There are many in our community and around the world eagerly awaiting confirmation of when the L.F. Wade International Airport will once again have regularly scheduled commercial flights. I can now confirm that the decision has been made to resume commercial flights on 1 July 2020.
To that end, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport and industry stakeholders continue working to finalise all the protocols and requirements that will be put in place to secure Bermuda and her people from the spread of COVID-19. Because of the fluid and dynamic nature of this pandemic, and the need to protect all in our community, we have produced a working document, which will be fine-tuned in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
What I can share this evening is an outline of the process visitors will go through when travelling to and from Bermuda. This outline will allow travellers to plan, and the tourism industry to prepare, even while the details are solidified over the next few days.
Our plan features five stages of visitors travelling to Bermuda.
- Stage 1 is “Pre-Departure”
- Stage 2 is "In Flight”
- Stage 3 is “Upon Arrival”
- Stage 4 is “On-Island Experience” and
- The final stage is the “Return Home.”
I will give a brief overview of what we are working on, and what visitors and Bermuda may expect.
Phase 1 Pre-Departure
Prior to departing for Bermuda, travellers will be responsible for several things, including:
- obtaining a certified PCR COVID-19 test that is negative and taken within 72 hours of departure;
- ensuring they have appropriate health insurance;
- wearing face masks when travelling to the departure airport, and,
- wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing at the departure airport.
There will also be certain forms that must be completed including the Traveller Screening Form that those on the repatriation flights will be familiar with, as well as an arrival card – containing information shared between Immigration and the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
Work is underway to merge these forms, making it more convenient for travellers.
Also, we want the assistance of airlines servicing Bermuda to help prevent persons with COVID-19 coming to Bermuda. This will be done by having airlines conduct verbal health questioning at check-in, as well as conducting a visual check of arrival documentation and forms. Some airlines already carry out contactless temperature checks, and that is something we would want all airlines to do.
Phase 2 in Flight
During the flight, all airline passengers must wear a face mask while on-board the plane.
Airlines will also disinfect the aircraft and seats will be assigned bearing in mind the need for physical distancing. Efforts should also be made to limit contact between passengers and crew.
Phase 3 Upon Arrival
Upon arrival in Bermuda, travellers must continue to wear their face mask and practice physical distancing.
Customs and Immigration officials will be wearing the necessary levels of personal protective equipment or PPE and shielding.
Also, as soon as possible following arrival in Bermuda, every passenger must undergo COVID-19 testing either at the airport or at their accommodations. Depending on the volume of tests, the results are expected to be received within 24 hours, but in most cases the turnaround time will be less than eight hours.
At the airport, there will be safety protocols in place. These include the Department of Health conducting contactless temperature checks, hand sanitization stations located through the facility, all staff wearing face masks, and the sanitization of luggage.
Phase 4 On-Island Experience
Once visitors have exited the airport and are securing their ground transport, face masks must still be worn. In addition, the standard requirement for physical distancing, face masks and hygiene apply to drivers and passengers alike. Ideally, contactless payment methods are preferred.
At the visitor’s place of lodging, it is advised that contact be limited at check-in. Guests should be given access to their rooms as soon as possible where they will be quarantined for a matter of hours until the COVID-19 test results are delivered.
Throughout a guest’s stay, their temperature must be taken twice per day and the results recorded.
All local accommodations must ensure the necessary staff is available and that the necessary safety measures are in place in the facility as advised by the Ministry of Health.
These include having:
- medical personnel on call;
- enhanced cleaning protocols and hand sanitizing stations;
- staff trained by the Department of Health on COVID-19 best practices;
- face masks provided for guests and staff, and;
- amenities that comply with physical distancing guidelines.
While this plan greatly mitigates the risk of someone arriving in Bermuda with COVID-19, we are finalizing a detailed plan for persons who may test positive during their visit. Bermuda’s public health professionals have a well-earned reputation for managing COVID-19 cases successfully and there is every reason to believe that tradition can continue in Phase 4.
As far as the ability to partake of island experiences, we are working to finalise a policy that allows travellers who test negative 72hrs in advance and who also test negative on arrival in Bermuda to be able to have freedom of movement, adhering to the Health guidelines available at the time.
At the conclusion of a guest’s visit and, as per the standard practice for public transportation, the requirements for on-board physical distancing, hygiene, and mask-wearing will apply to taxi drivers and passengers. Again, contactless payment methods are preferred.
Once at the airport, the same requirements when arriving in Bermuda apply to departure. Pre-boarding health screening in the form of a temperature check will be conducted if the destination jurisdiction requires it.
Please bear in mind that, as we work to finalize the protocols and requirements for travel to Bermuda, rest assured, we will always place the safety of our island and its people above all else.