Bermuda Government COVID-19 Press Conference – January 5, 2021
Good evening, Bermuda, and a very Happy New Year to you all.
I hope that whether you had a small gathering in your home, Zoom meetings, WhatsApp or FaceTime calls or a little bit of all of them that you and your families had a safe and relaxing holiday season.
Our celebrations were different, and difficult this year. Not being able to see certain family members, not being able to travel, gather in large groups and not being able to celebrate, as we normally do. Thank you on behalf of your government for your continued sacrifice and the collective effort that we as a country making to keep each other safe, and to beat the coronavirus.
One proud Bermudian tradition did go on as the Gombey troupes took to the streets to perform on New Year’s Day. I’d like to thank the Minister of Home Affairs Deputy Premier Walter Roban, who acted as Premier over the holidays and the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, Minister Ernest Peets and their respective ministries and all agencies that were involved in ensuring that we can enjoy the company safely on New Year’s Day.
Thank you to the Gombey troupes for their enjoyable and authentically Bermudian performances, which is a unique part of our culture, and also for working with the government to make it all possible and safe for them and for the public.
And I want to, of course, say thank you to the public for adhering to the guidelines when watching the Gombeys. I saw pictures and videos from areas such as Town Hill and Bailey’s Bay of residents enjoying the performances from a safe distance.
At today’s press conference I’m joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, and the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming who will each provide updates from their respective ministries. Following that, I’ll provide you with an update on the changes that the Cabinet has agreed to the restrictions that are in place, and discussed measures that we will take going forward to help us ensure that we secure a safe future and share some reasons for hope.
First we’ll hear from the Minister of Health.
This evening I am saddened to report that Bermuda has once again experienced another COVID-19 related death.
The loss of another life to COVID-19 in the Bermuda community is very upsetting and I offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of the deceased during this extremely difficult time.
I will now provide today’s daily statistics…
There were 873 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and 8 were positive for COVID-19.
Four of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:
· 1 resident who arrived on DL 617 from New York on 30 December 2020 and tested positive on their day 4 test
· 1 resident who arrived on DL 584 from Atlanta on 3 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test
· 2 residents who arrived on BA 2233 from London on 3 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test
Two of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.
The additional two new cases are classified as under investigation. These cases are among residents with no currently identified links to other known cases or history of travel in the past 14 days.
Since the last update, 3 cases have recovered and, sadly, one has died.
There are currently 99 active COVID-19 cases in Bermuda, of which:
· 94 are under public health monitoring and
· 5 are hospitalized with none in critical care;
Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 632 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 99 are active cases, 522 persons have recovered and 11 persons sadly succumbed to COVID-19.
The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years) and the age range is less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.
The mean age of all currently active cases is 41 years (median: 41 years) and the age range is less than 10 years (age group: 5-9 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).
The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 53 years (median: 54 years) and the age range is less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).
The mean age of all deceased cases is 77 years (median: 80 years) and the age range is 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:
· 168 are Imported
· 384 are classified as local transmission of which:
· 349 are Local transmission with known contact/source and
· 35 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source
· 80 are Under Investigation
As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change. Today’s update has 1 case moving from under investigation to local transmission with known contact/source and 1 case moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.
The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.62) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.
There are a few matters that I need to cover in my remarks today…
First, the vaccine:
I am pleased to confirm that just over 9,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Bermuda on the British Airways flight this Friday 8 January 2021. Once the vaccines arrive on island, they will be taken immediately to a storage facility.
The Ministry will begin administering the vaccine doses on Monday 11 January 2021, to healthcare and essential workers who agree to take the vaccine. In this context, essential frontline workers are those who provide services which prevent social disruption and allow society to function and who are also at risk for higher levels of exposure to COVID-19. This includes firemen, police, corrections officers, personnel at the ports of entry and teachers.
We will also administer the first batch of the vaccine to our most vulnerable, seniors (who give their consent), in rest homes and long-term care facilities. There is no cost for the vaccine and they will be administered at sites arranged by the Department of Health and with primary care physicians who have been approved by the Department of Health.
The vaccine will be given in two doses; the first dose will be given next week and for those people the second dose will be given three weeks later. The rollout of the vaccine will proceed along those lines: the first dose, then the second dose administered three weeks later. For the vaccine to be fully effective, two doses are required.
The vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved for use in the UK after meeting strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which follows international standards of safety. The vaccine has also been approved for use in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine so far, and no serious side effects or complications have been reported.
Earlier today, the Ministry of Health held a mock vaccination trial exercise at the Hamilton Seventh Day Adventist Church.
This was a small exercise designed to provide an opportunity for the Department of Health and relevant partners to assess our ability to document vaccine administration events using the 10 to 8 appointment system and the electronic immunization registry. The drill was limited to the simulated movement of patients through the vaccination process.
We will have post-exercise debriefings tomorrow to evaluate the exercise and determine what tweaks and improvement are necessary.
Regarding returning residents, the Ministry of Health would like to remind the public that, per Quarantine (COVID-19) (No 3) Order 2020, travellers landing in Bermuda without a pre-arrival test will be charged $300 at the airport. There are no refunds, so you are advised to plan ahead and, carefully consider if you should be travelling at all.
The Government’s policy has not changed in this regard; we encourage residents to be tested before returning and have your test results with you on arrival to avoid the $300 fee.
If you are using the Costco/AZOVA Health test, I ask everyone to read the company’s testing procedures very carefully. The BTA has a handy outline of the process on its website, gotobermuda.com, with links to the Costo site. Your options are to purchase a test kit voucher from Costco.com and have the kit shipped to your overseas accommodation, or purchase the test kit from select Costco pharmacy locations but only after doing an online health assessment. The tests, which cost $139.99 online, are saliva tests that should deliver results within the new five-day turn-around period. Costco membership is not required.
I know the BTA is working with Costco and its partner AZOVA Health to address current teething issues and to provide additional information about the process, as this is a useful and welcome option for travellers to have.
As people are returning to the workplace after the holidays, I want to take this opportunity to remind employers that you are responsible for providing your employees with factual information from health officials and assuring that ‘return to work after travel guidance’ is adhered to, as outlined at www.gov.bm/coronavirus-workplace .
Over 20% of the cases that we had in last month’s outbreaks were workplace outbreaks and transmission. This reveals that workplace standards are often not rigorous enough as employees relax around co-workers. Also, some people return to work too early after travel or even when experiencing symptoms. The Government’s position and guidance remains that persons should work remotely when reasonably practicable. Diligence is needed as cases continue to rise overseas. Through public health officials, we can help to prepare and educate employees without causing unwarranted concern.
Likewise, I would like to remind the general public that we must not become complacent and let our guard down. As I have said repeatedly, we must, as a community, follow the public health guidance and measures put in place to stop the spread of the pandemic. We cannot be irresponsible about COVID-19 – a virus that is so easily transmissible. Wear your mask, wash your hands frequently and properly, use hand sanitiser, practice physical distancing, and avoid the 3-C’s;
- closed spaces with poor ventilation,
- crowded places with many people nearby
- and close-contact settings such as close-range conversations – six feet must be maintained at all times, including while greeting others.
It goes without saying, that the health and wellbeing of our community is our main priority, and we are working hard to protect you . . . But we need your help. Contract tracing is a fundamental part of outbreak control that’s used by public health professionals around the world to prevent the spread of infections.
Contact tracing is used to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease. If a person tests positive for coronavirus, a public health officer would speak to the patient to identify anyone who has had close contact with them during the time they are considered to be infectious.
Our contact tracers are working tirelessly to protect Bermuda from the spread of the coronavirus. But some people in our community, when contacted by a contact tracer, are not cooperating.
Please, I cannot stress this enough, if you are contacted by a contact tracer, fully cooperate with them. This whole process is completely anonymous – they will protect your privacy. Your cooperation will protect the health and wellbeing of our community. Not cooperating could lead to further spreading of the coronavirus, which could shut down our entire economy.
And if you have not already, download the WeHealth app. It is an anonymous contact tracing tool.
In closing, I would like to remind the public about the Community Mental Wellbeing Hotline availability – 543-1111. The line is open Monday to Saturday, 5-9pm.
The wellness hotline is for:
- those who are feeling anxious;
- people who may be stressed while taking care of loved ones;
- seniors who may feel isolated;
- people who are having a hard time with the isolation;
- and those caring for their loved ones who want to chat.
Those are just a few examples, and if you need the support, call them, or if someone you know can benefit from this support, please give them the number. 543-1111.
This support is free of charge to the public as funding has been made available through the Bermuda Foundation with support from the Health Innovation Fund.
Bermuda, stay informed on the all of the latest developments about COVID-19 by regularly visiting the Government of Bermuda’s website coronavirus.gov.bm.
Finally… stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me
Thank you, Minister of Health, and on behalf of the government and the people of Bermuda, I extend our condolences to the family of Bermuda’s 11th COVID death that was just announced by the Minister.
They’re reported as numbers here, but that is without question, somebody’s loved one, we must remember that this virus can take lives.
I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Minister, and her team at the Ministry of Health for all that they do, as well as the testing teams at the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory and the other testing facilities.
Many had to work late hours over the holiday to conduct tests, and send out results, so that others may be able to enjoy their Christmas with their loved ones. I also know that the work they’ve been doing to help us contain this outbreak has been difficult and texting on them personally. So I thank them for their dedication.
Now, the Minister of National Security will provide an update from her ministry.
The Bermuda Police Service has released the name of Bermuda’s first road traffic accident victim. It is with heavy sadness that behalf of the Government, I am extending our condolences to the family of Oronde Wilson Jr. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.
One death on Bermuda’s roads is one too many.
We are saddened by any serious road traffic accident and are devastated by a fatality. As a country, we need to be aware that road safety is a public safety matter.
Policing Bermuda’s road is only one part of the equation. Each of us should be responsible while driving, riding, running, walking and even crossing roads. It is imperative that all residents take seriously, act cautiously and with concern for your own safety and the safety of others.
Just as we must act responsibly on Bermuda roads, we must also continue to do our part to adhere to the Covid-19 health guidelines and advisories.
Over this past holiday weekend, I am pleased that the majority of our residents adhered to the curfew and we had only seven (7) of the person were deemed to be in breach of curfew. These matters are being dealt with and person(s) will be before the courts in due course
Though the curfew has changed to midnight, it is as important as ever that everyone adheres to the revised times. The Bermuda Police Reserves will continue to support the Police Services with enforcement. There have been 26 breaches in total since its inception on December 18th. It should be noted that anyone found in breach of the curfew will have a file submitted before the Department of Public Prosecutions.
During the past three weeks, the BPS’s COVID 19 Compliance Team in partnership with the Bermuda Reserve Police have continued with their liquor license premise checks. There were 101 checks at premises across the island.
As the Minister of National Security, I wish to thank all of Bermuda for making responsible decisions and taking the necessary precautions to protect them and their families. Generally, we had a relatively peaceful holiday period.
This is a testament to our residents who adhered to the health guidelines and advisories which encouraged people to celebrate in small bubbles this holiday season.
As you would have seen, the Bermuda Police Service issued a public reminder that if you intend to be on the roads in the evening hours, please plan by ensuring you have enough time to get home before the curfew.”
Thank you very much, Minister Ming.
I’d like to thank the Reserve Police for their continued support, while enforcing the curfew. While I know that living with these current restrictions are not easy government must continue to make the tough decisions when necessary for a safer future for the weeks and months to come.
The Ministry of Health will look to increase community surveillance with increased testing for teachers, healthcare workers and athletes in our consistent effort to keep Bermuda safe, and to ensure that we keep our economy going.
We want students to be able to go back to school, families to be able to visit loved ones, and for us to be able to go and enjoy some of the regular activities, such as dance on the weekends and also football matches. We must do what is necessary in the present in order to ensure that we can get our lives back to normal in the near future.
Looking back, we have been fortunate in being able to enjoy some forms of normality that other countries cannot. And this is due to our performance and the collective work and effort, vigilance with testing and adhering to the guidelines, wearing our masks, practicing physical distancing and now, with the support of technology, using the We Health Bermuda app, while shielding our vulnerable. Now, I would like to provide you with an update or changes to the public health emergency regulations following the Cabinet meeting earlier today.
In line with the recommendations for the Ministry of Health, the Cabinet has agreed to extend most of the current restrictions in place with a few changes that I will outline.
· The first change is that the nightly curfew will remain in place. However, we will begin each night at midnight until 5am which is similar to the curfew that was in place in Phase Four restrictions;
· Businesses will be required to close at 11pm, whereas they’re currently now required to close at 10pm;
· Personal services restrictions will be relaxed, to allow for the trimming of beards and other personal care services that require masks to be removed;
· In gyms physical distancing requirements were reduced from ten feet, between patrons, to six feet; and
· the number of people who can attend an outdoor funeral has been increased from ten to 20.
Other restrictions remain unchanged, including gatherings remain restricted to no more than ten people, and indoor bars and nightclubs will remain closed.
While I know that this may not be welcome news for some, in the interests of public health, we have made the decision to keep bars and nightclubs closed for the time being.
This, as always what we reviewed in two weeks’ time and we’re taking this action, as we want to be absolutely sure of no spikes or surges in cases from activity around the holidays.
This is part of a targeted strategy that will allow us to open our public schools safely, as it is of utmost importance that we are able to open our public schools to students next week Wednesday and we must be absolutely sure that the outbreak is under control before mass reopening of our bars and clubs.
Persons who may work in establishments that are required to remain closed and who have been approved for assistance will receive additional payments from the Ministry of Finance.
Additionally, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation will extend and increase in support to businesses who are still under restrictions.
I close today by offering a message of hope. These are without question the dark days of winter. It is windy. It is rainy and in Bermuda, it is cold, and this pandemic, for many, seems to be dragging on and on.
However, as difficult as it may be, now is not the time to give up and there is cause for cautious optimism. There is hope on the horizon in the form of the vaccine. And while I understand that the concern has been expressed by some locally and internationally, I think it is important to recognize that this is one of the vital tools we need to get back to normal.
I will be getting the same vaccine available to you. My parents will be getting it. My wife will be getting it. And the people that I love most my life will be getting it when it’s available to them, because that is the way that we are going to beat this virus, and finally rebuild our country with Bermudians at heart.
Our medical professionals will speak more on the science, and I encourage you to come to them with your questions, as it is important that we are open and honest about this phase of which we’re about to enter.
Already around the world, millions have received the approved vaccines. There are so many stories of people who have matched the adversity of these times with a cheerful spirit or safe innovations that still brought joy.
We saw recently how one family’s shielded 106 year old, Miss Myrtle Edness who could remember the impact of the last pandemic contrast with a young couple, the journey of married life begins in the midst of a pandemic, and whose love for each other could not be delayed by current circumstances.
We have come so far, and I’m approaching this new year with renewed optimism and promise. As a government, we have economic decisions to make. We have social issues to address, and we must continue to battle this coronavirus. It hardly seems possible that we have spent almost ten months in this fight, but the fight must go on.
As always, before I close, I must remind you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, if you’re a senior who feels isolated, or if you’re caring for loved ones and need someone to talk to the Emotional Well-being Hotline is there for you. The phone number is 543 1111, and the line is operated Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 9pm. Again, that number is 543 1111.
Before I take questions from the media. I would like to apologize for what was some intemperate interactions with the valued members of our media over the last few press conferences that I attended.
Like many, I was fatigued, and sometimes when you’re tired, you get irritable, and I need to do better job to not do that so I apologize to the media, because you play a valuable role inside of our community, asking questions on behalf of persons, to make sure that we can do our job to inform.
So in this new year, I will say sorry and I will do my best to be a little bit more kind. So with that, I’m happy to take questions from members of our media today.