborhood, but we failed through moral commitment to make of it a brotherhood.”

“Mr. Speaker, the unity that has seen us through the phases of this pandemic to date and the unity demanded to see us through the remainder, cannot evaporate once we receive the all clear. This same unity must transcend the state of emergency and the threat of community transmission of this virus. This unity is what we must reflect on while we shelter in place and commit, each and every one of us, to grow that unity of spirit, nurture that unity of purpose and channel that energy towards the renewal of the Bermuda we all love and call home. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”

OBA Leader Craig Cannonier’s statement:

Mr. Cannonier said, “In these extraordinary times – the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes – we must take extraordinary decisions: difficult decisions that will have profound implications for everyone.

“We must also rely on the extraordinary and selfless actions of others.

“Our emergency services, our health workers and members of the Royal Bermuda Regiment are potentially putting themselves in harm’s way every day.

“Other frontline staff such as customs officers are serving Bermuda commendably. Teachers have continued to teach our youth despite difficult circumstances.

“Our water and our gas are still being delivered. Bus drivers continue to drive our health workers.

“We rightly salute them all.

“But, Mr Speaker, one group is consistently left out of this roll call – those on the frontline in our supermarkets and pharmacies. From cashiers to the people who stock the shelves to the suppliers – all have done an amazing job of keeping Bermuda going.

“Mr Speaker, we should salute those men and women as well.

“I have said before that this is a war and one that Bermuda cannot afford to lose.

“It is in that spirit that we have offered support to the Premier and his Government and it is why we support this curfew. We must do everything we can to stop this virus spreading.

“The consequences for every man, woman and child of not doing so are too huge to contemplate.

“I have been in very regular contact with the Premier, offering advice and ideas. I want to thank the OBA team for their input. Everyone has played a part.

“It is to the Premier’s credit that he has not been afraid to implement some of our suggestions.

“This is indeed not the time for partisan politics and the One Bermuda Alliance will continue to take a collaborative approach.

“Mr Speaker, I would like to seek one point of clarification.

“How was it determined from the Public Health England modelling that two weeks of curfew was sufficient?

“Given that the confirmed cases rose from 2 to 37 within a 3-week period and considering that we have a significant number of people returning home who have been exposed to hotbeds of infection, has this been included in the model?

“One final thought Mr Speaker.

“While it is absolutely correct to focus on the fight to rid this Island of COVID-19, we must have an eye on the future.

“I am extremely concerned about this summer and what it will look like in terms of jobs for Bermudians and the health of Bermudian businesses.

“We need to be planning for the future and how we can make it through the rest of the year with the minimum amount of economic pain.

“One thing is clear – we cannot go on as we were. It is not going to be business as normal.

“Bermuda, please ensure you follow the rules: keep off the roads, practice social distancing and practice good personal hygiene.

“Let us all work together to get through this crisis. May God bless Bermuda.”

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  1. Albertha waite says:

    I would just Like to say. I felt a sense of calm. To hear unity and a spirit of togetherness. Mr. Permier. You have shown such strength and Patience, through out of this. I will continue to pray for you and your team. May God keep us all safe and grant us victory.
    God Bless. Be Safe. Stay Safe. Is my prayer for us all
    Kind regards
    Mrs. Albertha Waite