Press Conference Remarks by
Premier, The Hon. David Burt, JP, MP
Good Afternoon Bermuda,
I begin this afternoon by expressing my heartfelt condolences on behalf of the Government to the families in our communities who have suffered a loss since our last press conference. We have unfortunately continued to see members of our community succumb to this deadly disease which is caused by the coronavirus, leaving more loved ones and friends to mourn. As we now see our cases fall, we must not take where we have been for granted. We must always remember those who we have lost and continue to pray for those still in the hospital battling the coronavirus.
We must also remember our healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, hospital staff, public health officers, and all frontline workers who have worked tirelessly throughout this recent outbreak and throughout this pandemic in service of their country. We can support them by continuing to follow the public health guidance, abiding by the regulations in place, and doing what we can to keep ourselves and each other safe as we go about our daily lives.
This evening, I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ayo Oyinloye, and the Bermuda Hospital Board’s Chief Staff, Dr. Wesley Miller.
First, we will hear from the Minister of Health, followed by the Chief of Staff of BHB, then I will close with comments, and we will all make ourselves available for questions. We begin with the Minister of Health.
I open my remarks today by extending heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those mourning the loss of a loved one to circumstances related to the coronavirus.
Things are getting better, and we are making progress. We have fewer active cases, the hospital is less overwhelmed, and children are returning to in-class learning.
Though we see our situation improving, we still have a ways to go, and everyone must continue doing their part to stop the spread of this aggressive Delta variant so that we can end this outbreak. We must not be complacent. We must not let our guard down, and we must continue to do everything we can to avoid getting infected with COVID-19.
We have completed week 39 of vaccinations since January 11, and Bermuda has administered a total of 88,417 vaccinations.
Of the 88,417 vaccinations given as of October 9:
- 52% are women and,
- 48% are men
85.2% of all residents over 65 years have had at least one vaccination, and 83.0% are fully immunised.
To date, 69.6% of the population has been vaccinated (1 dose), and 67.1% of the population has been immunised (2 doses).
From January 11, 2021, when Bermuda’s vaccine campaign began, to Epi Week 40 ending October 9, 2021, Bermuda’s Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are as follows:
292 hospitalisations [including repeat admissions] of which:
- 260 or 89% were persons who were not fully vaccinated, and,
- 32 or 11% were fully vaccinated.
To October 9, Bermuda has also sadly had 79 deaths, of which:
- 66 or 84% were not fully vaccinated
- 13 or 16% were fully vaccinated
As I have repeatedly said, the COVID-19 vaccine is our best defence in preventing the spread of this virus. The vaccine will decrease symptoms and severe illness and, in most cases, prevent death.
I encourage anyone who has decided to get vaccinated to book an appointment or walk into the KEMH Vaccination Clinic on Tuesday and Thursday, 4 to 8 pm, and Saturday, 8 am to 8 pm. Medical doctors will be there to answer any questions about COVID-19 and the vaccines. To request an appointment, click “COVID-19 Vaccine Registration”, on www.gov.bm or contact the vaccine call centre at 444-2498 option #2.
Bermuda’s COVID-19 vaccine booster programme was launched last Saturday, October 9, servicing local rest homes and on Sunday, October 10, at KEMH for immunosuppressed persons. KEMH will also service the immunosuppressed today from 8 am-8 pm.
If you have one of the following conditions, you are considered immunosuppressed:
- Blood cancers
- Advanced HIV/AIDS
- Recipients of organ transplants
- Treatment for cancers
- Recipients of stem cell transplants
- People born with conditions that depress their immunity like Sickle Cell Disease, Down Syndrome
- Treatment with drugs that depress immunity, for example, high dose steroids, cancer drugs, and drugs for advanced arthritis
Starting today, October 13, a second vaccination centre was launched at the National Sports Centre to accelerate the booster programme.
The dates and hours of operation for the next three weeks are:
- Wednesday, October 13 to Friday, October 15 12pm -6:30pm
- Tuesday, October 19 to Friday, October 22 12pm -6:30pm
- Monday, October 25 to Friday, October 29 12pm -6:30pm
Those 65 and over as well as pregnant women who have had their second dose at least six months prior, are eligible to make their own appointments. To book your own booster appointment, please visit https://www.gov.bm/vaccine-booster or click the link at the top of gov.bm that says “Book a Booster Vaccine Appointment”.
If you do not have access to the internet or need assistance in making appointments as you were unable to self-register, please call the Vaccine Centre on 444-2498-option #2.
You can also call your doctor for assistance. Your doctor has a duty to get you the help you need and will gladly assist.
The newly established antigen policy, which allows the importation of antigen tests for personal and commercial use, has had quite a bit of interest which is a positive step in the right direction. This interest means that the public at large is willing partners in assisting in the detecting of COVID-19, which ultimately assist in keeping us all safe.
I will remind the public the purchases of Antigen Test must be
in accordance with the list published by the Bermuda Health Council for both personal and commercial purchases. The list is generated with the combined FDA, and MHRA approved antigen testing. Analysis is currently taking place to determine if additional antigen tests under the remit of authorities in other jurisdictions will be added to the list.
All of the public health measures have been extended for a further two weeks until the 29th October, and this includes curfew.
As we are aware, the US has implemented a new policy that will not allow visitors to enter the US if not vaccinated.
There have been no developments on how those that require medical care in the US will be treated. Therefore, I encourage those who are not vaccinated to start to consider their options if the US determines that exemptions will not apply for unvaccinated person with medical needs.
Finally, Schools will be on mid-term break October 25 to 29th, and I want to advise the public that only camps held entirely outdoors can operate during the mid-term break due to Bermuda’s Country Status continuing to be Community Transmission.
No indoor camps can be offered during this school break. All outdoor camps must be registered and approved to operate, per the Camp Guidance at www.gov.bm/camp-guidance. Parents should only register their children at registered and approved camps. Unregistered and unapproved camps are unlawful and will be shut down.
Please remember, we must all do our part to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Continue to follow public health guidelines, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distance and download the WeHealth Bermuda app.
Thank you, Minister Wilson and Dr. Miller, for your remarks and for all the hard work you and your teams at the Ministry of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Officer, the Bermuda Hospital Board, and the King Edward Memorial Hospital continue to do. We are grateful for the dedication to your work and clearly grateful for the guidance you continue to provide to the country through this phase of the pandemic.
It is great news that the Booster Programme is already underway and shots are being made available for those who need them most, and I recognize that the appointment slots are filled for this Wednesday, Thursday & Friday at the National Sports Centre, but there is still availability for next week and the subsequent weeks.
I am grateful for the teams that have been able to set up this booster programme in this short time, and I encourage all of those who meet the criteria outlined by the Minister of Health to register for their booster shot to do so as soon as they can. Please support your family members who may not be as computer literate or who do not have access to the internet by assisting them with registration. Persons who are unable to register themselves online, please call the Vaccine hotline, which is 444-2498 option 2, where the team will be able to assist you with booking your appointment.
It is also extremely welcomed news that, as of yesterday, 30 out of 36 of our public schools have reached over 80% parental consent for saliva screening. The majority of our schools are now being tested so that students can return to in-classroom learning. A number of our preschools and primary schools returned at the end of last week and the beginning of this week, including Gilbert Institute, Port Royal Primary, and Purvis Primary. More schools will continue to return as the testing is done and the data is reviewed. The aim is to have as many schools back to in-classroom learning by next week, as possible.
To accelerate the pre-entry testing, Perot Post Office will also be used for students that will be returning to school. Parents and staff will be contacted with the place and time to test, and once that testing data is received, they will be contacted with the information of when their school will be scheduled to reopen. So please, pay attention to the notifications that will be sent out by your school, which will advise whether or not you are instructed to go to the Bermuda College or alternatively to the Perot Post Office.
The Pre-Entry testing is proving useful as the Ministry of Education has already identified five positive cases that were unknown to those persons. As a reminder, all students and staff must test negative in the Pre-Entry testing to return to school.
Any student testing positive will not be permitted to return to the classroom and will be sent work packets to work on at home until a negative test is received after their quarantine period. Any student from a school that has reached over 80% parental consent but who is not participating in the Pre-Entry testing will not be allowed into the school until a negative test is produced. These students will also be provided with work packets.
It is essential for students’ education and development that we get them safely back into the classrooms. I encourage all parents and staff who have not yet consented to testing to carefully reconsider as we must make a collective effort to help students and teachers return to school and to assist parents in returning to work.
I applaud students who have been working and studying at home. I know that remote schooling is difficult and has not been easy for you, and so is being away from your friends at school, your teachers and certainly your normal routines. Teachers, we appreciate you for your dedication to continuing to educate their students while adapting to teaching remotely.
Finally, thank you to the parents who, in many cases, have had to balance their own jobs and workload with schoolwork and zoom classes. My wife and I know firsthand that it is not easy. Therefore, on behalf of the Government, I just wanted to share that we appreciate the patience and cooperation of our parents as we work to get all of our children back into the classroom safely.
The Government also continues to work to ensure that beyond the pandemic, our economy and its pillar industries such as tourism are competitive. We must continue to provide our visitors with the experiences and hospitality that have made Bermuda a world-class destination for decades.
This past year presented us with unique challenges due to the coronavirus. However, we have still achieved great things, such as the opening of St. Regis and the Homeporting initiative, which has seen dozens of cruise ships and thousands of visitors come to our shores. We did this by working together and making Bermuda a safe destination for tourists to visit.
The Government and Bermuda Tourism Authority have already begun to strategize what the next tourism season will look like. This will mean aggressively creating marketing plans to support our on-island stakeholders and creating awareness about Bermuda as a tourist destination.
New sales efforts in all of our key markets will be activated, and a new brand launch will be supported through all media channels promoting Bermuda. The Bermuda Tourism Authority will also work closely with the Ministry of Transport on increasing both cruise calls and air schedules for next year as well as process improvements for all travellers.
Bermuda, we are extremely optimistic about the future of our tourism industry. This optimism will be accompanied by the necessary work to keep Bermuda competitive beyond the pandemic.
We have battled this virus for 18 months, but the pandemic is not over. We must continue to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves, to protect our families, and to protect our fellow Bermudians as best we can. As it has been stated, we cannot let our guard down, and we must not become complacent even as we see the number of positive and active cases decline.
As the Minister of Health has announced, the curfew will be extended for a further two weeks in recognition of the urgent situation which still remains within the hospital. The Minister of Health and I will also continue with these weekly press conferences for as long as the hospital remains at level 4. Once the hospital reverts from level 4, we will return to the technical briefings by our public health officers.
In closing, I ask for us all to remember that we each have a role to play in getting Bermuda through this outbreak and also preventing any future outbreaks. We are beginning to see the statistics improve. But we cannot let our guard down. Always remember that behind each number is a person and a family affected by the coronavirus.
I remind everyone to follow the basics of hand-washing and sanitizing, physical distancing, and wearing a mask where that is not possible and where required. If you are eligible, please register for your booster shot today, and if you haven’t been vaccinated already, please speak to your doctor so that you can get the information required to do what is necessary to protect yourself.
Finally, the WeHealth App is still working, it is available, and it is certainly helpful to ensure, especially in workplaces, that there is not a significant level of exposure. You will be notified about any exposure.
Let’s continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable, protect the hospital and our healthcare system, and get our students back into the classroom.