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Friday, February 3, 2017

Ministerial Statement by the Minister of the Health and Seniors, The Honourable Jeanne Atherden, CA, CPA, JP, MP

Overview of the Bill

Mr. Speaker, the Quarantine Bill 2017 was tabled on 21st November 2016.

Mr Speaker, this Act repeals the Quarantine Act 1946 and introduces internationally recognized standards to prevent and protect against public health threats that can impact the Island’s economic well-being and reputation.

Mr. Speaker, the first line of defence from global public health threats is the security of our ports and airport. The regulation governing the arrival of travellers, ships and aircraft at our borders is fundamental for the safety of Bermuda from threats from imported communicable diseases. The Quarantine Act 2017 is the legislation that will modernize and strengthen our response to international public health threats. 

The Quarantine Act 2017 ensures that Bermuda implements the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations 2005 or IHR 2005. The IHR 2005 was signed by member states of the WHO, including the United Kingdom, which extended the agreement to Bermuda in 2007, and provides a new public health security framework.

Implementing the standards of the IHR 2005 in our Quarantine Act 2017 ensures that we prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with, and restricted to, public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.

In addition, the Quarantine Act 2017 provides for the creation of Regulations to ensure:

  • national and international surveillance; assessment and public health response;
  • health measures applied by Bermuda to international travellers; aircraft and ships, and goods; and
  • public health control measures at our ports and airport.

By implementing the IHR 2005 into our Quarantine Act 2017, we are ensuring Bermuda has flexible and effective security for the range of public health risks that may arrive at our shores.

Mr. Speaker, in the last few years, Bermuda has witnessed first-hand the threat communicable diseases such as Zika and Ebola pose to our Island. The Quarantine Act 2017 ensures our legislation is consistent with the international standards and best practices currently being followed, and that we fulfil our obligations under the IHR 2005. The Quarantine Act 2017 will increase security for travellers, ships and aircraft arriving in Bermuda, while our Public Health Act continues to apply for general health measures of the Island’s population who are no longer in transit.

In particular the Quarantine Act 2017 modernizes and aligns Bermuda’s quarantine laws with the IHR 2005 by:

  1. identifying the National IHR Focal Point,
  2. providing for core capacities to be present and functioning at ports and the airport,
  3. allowing for a response to public health events of international concern; and
  4. providing for the Minister responsible for Health to create Regulations for interventions and treatment measures for baggage, cargo, containers, goods, conveyances, post, ports & airports, travellers, conveyance operators and port personnel

Mr. Speaker, the National IHR Focal Point for Bermuda will be Public Health England, the UK’s executive agency of the UK’s Department of Health. The National Focal Point acts as our conduit for communications with WHO for all matters related to public health threats and will ensure we receive recommendations for best practices of handling specific public health risks that arise. Our Chief Medical Officer will be the contact person for Public Health England on all matters related to the IHR 2005.

Mr. Speaker, the 1946 Regulations for both our Air and Maritime responsibilities are currently being reviewed. These will be brought to the House as soon as practicable this year by affirmative resolution and will fulfil the need in the Act to have core capacities at our entry points, response to public health events and introduce modern intervention techniques for travellers, baggage and conveyances.

Mr. Speaker, the new Regulations will comply with WHO standards to prevent the spread of disease before it reaches our shores by means of travellers, conveyance operators and the conveyances they operate. In addition, it will ensure that we do not impede trade or traffic, but allow more flexible measures for conveyances and travellers who we suspect of carrying a disease. These will be laid in both Houses before America’s Cup.

With those brief introductory remarks, I will take my seat, Mr. Speaker.