Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update
Good evening Bermuda
Today I’m joined by the Minister of Health, who has the latest update on test results, and the work within the Ministry of Health, the Minister of National Security who will provide details on the policing plan for the upcoming holiday weekend, and the Minister of Tourism and Transport who will lay out the measures in place to begin commercial flights to Bermuda, when we move to phase four
As a country, we have gone over a week without any new cases of COVID 19. The number of people successfully fighting off and defeating COVID 19 continues to grow, and the number of Bermudians hospitalized as a result of this disease continues to fall.
We have seen more of our friends and neighbors economically displaced by this pandemic returning to work, and more of our businesses adapting, innovating and reopening. We have come far and yet we must never forget the people who have lost their lives, and we must never forget the people who remain out of work.
As a government, we continue to provide a safety net for our unemployed and continue the work which is necessary to ensure that more of our fellow Bermudians can get to a place where they can continue to provide for their families.
Earlier this week, Cabinet agreed to extend the Unemployment Insurance Program to support our people and provide them with an added layer of security, as businesses reopen and our economy begins to move again.
The Minister of Labour, and the Minister of Finance will join us next week to give details about the extension of the benefits and to discuss matters related to the economy and related to labour.
Earlier today, at 6 am, Bermuda moved into Phase 3…moving to normal. Some government workers who have been working from home will physically return to their offices, while some will continue to work from home, while we provide seamless service to the public for all public services.
Nurseries and Childcare will begin to reopen, subject to public health guidelines
Our churches and houses of worship will begin to reopen.
Restaurants will begin to provide indoor dining.
Cinemas and museums will begin to accept patrons; and
Gyms will reopen their doors.
As stated previously, we remain in a place where masks will still be required, physical distancing will still be needed, and your government will continue to test, to monitor closely and continue to remain proactive in protecting our island.
The world has changed, and as a country, we have successfully adapted to not merely surviving, but to begin seeing a way forward where we can thrive in this new and changed world.
Yesterday, I participated in talks with the CARICOM Heads of Government to discuss the reopening of our respective countries’ borders to visitors.
On an ongoing basis, we have been studying the successful restart strategies of Hong Kong, Australia, St. Lucia, Bahamas, New Zealand, Cyprus and Austria.
We are moving safely and steadily towards getting our country open again and making sure that we can have more economic activity.
Today marks not just the beginning of Phase 3 but will also mark the unveiling of our plan to safely permit visitors to return to our shores at a date that we are tentatively
setting as July 1, when we expect if all continues to go well, that we will move to phase four.
This is a plan that focuses on protecting our workers, and our community, emphasizes testing and screening of potential visitors, and is committed to making sure that Bermudians and visitors alike are kept safe from harm.
The successful implementation of this plan means:
Hotels can start taking bookings
our hotel workers will be able to return to work
our restaurants, taxi drivers and retail stores will be able to have more business and clientele
Bermuda’s entrepreneurs, workers, and people will begin to see jobs returned, and we will begin to work, and there’ll be more opportunities that we can provide.
As managers and business owners start bringing their employees back to work, it is very important that they do not do so at the expense of Bermudian workers. We must continue to give Bermudians the opportunity to earn a wage for their families. It is not acceptable for the reports that I’ve heard that guest workers are returning to work when there are Bermudian workers in the same organization, both of whom had been laid off, where guest workers are returning to work and Bermudians and are not being called back in to work. This is unacceptable, and this behavior is contrary to the spirit of the policy of immigration.
The former Minister responsible for immigration, the Minister of National Security, has previously stated that this practice cannot be allowed. And as I stated earlier, the Minister of Labour will be here next week to specifically lay out the measures that can be taken to addressing ongoing instances of this behavior.
What I will state, however, is if you are an employee, in a case and instance where your employer has left Bermudian redundancies, or on layoff while returning persons
who are work permit holders, or guest workers to work inside the same establishment inside of these particular jobs, please contact the immigration hotline, and that number is 296-5202. Again, that number is 296-5202.
Anyone who has been in the City of Hamilton for the last few days would have seen certain restaurants that have been granted permission to construct outdoor premises for outdoor dining. I have received a number of pieces of commentary surrounding this. The first instance is that the government is going to do whatever we can to ensure that as many persons are able to return back to work. And if that means being flexible, then we are going to be as flexible as possible.
It is important to recognize that we’ve been very flexible in our reopening strategy. And in our flexibility of reopening strategy, we are balancing the need for protecting the health of our country, while also balancing that against the need to reopen our economy. There are however, some persons who have asked why restaurants are allowed to construct outdoor facilities, whereas clubs are not allowed to construct outdoor bar facilities.
There is an actual difference in the way in which these facilities are governed. Clubs and liquor license establishment are regulated under the Liquor Licensing Act. The Liquor Licensing Act has specific restrictions that apply to certain places. What the Attorney General has assured me is that she is looking at revisions which can be made in order to allow for clubs that may have indoor bars services under the Liquor License Act, to be able to possibly provide those services outdoors.
Any of those matters will be part of phase three B, which Col. Burch mentioned on Monday, and which further details will be provided for next week. I recognize the disparity that certain people feel that this is providing to certain businesses, but it is understandably that we have to continue to make sure that we are abiding and enforcing the law.
I have however asked the Attorney General to look into this, as she has responsibility for liquor licensing and she has assured me that she will look to find and provide a solution that we will be able to provide an update for.
What is important, however, is that this government will work with any business who wants to find a way to put people back to work. As long as we are balancing the health of our economy, our health of our country with the economic needs of our country, as well. With that, I will now invite the Minister of Health to give her updates. Minister.
MINISTER WILSON STATEMENT
Today there were 71 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19, making this the 11th day without any new cases.
Thank you to all who have contributed to this excellent position.
Bermuda continues to have 141 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
- there are 5 active cases, of which
- 4 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
- only 1 person is hospitalized;
- none are in critical care.
- A total of 127 have now recovered, and
- the total deceased remains 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.
The average age of all deceased cases is 74 and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
Overall, 57% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 2% are other or unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 41 are Imported
- 84 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 11 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- 5 are under investigation
Today I’m excited to announce a progressive, new initiative with regards to COVID-19 testing in Bermuda. The Ministry of Health has teamed up with the MarketPlace to offer convenient pop-up testing right outside a MarketPlace store near you for the month of June.
The test is safe, quick and convenient. We understand not everyone is able to drive to our SouthSide testing location and we want to ensure that anybody who wants to know their COVID status is able to do so. The grocery stores offer a convenient location for staff, shoppers and for the general public.
It’s important for the public to know that they will not be impacted by the testing stations and are not at risk in any way. Testing will take place in secure areas of the parking lots, not inside the stores.
You can book online via the government website coronavirus.gov.bm or call the COVID-19 hotline 444-2498 between 9am and 9pm and one of our helpful telephone operators will be happy to make a reservation for you… Or, just show up! Drop-ins are welcome! A full schedule of testing days and times has been posted to the Government website.
I want to thank the MarketPlace for supporting the Government’s efforts in helping us reach our goal of increasing test frequency.
Other convenient pop-up locations around the island will be announced shortly.
For more information about pop-up testing, you can call 444-2498.
Also, a further reminder, if you participated in the Black Lives Matter march at the weekend and were in close contact with someone not wearing mask, you are strongly encouraged to get tested.
Close contact means within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more. Remember, COVID-19 has an incubation period of several days and you may pass on the virus before you experience any symptoms. Also, many persons with the virus are asymptomatic throughout the entirety of the infection.
You should get tested on Friday 12th June – day five after the march – or subsequently, as this will maximize the likelihood of the virus being detected if you are carrying it without symptoms.
Likewise, all persons who, by the nature of their work, spend a lot of time in close contact with others should get tested. This includes workers such as hairdressers, barbers, retail workers and so on. For personal services workers, imagine the assurance you can give your clients if you can show them a certificate showing you were tested and are clear. And this works both ways… imagine the peace of mind you will get if you know your client can show you a negative test results.
The pop-ups around the Island and around the city of Hamilton will make this very easy and convenient for people to get tested.
And, finally, as we head into the weekend, I would like to remind the public that COVID-19 doesn’t take a break on Saturday and Sunday. We must practice mask wearing and physical distancing even during our weekends in order to stay safe.
We have seen the trend for the last two weekends, in reports to Health IQ, of a reduction in safe physical distancing by our population.
We all need to remember that the move towards fewer cases and re-opening Bermuda will only happen if we continue to do what we need to do – wear our masks properly, keep our distance and wash our hands.
Also, no raft-ups this weekend, please. And just because your boats may be physical distancing… please make sure that swimmers maintain distance too.
There have been too many cases of several boaters getting together, anchoring independently of one another but then swimming to a friend’s boat or to the shore to congregate. This defeats the purpose of the ‘no raft up’ rule. Please try and avoid co-mingling with other households as much as possible. You can enjoy the water and the company of friends 6 feet apart.
Also, we are encouraging people to log onto HealthIQ.bm to tell us how you’re feeling and what you’re seeing in the community in terms of protective measures being taken. Your information will be confidential and will help us greatly as we transition through the phases.
Thank You, Bermuda, and stay safe.
Thank you, Minister of Health. Now we will hear from the Minister of National Security on matters within his Ministry.
MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT
As we approach another holiday weekend, the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment will maintain a regular presence around Bermuda – including on our roads and waters, and at our beaches and parks. Over the three-day weekend the Regiment’s presence will increase, with a focus on popular public spaces in the east, west and central parishes. The Police and Regiment will also have a heightened presence on Bermuda’s roads, covering various checkpoints during the 11.00 pm – 5.00 am curfew hours.
I should note that we are noticing a trend of low arrests rate, with only two (2) this week for night time curfew breaches.
This is indicative of the excellent community engagement and support of the Government’s COVID management plan.
Now that we are in Phase Three, I just wish to reiterate some key guidelines for the community:
- Phase Three sees the resumption of religious and faith services at institutions of worship.
- Our churches are open, but as with everything that we do now, the capacity of any service must ensure that appropriate physical distancing is observed.
- Places of worship usually see a higher percentage of our seniors in attendance, however, these are individuals who are considered most at risk.
- And their safety and protection is paramount.
- We encourage outside religious services as these are considered the safest option.
- And at present communion, baptisms, church luncheons and Agape Feasts are not yet approved by the Ministry of Health until Phase Four.
- For more information, the public can visit the full guidance on the Government website under coronavirus.
We recognise that the days are getting considerably warmer and residents are spending more time engaging in recreational water activities. So here’s some key reminders regarding boats and maritime activities while in Phase Three.
- Boating activity is now allowed until 10.00 pm, which is one hour before the curfew ends.
- Therefore, all boats must be off the water by 10.00 pm.
- The Coast Guard will be enforcing the 10.00 pm water curfew.
- Additionally, tour boat capacities have been increased raised from 10 to 20 people, but physical distancing guidelines must be followed for all boating activity.
- Gatherings at Public Beaches and Parks are permitted during Phase Three. However, the public beaches and parks will close at 8:00pm.
- As you are aware, indoor dining has resumed. The Ministry of Health’s guidelines must be adhered to.
- Patrons at these establishments are encouraged to comply with the restaurants in providing your name and contact information for tracing purposes.
- With the curfew being raised to 11.00 pm, restaurants will close at 10.00 pm.
- The public is also advised to be mindful of drinking and driving which the BPS will enforce against.
- You will be pleased to know that the 1 person limit has now been lifted. You are able to go to the Laundromat any day of the week while still observing physical distancing and the use of a mask or face covering.
Finally turning to some additional information from the Bermuda Police Service:
Last Sunday, the Black Lives Matter march, which was supported by the Bermuda Police Service saw more than 7,000, people in attendance.
This is considered to be the highest assembly of people seen in living memory. The BPS took a community based approach working with organisers to facilitate a lawful, peaceful gathering.
As a result of this engagement, there were no incidents of disorder and no arrests made.
The march chose to pass the BPS Hamilton station which was facilitated. A peaceful and respectful response was given by protestors. The BPS have now begun a response to the BLM agenda.
This will include greater transparency in what the Service does, including increased training in relation to diversity and customer service. Additionally the Independent Advisory Group will assist and support the BPS with any action in going forward. The Commissioner has also engaged with CURB to extend the restorative practice training in the BPS as well as provide input to Officers and staff on Bermuda’s history and issues such as unconscious bias.
As the public is aware, a serving BPS officer was suspended for the publication of a racist post on social media. The Commissioner will utilize the fast track process within the Police Conduct Regulations to expedite this matter and is fully aware of community sensitivities about this matter.
We recognise that there are more planned marches, and the Ministry of National Security supports and believes in our citizens’ democratic right to peacefully gather. I must stress that individuals who wish to demonstrate and this includes any type of public procession – must get the appropriate approval from the Deputy Governor. Additionally, the event must be sanctioned by the Ministry of National Security.
Lastly, we know that there remains considerable interest into the disappearance of Chavelle Dillon Burgess. The BPS investigation actively continues and Specialist advice has been provided to the BPS in relation to its search strategy.
Thank you Minister Caines.
As I indicated in my earlier comments, the government is planning, if all things go well, to move to phase four at the expiration of the state of emergency on June 30, which means that phase four may commence, on July 1. But of course, phase four involves one of the things that are eagerly anticipated, which is the return of regularly scheduled commercial traffic. We cannot make that decision on the day of, as there is certainly advanced lead time which is needed for our hotels and our airports. So we’ve made the decision that at this point in time it is going to be prudent for us to make that announcement, so that we can plan ahead. However, things are always subject to change as we see here. Now the Minister of Tourism and Transport will outline the various measures that are going to be in place to protect our country as we prepare to welcome tourists.
MINISTER OF TOURISM AND TRANSPORT STATEMENT
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.
Thank you very much, Minister DeSilva, and I’m sure that there’s a large number of persons that are looking forward to us reopening our borders and allowing visitors to visit our country, in a safe fashion and certainly there are Bermudians who are still stranded overseas who welcome the resumption of regular flights.
Just a note before I move towards a few other remarks, there’ll be a press release going out from the Minister of Public Works regarding special provisions for public parks and beaches this weekend. Public parks and beaches will close at 8pm, this weekend on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. So it is important to note that this will be taking place and beaches and parks will close at 8pm and will reopen at 5am.
As we move into phase three with our economy being opened safely, we must remember our individual responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you are sick, stay at home, follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines when entering buildings, and continue to make sure that you are wearing your mask and maintaining physical distance. As I have said many times, following these public health measures can and will save lives. I want to encourage all of us to not be complacent. We’ve heard the recent news of a significant reduction in the number of active cases. It will not be wise of us to assume that COVID-19 has been eliminated from our shores. It is not the time to let our guard down as it only takes one or two possible cases for us to begin to flare up again.
I see comments about saying, ‘oh you know we have so few cases, why do we still have all these restrictions, etc.’ The reason why we’ve been able to open up with our phased approach as quickly as we have, is because the international guidelines are to wait 28 days between the moving of phases. We’ve done our moving phases in three weeks instead of four. This is because of the good results we’re getting.
But it is the only because we have done what is necessary to continue to remain masked and practice our physical distancing that we have been able to make this progress. Letting our guard down can set us back, and it is key that we understand this. This epidemic is not over, and will be with us for some time. Many of us are beginning to let our guard down, and it is important that you understand or remain vigilant.
We think that things may be harmless, but the fact is that given that there is so much asymptomatic transmission of this virus, we can never know. You heard me share the stories last week of persons who would have brought this virus back home to
elderly family members who ended up going to the hospital, and being tested positive upon admission. So it’s critically important that we continue to keep our guard up.
Testing has been critical to keeping the number of confirmed cases low. We have the capacity to test 200 people a day, however many times these slots go unfilled as people are not getting tested as much now, as they were before. Just like the Minister of Health has said, I encourage everyone if you have not already been tested, to do so.
You can go to coronavirus.gov.bm, and click on the link which says, at the very top, COVID-19 testing. I’m certainly encouraging persons who are a personal services provider or food service provider, or people who are on the front line. You can book your appointment and get tested at your convenience.
Minister Burch stated about phase three-B when he was here on Monday. This is just going to be an interim measure of where we might be allowing a few more additional services next week. Two of the things which are going to be considered by the Cabinet Committee, earlier as I mentioned, are limited outdoor bar services for community and members clubs, and in addition, the expansion of some personal services.
Cabinet has given tentative approval to the expansion of personal services such as facials, beard shaving, massages, and waxing. However, these expansion these services are going to be subject to regular testing of those operators, due to the increased risk that these interactions can present.
I would advise operators who are inside of that category to go to coronavirus.gov.bm and book your test. Get tested to ensure that you are clear of the virus, so that next week, when the services are allowed to be expanded, you are able to go ahead and expand your services. If you are not tested, you will not be able to expand the services, as we want to make sure that we are keeping the country safe.
So again, for those persons who are operators, go ahead and book your tests. For those persons who are desperately waiting to shave their beard, or to get their wax,
or to get their massage, reach out to your operator and tell them to make sure they go get tested, so that when these things open up next week, you will be able to take advantage of this service.
On the issue of cannabis reform, the public is invited to share their thoughts and ideas surrounding this topic. The Attorney General has pivoted the scope of the government’s cannabis policy to achieve a regulated cannabis regime. She issued a statement to all media last night encouraging comments on the policy document, and the illustrative draft, during this consultation period.
Those who have an interest in this topic, are posting on social media and providing commentary through the local media. Some persons have even taken to emailing their members of parliament. This is a consultation process. The only way that your views will be heard and reflected is to have your comments recorded, and you must go to the government website, forum.gov.bm, where you will find the consultation documents and instructions on how to submit your views, questions, and concerns.
On that website, of course you can vote, up and down various remarks and say whether or not you support comments which have been left or not. The Attorney General advised me that she will continue to update the consultation document in real time on a regular basis so that people can see that the comments which are coming from the public are being taken into account. But it is essential that you please do not have those conversations on social media. Please do not have those conversations amongst yourselves, make sure that you go and submit your thoughts and concerns on forum.gov.bm.
National Heroes Day is on Monday June 15, when we will recognize Bermuda’s eight national heroes and remember them as we celebrate their accomplishments. I will pause to reflect on the local and international accomplishments and contributions made by one of Bermuda’s national heroes, Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego.
Many years before there was a black lives matter movement, he was leading movements for equality and justice. He was a civil rights leader and political activist and played a key role in the fight to abolish the property vote as the founder of the committee for universal adult suffrage. And he was also an elected member of
parliament. He was an ecological engineer and an internationally recognized freedom fighter. He traveled around the world to countries including Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Australia, China, Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, where he taught and shared his knowledge as an engineer working on local and country wide projects.
He met with country leaders to reshape the narrative for people who were displaced in their own countries, and joined the fight against oppressive authorities. Dr. Kamarakafego was a consultant to the United Nations, and was the first recipient of the Human Rights Commission’s human rights award. As we prepare for the weekend, we must remember the importance of heroes’ day, and the sacrifices made by Dr. Kamarakafego, and the work he contributed to advance Bermuda’s society, and many countries around the world.
Finally, before I take questions from the media, I invite you to join me this Saturday evening at 7:30pm, when I will answer your questions live on the Government of Bermuda Facebook page. That broadcasts will also be shown on CITV, and I’m happy to entertain questions on any matter of government policy or also questions on phase three, phase three B, and phase four. Our next press conference will take place next week Tuesday, June 16, as Monday is a holiday, and then I will see you again next week Thursday. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.