COVID-19 Update -9 February 2021
Tuesday, February 9th, 2021
Tonight I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will provide an update on the vaccination program, including numbers of residents vaccinated, vaccine side effects, and other updates from her ministry.
Following that, I will provide you with an update on the next delivery of vaccines and some other matters.
We are also joined tonight by The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ayoola Oyinloye, who will be able to answer technical/medical questions from the media.
First, we will hear from the Minister of Health
The Ministry of Health received 250 test results since the last update, and none were positive for COVID-19.
Additionally, since the last update, there were two recoveries.
There are currently nine active cases, of which;
- Six are under public health monitoring and;
- Three are in hospital with none in critical care.
Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 694 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 673 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.
The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than one year to greater than 100 years.
The mean age of all currently active cases is 52 years (median: 41 years), and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 70 years (age group: 70-79 years).
To protect privacy and confidentiality, age information will not be provided on the hospitalized cases.
The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).
The source of all cases is as follows:
- · 201 are imported
- · 491 are classified as local transmission of which:
- · 401 are local transmission with known contact/source and
- · 90 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
- · 2 are under investigation
Of the over 160,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median: 42 years), and the ages range from less than one year to greater than 100 years.
Additionally, during the week of 31 January to 6 February, 403 saliva screening tests were conducted (all negative). Therefore, as of 6 February 2021, results have been received for 4870 saliva screenings. The mean age of all persons screened is 59 years (median: 59 years), and the ages range from less than 10 years to greater than 100 years.
The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than one, and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Sporadic Cases”.
While I am encouraged by the reduction in positive COVID cases, I strongly advise everyone to continue to be vigilant and follow the guidelines. People may have the perception that there is no coronavirus in Bermuda. That is not the case. We do have two cases currently under investigation where we cannot identify the source.
I would now like to provide an update on the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
We have completed the fourth full week of vaccinations, and the second full week of vaccinations using two Vaccination Centres. For the period through to 6 February 2021, Bermuda has administered a total of 9095 vaccinations and the breakdown is as follows:
- · a total of 3990 or 44% males and 5105 or 56% females
- · with 2048 or 22% persons who are under 50,
- · 2257 or 25% persons between 50 and 64,
- · 3284 or 36% between 65 and 79, and
- · 1506 or 17% persons who are over 80 years old.
Of the vaccine sites, and based on the Epi week ending 6 February,
- · the Vaccination Centre at the Police Recreation Club administered 5194 or 57% of vaccinations,
- · 552 or 6% were administered at rest homes and long term care,
- · 3291 or 36% were administered by the Bermuda Hospitals Board; and
- · 58 or <1% were administered at Other Vaccination Sites.
Assessed against our vaccination targets, the Ministry can report the following:
- · 1309 persons or 42% of those aged 80 years or older have been vaccinated. 197 are fully immunized, meaning they have had two doses, and 1112 have had one vaccination.
- · 370 persons or 50% of those in rest homes and long term care facilities have been vaccinated. 182 are fully immunized and 188 have had one vaccination,
- · 1166 health care workers (48%) have been vaccinated. 747 are fully immunized and 419 have had one vaccination, and,
- · 1016 essential service workers (43%) have been vaccinated. 339 are fully immunized and 677 have had one vaccination.
I would like to strongly encourage more men to be vaccinated and register to be vaccinated. As you can see from the chart, only 44% of those vaccinated thus far are male. According to a recent paper published by researchers at Yale University, men are around 1.7 times more likely than women to die from COVID-19. Additionally, men older than 30 have a significantly greater mortality risk.
As I reported last week, we are now moving towards Phase 2 of the National Allocation Strategy. While we continue to ask those in Priority Group 1(A) or 1(B) who have not yet registered to please register and be vaccinated – and remember some essential workers may be younger than our seniors but they are Group 1A priorities – we are also now asking those residents in Phase 2, to register their interest online at forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine.
Phase 2 is people 50 years and older, as well as vulnerable people (those with heart disease, chronic kidney or liver disease, and diabetes, for example), essential travellers and residents with disabilities.
Some residents may be aware that we had to take down the online registration form over the past weekend so our team could undertake necessary upgrades as we move to Phase 2 registration. The form was back live yesterday morning.
The upgrades were necessary in part because we are aware of some individuals in the community receiving their vaccinations seemingly not in the order of the Ministry’s vaccine allocation strategy. While out of the thousands of vaccines administered, this is a very small number of people, it is unfortunate.
The vaccine team has worked hard to prioritise and make appointments for persons in Phases 1A and 1B. Doing this manually proved extremely time consuming, particularly in face of the overwhelming response received when we asked residents to register their interest in being vaccinated. Over time, the team developed a more automated process for ensuring persons in the target groups were scheduled for a vaccination based on key words as self-reported in the registration process.
It became clear, however, that while the scheduling was quicker, some people got vaccination appointments who would not ordinarily be in a target group, while others who we wanted to capture, missed out.
One of the refinements with the new registration form which, as I stated, went live yesterday, includes an improved ability to prioritise members of essential services, for example, and other key groups.
We cannot guarantee persons outside a particular target group will not receive a vaccination appointment, but the changes to the appointments process should see a reduction in these already low numbers.
That said, the Ministry will be issuing an RFP later this week which seeks to engage a vendor for a new Pandemic Response Administration system to cover all aspects of the pandemic from testing through to vaccinations.
Please remember that registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment at this time. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto-generated submission receipt. Your submission will be filed, and you will be contacted as appointments are scheduled. Please remember that, to the best of our ability, appointments are based on a medical risk assessment that, in turn, is based on age and clinical vulnerability – and with the new enhancements and, eventually, a new system, we hope this will be quicker! Every submission will be replied to, and there is no need for you to re-submit.
With regard to the numbers of persons who have registered interest. To the week ending February 6, 15,133 persons have registered their interest in getting vaccinated. The breakdown is as follows:
- 2866 Black
- 7549 White
- 1410 Mixed or Other
- 3308 Prefer not to Say or Not Specified
For those of you who have registered already – thank you. It is critical that we do everything we can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus, especially now as we witness the effects of the apparently more dangerous mutated variants closer to our shores.
As I reported previously, the Ministry of Health has been working diligently to identify vaccine centres in order to reach our goal of having one third of residents vaccinated by March 31. I am pleased to announce that Bermuda’s new COVID Vaccination Centre at the Bermuda College Campus on South Shore in Paget will open on Monday, 15 February.
The target for the initial Vaccination Centre at the Prospect Police Club was to administer 200 doses per day, and I am happy to report that we have continually met and exceeded that target – frequently administering more than 400 doses a day. Similarly, the target for the second vaccination centre at the King Edward Memorial Hospital was 200, and again I am pleased to report that we are also exceeding that target with close to 250 a day.
With additional doses received from the UK, new targets are in the process of being set, and I am sure with the continued efforts of the hard-working team at the Ministry, we will meet those targets too.
Targets are set based mainly on the quantity of doses we have to administer. A number of criteria feed into the decision matrix including the physical number of nursing stations, the length of time it takes to complete the necessary paperwork, the actual administering of the vaccine, the required waiting and observation time after the jab and other logistical factors such as the safe handling and delivery of the vaccine and the number of trained medical personnel available.
The Bermuda College Campus site will allow us to open up to 10 vaccination stations vs. the 6 at the Prospect Police Club, and allow us to run the site for longer hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. if we must, with the necessary observation space.
Included in the 9095 total number of vaccinations administered so far are the 1591 persons who are now fully immunized. By this I mean these are residents that have received both doses of the vaccine as recommended. It is extremely important to receive both doses as the two-dose regimen is proven to be dramatically more effective. While you get some immunity – approximately 52% – from the first injection, the second dose boosts the immunity to 95% effectiveness.
I would ask all residents who are scheduled to receive their second dose – please do not miss your appointment! AND please attend the second dose at Bermuda College starting February 15. We will also send notifications to those who are already booked for their second appointment. If you do have to change your appointment, we ask that you call the Vaccination Hotline at 444 2498 (option #2) or email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you can so that we can re-schedule your appointment.
Wearing masks, physical distancing, good hand hygiene and downloading the WeHealth Bermuda app will help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough.
The vaccine will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. If you do get COVID-19, you are likely to experience milder symptoms and become less ill, as your body is better able to fight off the virus.
Those who are not vaccinated are at a higher risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the virus and, if they become infected, they are more likely to develop serious illness compared with those who have been vaccinated.
They also risk further passing their infection onto others. This includes people in the population who are unable to develop an immune response to fight infectious diseases and are at a high of serious complications and death. Remember that not everyone can be vaccinated.
There are people with underlying health conditions such as a severe allergy to a vaccine component who may not be able to get vaccinated. These people can still be protected if they live among others who are vaccinated. When a lot of people in a community are vaccinated the virus has a hard time circulating because most of the people it encounters are immune. In other words, the virus comes up against a ‘dead end’.
The more others are immunized, the less likely it is that people who are unable to be vaccinated are put at risk of even being exposed to the virus. This is the herd immunity that is our goal.
We have been getting questions about the side effects of the vaccine. While no major safety concerns have been reported, you may experience some side effects for a few days after you get the shot.
In addition to a sore arm and swelling at the injection site, side effects reported by some trial participants include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills and fever. This is normal and is not an indication of COVID-19 as there is no COVID-19 virus in the vaccine. These minor side effects, which are not experienced by everyone, is your body’s immune system responding.
If, however, the side effects are more than a mild reaction, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Side effects are less common in patients 55 and older, and they occur more frequently after the second dose. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, also known as anaphylaxis, talk to your doctor before you get the vaccine.
Please remember vaccinating not only protects yourself, but also protects your loved ones and those in the community who may not be able to be vaccinated. If you can, get vaccinated.
Before I close, I want to remind residents needing outbound tests that you must book yourself in for outbound travel testing via the community sites – Penno’s Wharf, Bull’s Head or Star of India. Do not go to Perot Post Office for this.
You can book through: gov.bm/coronavirus-get-tested. There will be no walk-ins.
Book two days before the date you plan to leave Bermuda. This meets the 72-hour rule imposed by the US, UK and Canada, and gives MDL lab more leeway to process results in time for your departure.
You should not get the test the day before or the day of travel as this leaves no room for unexpected delays. Please visit gov.bm for information on outbound testing.
As always, stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.
Thank you Minister…
I would like to commend you and your team for the excellent work in scaling up the vaccination program. Over 4000 doses administered last week is excellent progress, and you and all those who have worked so hard to accelerate our pace of vaccinations are to be commended.
At the close of today, almost 10,000 doses of the vaccine would have been administered in Bermuda, including over 1,600 residents who have received their second shot and are now fully immunized.
I know there have been logistical and technical challenges, this is expected with an initiative as large and as significant as our vaccination program. The teams involved are working extremely hard, as all of our teams on the frontline have done throughout the pandemic and their work is immensely appreciated.
If you can register online, I encourage you to do so – go to coronavirus.gov.bm and click “Covid 19 Vaccine Registration”. If you do not have access to the internet, you can use the hotline 444-2498. The Government is working to increase its technical capacity to meet the rising demand.
The Government is aware that there are those in the community who are eligible but may not have access to the internet. There will be a mailer sent to all households to ensure that no one is missed as lack of access to technology shouldn’t prevent you from being vaccinated.
As the Minister of Health said, we are aware that some people have experienced adverse effects after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These side effects are normal, with most cases being mild. If you have concerns speak with your doctor to get credible medical advice on how to manage these side effects; but do not be deterred from receiving your second dose without medical advice from your doctor.
It is unfortunate that some in the community wish to discourage persons from making a decision that should be between an individual and their doctor. I am grateful that the vast majority of local doctors who have taken the vaccine have encouraged their patients to do so too, as they, like me, trust the science.
If you have received the vaccine, share your experience with others. Let your family and friends know why you made the decision and what it means to you to receive the vaccine.
The Government is continuing its work to expand Bermuda’s vaccination program. Earlier today, Government House confirmed that the next tranche of vaccines from the U.K is scheduled to arrive on February 25th. Further details, including the exact number of doses, will be provided in the coming days.
As a country, we have all lived through the difficult reality of stricter regulations, unable to see our family and socialize with our friends. None of us, including me, wish to experience that again. This is the reason why we are being deliberate in the relaxation of measures.
The measures are in place so that we can safely advance towards a time of little impact from COVID-19. We can only do this by working together and remembering that we all share a common goal. To protect ourselves and our loved ones from this virus and get back to life as we would like to live it.
To achieve our goal, we must use the tools we have at our disposal. If you are eligible, register for the vaccine today. Attend your appointments when given and receive both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, to ensure it is fully effective. Avail yourself of the free testing for residents. Adhere to the regulations that are in place to keep us safe and download the WeHealth app.
At next week’s press conference, the Government will announce changes to the current measures in place for all residents and visitors. We will also provide an update to the rule changes for vaccinated persons travelling to Bermuda.
During the last outbreak, we all remember that the United States Centres for Disease Control downgraded Bermuda to a level 4 travel warning. Bermuda currently meets the standard for an upgrade to level 2 by the primary criteria. If we continue our stellar record for the next week, we should meet the criteria for Level 1. The Ministry of Health has been in contact with the CDC, and I also raised this issue with the new acting US Consul General when we met last week.
Sticking with matters related to travel, last week, I held a meeting with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, the Chief Medical Officer, and the Bermuda Tourism Authority to discuss a long-term strategy for Bermuda’s tourism industry. The purpose of the meeting was to consider how we can safely begin to expand our Island’s tourism product in light of the ever-changing global situation with the coronavirus. The Government will not rush into these decisions and will act under the guidance and recommendation of the Ministry of Health and Chief Medical Officer. However, it is important for the public to know, especially those who work in our tourism and hospitality industries, that we are examining the options learning from our experiences last year to ensure that we can provide economic activity while we remain safe.
The Government is also working on getting Bermudians safely back into sports, and to sporting events. Last month the Minister of Youth, Culture & Sport, Dr. Ernest Peets, announced a 4 stage program to help Bermuda safely return to competitive sport. We are currently in Stage 3, and safely progressing toward being able to enjoy playing, and watching competitive local sports again. The Government has rolled out a testing plan for all contact sports, and this will ensure that there are no latent cases of the virus that may occur in the community that can turn into an outbreak as we move back to competitive sport.
Thanks to National Sports Governing Bodies and the Department of Youth and Sport for working to ensure that sport in Bermuda can resume safely.
In closing, I ask for us all to take stock of how far we have come. Our active and confirmed cases are low. Growing numbers of residents are receiving the vaccine, with some already fully vaccinated, and more registering by the day. We have successfully managed a second wave when many countries have not been able to do so.
However, I remind everyone that what we do today plays a significant role in our lives tomorrow. We have a lot to be proud of, but much more work to do. We must continue to make the responsible decisions that protect us, protect our loved ones and protect our country.
We know that many in our community may need extra emotional support. If you need someone to talk with, call the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline. The phone number is 543-1111. The line will be operated every Monday to Saturday, from 5 pm – 9 pm.
This help is available if you need someone to talk with, whether you are:
- feeling anxious;
- feeling isolated;
- or if you are not feeling yourself.
The phone number is 543-1111. Help is available.
To get accurate, reliable and timely information sign up for the Government’s WhatsApp service. Add the phone number 504 6045 to your contacts and send us a simple message saying ‘hi’, and you will receive Whatsapp updates from the Government.
Additionally, you can get Government updates by downloading the Treefrog app – go to the App Store or Google Play, in the search bar, type in Treefrog Bermuda and download the free app today.
I am now happy to take questions from the media.