Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update August 13, 2020
Good afternoon Bermuda.
Today I am joined by the Ministers of Health, National Security and Education, to provide families and students with information. Information so we can govern our lives, so you can ensure that your rights as employees are protected, so that you can manage your businesses, and most importantly, so that we can safely spend quality time with family and loved ones.
We will now have an update from the Minister of Health, who will give the update on our latest statistics, and further advice from the Ministry of Health to minimize the chance of new outbreaks.
MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT
Today there were 808 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.
Bermuda has had 159 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
- 145 have recovered, and
- there are 5 active cases, who are
- all under active public health monitoring;
- none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
- the total deceased remains at 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 59 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.
Overall, 54% of all cases are Black, 42% are white and 4% are other or unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 55 are Imported
- 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- none are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status remains “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.
Between July 13 and August 10, 1,869 residents have arrived in Bermuda via commercial flight; 970 of whom have had a pre-departure test. We have also had 2,463 visitor arrivals; 2,349 of whom have had a pre-departure test.
The gap in visitors’ pre-tests is because when the borders first opened the pre-departure test requirement was not enforced to allow a transition window. Since it became a legal requirement there have been few cases of visitors arriving on island without their negative test result, although in such cases they did receive it shortly after. Compliance is very close to 100% and further measures are being taken to enforce this fully for visitors.
I really want to encourage residents returning to the island to have a pre-departure test before travelling. Although it is not legally required for you to do so, it provides an added layer of public health protection and also means that you do not need to quarantine – you are free to roam as soon as you get the results from your Arrivals test.
Currently, residents without a pre-test have to quarantine until they receive the results of their day 4 test. This can take 24 hours, so in reality they must quarantine for 5 days, and may only leave their home to attend the Perot traveller testing centre for their scheduled test on day 4.
The government is currently reviewing the policy regarding residents without pre-departure tests as there are serious concerns that 12 of the 13 imported cases have been residents, and a majority of the positive cases did not have pre-departure tests.
Also, I must reiterate that all residents must have a Travel Authorization in order to travel….and that all returning residents must comply with the testing regime and public health monitoring for 14 days when returning to the island – the only exceptions regarding testing are children aged nine and under.
Yes, this may be inconvenient – and the Ministry of Health has tried to minimise inconveniences as much as possible – but we in the midst of a pandemic…which claims lives…and we must never forget that. Saving lives and having a healthy community must be at the forefront of all of our decisions – from the Governmental level down to our individual daily choices.
I briefly want to touch on returning to work guidance if you are working in a high exposure risk setting…as this has changed slightly this week based on consultation with Bermuda’s physician community. This guidance applies to workers with close, sustained contact with the public and includes institutional settings, for example:
- Care homes;
- Patient care settings;
- and Health Professionals.
Our travel policy recommendation is that employees in these settings should not return to their physical workplace until they receive their 14-day test result. The rationale for this is that they work in a high risk setting with vulnerable persons and could risk causing a dangerous outbreak. Sometimes it is possible to work remotely through telemedicine.
However, if the healthcare worker is considered essential to providing critical healthcare services, and awaiting a 14-day test result is not possible, the following standard may be applied at the discretion of the workplace managers who must assume responsibility for compliance monitoring and for outcomes:
- They must have negative test results from their arrival, Day 4 and Day 8 tests before returning to high risk exposure work.
- The healthcare worker must also complete the final COVID-19 PCR testing on Day 14.
- They should practice workplace isolation until Day 14 test results are received.
- The healthcare worker must wear a surgical mask at all times unless a higher level of PPE is required for healthcare procedures being undertaken.
- They must complete daily self-monitoring and documentation of temperature and symptoms for 14 days after arrival.
- They must complete all subsequent testing according to Traveller Guidance, and must maintain physical distancing and hand hygiene.
- They should inform their patients and office staff of their travel history and quarantine process in advance of returning to the healthcare setting so that informed decisions can be made by patients and coworkers for their own health protection.
When I say “Essential” I mean that it is a direct healthcare service which is critical to the health and well-being of the community and Bermuda, and where no other local providers are available.
There is slightly different guidance for visiting specialists who are providing healthcare service or technical assistance not available from other physicians in Bermuda, and which are critical to the health and well-being of the community. They must adhere to the following:
- The healthcare worker must complete COVID-19 PCR Testing as per the Quarantine (COVID-19) (No. 3) Order 2020
- They must have two negative COVID-19 test results (pre-departure and arrival test results or arrival and Day 4 test results) before returning to high risk exposure work.
- The healthcare worker must wear a surgical mask at all times unless higher level of PPE is required for healthcare procedures being undertaken
- They must complete daily self-monitoring and documentation of temperature and symptoms for 14 days after arrival
- They must practice workplace isolation until Day 14 test results are received.
‘Workplace isolation’ means staff should wear surgical/procedure masks and any additional PPE, based on usual routine practices and wear the PPE at all times in the workplace (acute care and non-acute care), not just during client care. The healthcare worker must also travel in a private vehicle, work in only one facility and self-isolate at home when outside of the workplace. The health care worker must not eat meals in shared spaces in the facility as they will have to remove the PPE to eat.
Before I close this evening, I just want to remind parents and summer camp organizers, schools and day cares of the requirements for children entering these settings following travel abroad.
In order for a child 9 years old or younger to enter a summer camp or school following travel abroad, their parents or guardians who travelled with them must have three consecutive negative tests.
For a child 10 and older, they must have the three negative tests themselves. This will be either a pre-departure test, arrival test and Day 4 test or arrival test, Day 4 test and Day 8 test. This includes children of visitors and residents.
This also extends to staff members who have travelled – they must have three consecutive negative tests to return to work.
Summer camps, schools and day care are classified as a Medium Risk setting and therefore, should follow the advice listed on coronavirus.gov.bm for ‘Safe Return to Work after Travel.
I end by reiterating that, in fact, residents should be restricting their travel to only essential business. This is not the time to take holidays or go on shopping trips. The risk is too high and it would surely be a terrible burden to live with if one were to cause Bermuda to have local transmission once again. Our testing regime protects us, but it is not perfect. Testing is a point in time snapshot and it is possible to be undetected and asymptomatic. So please limit your travel to essentials, shop Bermuda and, if you must travel, quarantine as required by our public health laws. They are there to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Thank you Minster of Health.
Now we will hear from the Minster of National Security with an update from her Ministry which includes good news for local cricket fans.
MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT
Good evening Bermuda,
I wish to start by sharing a few points about the large group guidelines. I would like to announce that The Cabinet gave consideration to increase the group assembly size from 50 to 75 persons. As such, in accordance with the Public Health Regulations Section 5.3 (A), group sizes will start at 75 persons. This will be effective as of Monday August 17th 2020. Additionally as it relates to the cricket matches which have been held, I can advise that a decision has been made to increase attendance size at these matches from 250 – 325 attendees.
However there are conditions for such gatherings, and as a priority these conditions must be adhered to, to ensure the health and safety of our community. Switching to Hurricane Season – you will have seen the local weather updates about the latest system circulating in the Atlantic – Tropical Storm Josephine. Our midday update indicated that TS Josephine is around 700 miles east of the Caribbean Islands, approximately 1,600 miles from Bermuda. The Bermuda Weather Service and the National Hurricane Centre are monitoring the progress of this storm.
According to weather forecasts Tropical Storm Josephine isn’t currently expected to form into a hurricane within the next five days. But, should this storm pose a threat to Bermuda, the Emergency Measures Organization will meet, and following that meeting we will provide a public update. The community can follow the storm’s projected path by visiting www.weather.bm. As reminder, we are in the middle of an active and potentially troublesome hurricane season. The public can be assured that against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of National Security and the EMO have assessed Government’s contingency and emergency plans to ensure that Bermuda is properly prepared. However we cannot become complacent, and residents need to do their part to make sure they’re adequately ready. Now is the time to make sure your hurricane plan is complete. A change to the usual hurricane kit should be the addition of personal protective equipment (PPE) for you and your family. This includes, face masks or face coverings and hand sanitizer. There should be enough PPE to last for at least seven (7) days for each member of your household.
Some general reminders:
- Make sure you have at least seven (7) days of food supply for your family and pets.
- Make sure you have ample supplies of non-perishable goods, prescription medications, fully stocked first aid kits, fresh batteries and smartphone battery packs, flashlights and any other items to aid in an emergency.
- Make sure you carry out routine activities like making the necessary repairs around your homes such as fixing shutters and blinds; trimming back over hanging trees or shrubs; and ensuring your home or marine vessel insurance is up to date.
- These activities can assist greatly in ensuring minimum damage and financial costs in the event of a severe storm or hurricane.
- Turning to the matter of COVID-19 guidelines for commercial or tour boats, I want to stress that while individuals are on the water they MUST adhere to the rules and guidelines in place.
Here are some key updates for commercial boating.
- Commercial Tour Boats – Marine and Ports have adjusted their licensing capacity for carrying persons to ensure that they take into account physical distancing.
- Liquor licensing – Commercial and/Tour vessels are governed by the rules that covers all liquor licensing establishments – meaning they can only serve alcohol between 8.00 am and 12 midnight.
- For recreational vessels raft ups are allowed and so is staying out on a boat overnight. And of course physical distancing and mask guidance applies to all on land or sea.
- I encourage anyone – if at any time you see any breaches of the COVID-19 guidelines on land or water to please call 2-11.
Finally as I end, I wish to extend my thanks and appreciation to the individuals who make up the Gang Violence Reduction Team, led by Pastor Leroy Bean. This pandemic and its resulting social, health and economic challenges have meant that we’ve had to have the right support in place to assist our people. In that regard, the Gang Violence Reduction Team has been hard at work over the past few months providing an invaluable service – and their contribution to keeping our communities and at risk young people safe and protected during this pandemic must be publicly acknowledged. The GVRT has coordinated support for several families they work with who are in need by connecting them to weekly food support, court support, and social and unemployment assistance where required. And throughout the Shelter in Place, curfew and other emergency measures, the GVRT continued to visit targeted neighborhoods, building upon the connections and relationships with our at risk young people. More specifically, the Coordinated Crisis Response Unit (CCR) was activated to support the community through emotional hardship.
The public may recall that the Unit was set up to assist family members, relatives or witnesses of violent incidents through times of crisis. The CCR Unit was deployed to the hospital and also made home visits to support the families affected by the violence several times during this pandemic period. The CCR Unit has systems, structures and trained staff in place to provide immediate emotional support to the affected families in order to connect them with long-term support through counselling services and support groups. In order to lower community tensions the GVRT further increased its focus on Street Level Outreach. The Outreach Workers have been in our community directly mediating tensions and conflicts between individuals and groups.
This is high touch, highly confidential and very sensitive work. It involves directly working with persons who are currently involved or have been directly impacted by gang violence. The goal is to steer these young men towards pro-social activities by providing a range of opportunities for change. Also during this pandemic, the GVRT has been conducting increased check-ins with high-school and primary school students who were previously in prevention programmes. They have been coordinating with the schools’ management teams and connecting with youth and families through WhatsApp calls, Zoom calls, small group sessions and home visits where necessary. They will continue to provide critical support as the school term resumes next month. Quite simply, the work of the Gang Violence Reduction Team is immeasurable and necessary. And as Essential Workers who have been working throughout this pandemic, our community owes the GVRT a debt of gratitude for persevering against the odds to ensure that we have safe and peaceful neighborhoods. Thank you.
Thank you Minister, I echo your sentiments on the great work being done by the Gang Violence Reduction Team.
Now we will hear from the Minister of Education who will update the public on the plan to re-open our schools.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION STATEMENT
Good Evening Bermuda,
There are now 26 days leading up to the start of the 2020/21 school year, and we look forward to having our students and staff return to our schools. All school staff will return on September 1st, and our students will return on September 9th. The only students and staff who will not return to school buildings are those staff and students who meet the Department of Health’s criteria for the extremely clinically vulnerable as verified by a doctor or physician.
I also want to inform parents that all students under the age of 16 years old will be on-site in school buildings every day during the school week. This includes students from the Preschool level up to S2 at the Senior Level. For clarity, there will be no rotating in and out of school buildings for students from preschool to S2. Separate plans for the S3 and S4 students who will be attending classes at their respective senior schools, Bermuda College or who are on work-study are awaiting approval.
The 2020/2021 school year will bring a new and different experience for our staff and our students with the added safety measures required for schools and with some revisions to how teaching, learning and services will take place. I can reassure Bermuda that as we prepare for the reopening of schools, Technical Officers in the Department of Education, school principals, staff and administrators have been, and continue to work steadily to move plans forward for the reopening of our public schools on September 1st.
It is critically important that the school reopening planning involve our Union partners. Now that we have the entry/exit guidelines in the final stages, the Commissioner and the BUT will be meeting at least once per week as we move towards school opening. Additionally, input will be sought from our other Union partners, the BPSU and the BIU as we continue to collaborate with them.
Hybrid Learning Model
In my previous press statements, I shared that in September, we will follow a Hybrid Learning Model for our students. That model includes the following scenarios:
- Students who are in school buildings will be taught by their teachers who are also in the school building;
- Students who are in the school building may be taught remotely by their teacher if the teacher is extremely clinically vulnerable. In this instance, a teacher will be on-site in the building to support students.
- Students who are extremely clinically vulnerable and who must be shielded will access learning remotely the same time as their class, under the supervision of a parent or guardian and during set periods of time.
Safety and Health Protocols and Measures
During the zoom town hall sessions held by the Department recently, parents wanted information about class sizes. The Department of Health has set guidelines for classroom capacity of up to a maximum of 18 students, where possible, with a minimum of 3-feet social distancing in classrooms. The class size for preschools has been set at a maximum of 10 students. These guidelines for class sizes are to be supported with the following safety measures:
- Staff and students must remain at home if they are not well;
- Daily screening procedures at each school which consists of taking the temperatures of staff and students and responding to COVID-19 related questions;
- Ensuring proper room ventilation, so the air is circulating
- Ongoing student handwashing
- Respiratory etiquette for staff and students
- Mask wearing for:
- all students during entry and exit procedures;
- middle and senior students throughout the day;
- adults throughout the day;
- any movement around the school; and
- environmental sanitation or cleaning
Information Shared at Parent Meetings
The Commissioner of Education has been hosting a series of meetings to inform parents of plans for the new school year and the reopening of school buildings.
Ten zoom town hall meetings have been held to date with two sessions held for each school level – preschool, primary, middle, senior and Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy. The meetings were streamed live on Facebook, and the recordings are available to be watched in the respective Facebook Pages. Officers in the Department of Education along with Health Department officials emphasized three priorities during these meetings:
- Staff and Student Safety and Health;
- Staff and Student Wellness; and,
- Teaching, learning and student services.
These sessions focused mainly on the safety and health protocols for schools. The Department of Health officers who were present explained safety measures to mitigate and eliminate risks from COVID-19. The Department of Education officers also explained the specifics of the entry to exit safety and health protocols, the concept of student “bubbles” and class sizes.
Additionally, they discussed the criteria for the extremely clinically vulnerable and what parents could do to prepare students who have asthma for the return to school. Department of Education officers shared information about the Hybrid Learning Model and the work that is being carried out by Technical Officers in preparation for the reopening of our schools.
Some parents have indicated that they would like to keep their children at home for remote learning regardless of their health condition. I must emphasize that this is not the purpose of the Hybrid Learning Model. This model was developed only to accommodate the students who are extremely clinically vulnerable and who must be shielded and who must remain at home. Our student Health records indicate that this would be a very small percentage of our student population and the success of the model is dependent on having only a small percentage of our students access learning remotely.
A teacher teaching remotely will teach the students in the classroom and the students who are extremely clinically vulnerable at the same time. A teacher will not be able to manage large numbers of students remotely in this scenario. That would place an additional burden on our teachers. We must keep the number of students learning remotely to only the extremely clinically vulnerable students to protect the health and well-being of our teachers and to ensure effective learning occurs.
PowerSchool and Parent Connect
The PowerSchool System is a critical part of the Department of Education’s communication infrastructure. We want parents to know that Power School is your source of accurate contact and other parent details for administrative purposes, and for keeping track of your children’s progress at school. Therefore, parents are reminded that they must have a PowerSchool parent account in order to have access to the PowerSchool parent portal.
An examination of our data for parent account shows that too many parents do not have a Power School account or they have not accessed their account.
If parents do not know how to access the Power School parent portal or if they are unsure whether they have an account, they can reset the password using the following steps.
- Go to classroom.powerschool.com
- Choose the Forgot Password link.
- Enter PowerSchool ID (email address) and press “Send Request”
All new parents in the system will be contacted and provided with instructions on how a PowerSchool parent portal can be set up. If you have questions regarding your account or any difficulties, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on account set-up is located on the Facebook Page @BermudaPublicSchools and on the www.moed.bm website.
Let me briefly turn to:
Transportation/Bus Schedule and Safety
Officers in the Department of Education and the Department of Transportation are working on a schedule and procedures for student bus transportation. Parents will be advised as soon as the plan has been finalized, which we expect to be completed soon.
School Staff and Student Overseas Travel
The Government’s Travel Policy has been shared and provides procedures for three categories of workers. All non-essential travel has been discouraged. Persons but persons in education fall within the Medium Risk Category. We ask our educators and parents to follow these procedures accordingly.
Students who travel with their parents will quarantine at home with their parents until the parent undergoes three negative test results or with no testing before arrival on the island, the student and parent will quarantine for a period of 14 days.
Department of Education Meetings with School Staff
Separate meetings for school staff are currently being arranged for the week of August 17th, 2020. School staff have been sent information on the dates for each school level meeting. Although the meetings are not mandatory, I encourage staff to participate so that questions that they have about school reopening can be answered.
Lastly, there has been much concern expressed about
Let me first say that individual schools are responsible for deciding on their school uniform. As a result, the Commissioner has reached out to all school leaders and asked that they work with their respective PTAs before the opening of school, to find ways to help parents in need to secure new uniforms for our students. Our objective is that every student to have a set of uniforms for the school year. We do know, however, that some of our school leaders have already implemented strategies to help parents.
Additionally, there have been requests from parents to consider simplifying uniforms at primary, middle and senior levels. Given this, we have also asked our school principals to engage PTA presidents and parents in conversations at the start of the school year about the school uniform and how it might be simplified moving forward.
Earlier today, during a meeting with the Chairman of the Board and the Principal of CedarBridge Academy, we discussed the topic of Uniforms. I am pleased to report that they have already begun to mobilize efforts regarding a revised uniform policy for the upcoming school year. I am confident; all other school leaders will look at similar measures to assist our parents as it relates to school uniforms.
There is no doubt that as we adjust to our “new normal”, there will be minor teething issues that will be experienced. I want our parents, teachers, principals, education staff and our students to know that there has been a tremendous amount of planning that has gone into ensuring our schools are safe to open. I want to thank all of those who have spent countless days over the last 3+ months pouring over the data to develop our guidelines to ensure safety when schools reopen.
Thank you Minister of Education.
Many have seen the news stories about countries that haven’t been as strict as we have been in Bermuda and are witnessing challenges when it come to the reopening of their schools. However, in Bermuda we have been diligent, we have not had a confirmed case of local transmission in 54 days, and I am confident that we will provide a safe environment for our children come this September.
For just a few minutes, I would like to speak about our collective management of the pandemic and where we are today, Thursday 13th August.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have erroneously placed Bermuda in a country category that does not reflect the reality of our coronavirus management. This Government is working with international public health agencies, Government House and the US Consul General to change Bermuda’s listing, especially since the World Health Organization has us listed as Sporadic Cases and we have been a globally recognized for being one of the leaders in coronavirus management.
We will continue to address this listing which has real implications for our tourism industry as the US CDC rating can impact other countries ratings, and also different measures in various states. The US Consul General has informed me that we are making progress in revising this listing, and we expect to have good news to report next week.
It may seem like many moons ago now, but we declared the policy of ‘Social Distancing’ on the 12th March. I remember that day clearly because we could not forecast what would happen; we could not anticipate its impact on us, our people who made our history by being wide-open to the world.
And then in mid-April, we announced that based on scientific advice, and our pandemic modelling, Bermuda’s “Worst case scenario” was 700 deaths.
That number, and the potential of 700 deaths was a defining moment of this pandemic. We were told that we may lose hundreds of Bermudians, and we determined then and there we would do all we could to prevent that from happening.
Thankfully with more information, the worst case scenario has now been revised lower, but it still predicts in a worst case scenario, over 200 deaths.
Now why did I take us back there? Because as we move to reopen our country even more, as we seek to adjust and thrive again, there are reports that some people are not being as vigilant as is necessary. Some Bermudians are getting on public transportation and taking their masks off. I received a plea from the bus drivers this week imploring me to advise the public for everyone’s safety to keep your mask on while riding the public transportation. It can’t be stated more clearly. If you are on public transportation, you must wear your mask.
Some people without concern for their own well-being, are risking the health of others, by not wearing their mask properly in places where they are required to do so, such as indoors, or outdoors were unable to socially distance. Wearing your mask properly means that your mouth and nose are completely covered.
We have seen recently where countries are reversing protocols they used to open up; we are hearing phrases like second wave; countries that thought they had rid themselves of the coronavirus, are beginning to see a rise in infections.
I urge everyone to take a look at New Zealand, a country which was acclaimed the world over in their handling the coronavirus. They went 102 days without local transmission and almost overnight they have a fresh outbreak and Auckland is now back on a three day lockdown, which may be extended. That must serve as an example to all of us that are as good as it seems right now, this virus can resurge.
Now is not the time to become complacent. – or we risk a setback, that can affect our economy, our children’s education, and our collective health.
I am asking each and every resident in Bermuda, each and every person who leaves their home, to please ensure you follow the simple protocols that we have become so used to. Washing the hands and sanitizing them and wearing your mask. This is the only way that we will avoid the fate that has befallen other jurisdictions.
Understand, if there are one or two isolated cases, but we are taking those preventative measures, it will reduce the risk of spread. What happened in New Zealand, is that they abandoned the policy, because they thought that they had eliminated the virus. They were not wearing masks in public spaces, and we can see how quickly this virus which can transmit itself so fast can resurge. That is the reason why we must continue to maintain the strict policies, of which we have laid out, and it is the only way that we will be successful.
Our healthcare workers at the airport are awesome and serving with composure and poise; our hospitality staff must continue to be observant, and our church services will soon combine praise and fellowship as before.
Bermuda, it is very simple. We have come too far to not remain cautious and we must do our job to make sure that we keep the progress up.
I remain encouraged by the emails I receive from local entrepreneurs who are working hard to keep their businesses moving forward by changing how they operate and fully catering to their clients and customers. One such organization is BDA Watersports, a small business that operates at Somerset Bridge and has been in existence for 30 years. They are showing innovation and commitment to Bermuda. This company is eager to collaborate and be involved in the promotion of Bermuda’s tourism product. I welcome and encourage others to join me as we promote and reshape Bermuda as a tourism destination.
In a meeting with the chair of the Bermuda Tourism Authority earlier this week, I implored that the work that we did in testing and adhering to rules, be highlighted in our marketing to potential visitors. Sadly, in Bermuda or historically in Bermuda, we’d like to adapt, an attitude of where beautiful, where wonderful, come and visit us versus what is necessary to ensure that people actually come, which is aggressive selling, and making sure that we share our success to potential visitors. It is my expectation that that change in message was received by the leadership of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and it will be reflected, as the only way that we will be successful, is if we tell people, the Bermuda story and how well we’ve collectively worked to manage this pandemic.
The same attitude that applies to tourism must also be applied to the selling and marketing of Bermuda, as a business jurisdiction. The Business Development Agency has been told to sell Bermuda aggressively, and to leverage our pandemic management. And I have to say that this aggressive posture of which we’ve taken in international press is bearing fruit.
We do know that over 100 persons have applied for residential certificates. We have been engaging with companies that are looking to relocate their staff, and we have won out over other islands, due to our close proximity to New York City, and our safe environment for the leadership of a technology company that is moving out of New York.
Our country must seize the opportunity that our collective work has created, and I want to remind all of us that it is our job collectively, as persons who love Bermuda, to sell our country, whether it’s tourism, or whether it’s in business. So I’m encouraged by those on social media, who will share the message with their friends, whether on LinkedIn, or in other places, letting the world know the good job with what we’re doing in Bermuda, so that message can be spread.
This technology company that the leadership is relocating here, saw a post on LinkedIn, and it was because someone was sharing the post. So it is important that we tell our own story. That is a way that collectively we can make sure that we rebuild our economy.
Yesterday, the country receive good economic news that Standard & Poor’s affirmed Bermuda’s debt ratings and our debt outlook. This is important as it is independent validation of our country’s economic performance, especially during a time of a pandemic.
Yes, our economy is challenged. And yes, there are persons who are losing their jobs, and persons who have lost their jobs. However, we must continue to remain united as a country. The Economic Advisory Council has made a number of recommendations, many of which have been progressed, and the Economic Development Committee of cabinet is meeting on Monday to consider further recommendations.
Many economic measures which can provide stimulus to the economy are being pushed forward, and advanced quickly. So for instance, we have a long process for approval of certain items, and those long processes for approval are being condensed. Why is that? Because we need to make sure we advance shovel ready projects, and other matters to completion, to make sure that we can provide economic opportunity.
We’ll see stimulus in the area of green energy projects of where we’re working with a number of partners to complete the projects which are on the table, and also in the area of infrastructure development of which we’ve seen announcements from the Ministry of Public Works. There’ll be further announcements in the matter of infrastructure and broadening our economy, while reducing red tape. And this is important.
While we spoke about the work that the Business Development Agency is doing to recruit additional companies to Bermuda, I’m also pleased to report that on FinTech, we are soon to see additional licensing completions under the Bermuda platform. This is certainly encouraging news for the country, as this is a long term investment that this government has made, and it is slowly but surely paying dividends, as we expected it to do.
I would like to make sure that I encourage persons to take advantage to learn more about these opportunities and take advantage of the free online education that has been offered by the Government of Bermuda, and those courses are located on Bermuda’s FinTech website, FinTech.bm.
The free on-line education programmes are designed to meet the needs of all sectors of the community, irrespective of an individual’s experience level.
Participants enrolled in the FinTech School will have access to a bundle of courses that are self-paced. The topics range from Blockchain 101 to AI in Fintech, Intro to Startups and much more.
I also have to say that what is also critically important is that we remember that certain companies are moving virtual. I spoke to a company that is in the FinTech space yesterday, when we took the delegation to Mexico, and they had informed us that they had closed their office, and have now moved to a fully virtual platform.
They reached out to me to find out whether or not there are persons in Bermuda, whom they can extend employment opportunities for working virtually. So it’s important that we remember and recognize that as the world is changing during this pandemic period, there are opportunities that can exist, but it is only if we take the time to make sure that we upgrade our training. Again, that free training is available on FinTech.bm, and the online courses are available up until October, so please take advantage of those opportunities.
Before I take questions from the media, I want to pause and acknowledge the work of the media. Over the months of the pandemic, at a time when Bermudians were unsure, anxious, sheltering-in-place, and needed to have quality information, the Media…each of you, distributed information quickly, often with compassion, and clarity; and for that service to Bermuda, I thank you.
Thank You. I will now take questions from the media.