COVID-19 Update Premier’s Remarks 16 March 2021
Good Evening Bermuda,
I am joined tonight by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will provide an update on the latest vaccination statistics, Covid-19 testing results and provide details on measures being put into place to address the current outbreak in Bermuda.
Following that, I will provide you with an update on the extension of COVID-19 regulations, which have been agreed by the Cabinet today, and touch on matters related to tourism and our economy.
The Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain is here to answer any questions regarding our public schools.
It is also a pleasure to have The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ayo Oyinloye, who can answer any medical questions from the media.
First, we will hear from the Minister of Health, Minister….
There were 440 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and two were positive for COVID-19. These two (2) new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.
Additionally, since the last update, there was one (1) recovery.
There are currently 30 active cases, of which;
- All 30 are under public health monitoring and;
- None are in the hospital.
Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 742 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 700 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 (1) year to greater than 100 years.
The mean age of all currently active cases is 35 years (median: 35 years), and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 70 years (age group: 70-79 years).
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:
- 221 are imported
- 516 are classified as local transmission of which:
- 424 are local transmission with known contact/source and
- 92 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
- 5 are under investigation
As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change. Today’s update has two cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with known contact/source.
Of the over 180,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median: 42 years), and the ages range from less than one (1) year to greater than 100 years.
The seven-day average of our real-time reproduction number is below one (1), and Bermuda’s current country status is “Sporadic Cases”.
While our knowledge of the coronavirus- its investigations, care and treatment – is much improved compared with several months ago, there is one fact which will challenge our ability to cope as we continue to go through these last several weeks of colder weather, and that one fact is this that there is increasing evidence that the virus is spread through airborne transmission of small droplets and particles, which are suspended in the air over longer distances and for more time that the initial large droplet transmission first associated with Covid-19.
Combined with the most likely transmission happening through close contact with an infected person for a period of 15 minutes or more, it is clear that being indoors due to colder temperatures, where the air circulates less and or more slowly, increases the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19.
Indeed, the Ministry’s contact tracing investigations strongly suggest that it is social mixing or gatherings of persons that are most likely to produce local transmission and positive cases.
As such, public health protocols developed and under constant review, aim to assist the community on how best to navigate the risks involved. This is a matter of personal responsibility for community benefit, as the Government strives to strike a balance between risk mitigation and the economic impact of taking precautions.
We fully appreciate that many members of our community are suffering from COVID fatigue… but we must remain vigilant and not let our guard down.
We now have as part of our arsenal, the ability to vaccinate our population against COVID-19 so I urge all of us to take advantage of this and get vaccinated when it’s your turn, do this for yourself, your loved ones and our island home.
I will now provide an update on our vaccine programme wherewe have completed the ninth full week of vaccinations.
For the nine week period from January 11to March 13, 2021, Bermuda has administered a total of 29,708 vaccinations – a figure that rises to 30,481 if you include yesterday’s vaccinations as well! – all of which is good news.
Of the 29,708 vaccinations administered for the period we are reporting on, which ends March 13;
- 54% are women, and,
- 46% are men.
Bermuda’s goal of “herd immunity” will be achieved when 70% of the population (64,054) has been immunized. To date, 29% of the population has been vaccinated (with 1 dose), and 18% of the population has been immunized (with 2 doses).
4,699 vaccinations were delivered in the first week of March, and 4,304 vaccinations were delivered last week for a total of 9,003 vaccinations since the last press conference. The public has accessed these vaccines as follows:
- The Vaccination Centre at Bermuda College administered 17,650 or 59% of vaccinations,
- 11,090 or 37% were administered at the Bermuda Hospitals Board Vaccination Centre,
- 806 or 3% were administered at rest homes and long term care facilities, and
- 162 or 1% were administered at Other Vaccination Sites.
These are superb results, and next week we will be able to provide an update of progress against our objectives as well. Regrettably, that information is not available today. Even so, I would like to thank all those who have taken the step to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and our community.
I want to remind residents that we are now in Phase 2 of Bermuda’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy.
Phase 2 is for residents who are 50 years or older, have been diagnosed with heart disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, have a disability, are of no fixed abode or essential travelers – persons who must travel for medical purposes or to return to school.
If you fit the criteria for Phase 2, you should register for an appointment by completing the registration form at forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine.
If you were eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1A and 1B groups and have not registered yet, please do so today or take advantage of the walk-in service at the Bermuda College.
The Bermuda College Vaccination Centre will accept walk-ins all this week for those persons 65 years and older who are unable to register for the vaccination on line. We will also accept walk-ins for those persons 50 or older. However, again, please note that priority will be given to those 65 and older. Walk-in appointments are from 3 pm to 6:45 pm, and we do ask that you not attend before 3 pm.
With regard to the numbers of persons who have registered interest… To the week ending March 13, a total of 22,298 persons have registered their interest in getting vaccinated. This number reflects actual individual registrations. Previous totals reported included what were later identified as multiple registrations. A clean-up analysis just completed indicates that 2,873 duplicate registrations were removed from the system.
The current breakdown of registrations is as follows:
- 6,515 Black
- 11,045 White
- 2,964 Mixed or Other, and,
- 1,774 Prefer not to say or Not Specified.
For those of you who have registered already – thank you and please encourage your family and friends who may be in the priority groups to register.
I also want to remind everyone about the partnership with the Ministry of Health and Age Concern Bermuda to provide assistance to their members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Adults aged 50+ who require assistance with transportation to their scheduled vaccine appointment can call Age Concern on 238 7525 to arrange free transportation.
To receive this free service, individuals must have already registered and received their vaccination appointment. If you are unable to register, you can also contact Age Concern for assistance in registering for your appointment, as they will do it for you. The transportation is being provided by Project Action, and will include travel to and drop-off after your vaccination appointment. It is good for travel to vaccinations at both the Hospital and the Vaccination Centre at Bermuda College.
Please remember that you will not be vaccinated if you have travelled in the last 14 days. You must Have a day 14 negative test result to get either your first or second dose.
Once immunised, however, there are some changes to the Travellers’ First 14 Days, which are as follows:
- Bermuda’s testing regime remains in place, therefore, an immunized person must obtain and upload a negative pre-arrival COVID-19 PCR test as part of the Travel Authorisation process;
- All immunized persons will be tested on arrival at the airport (and will be in quarantine until they receive that result) and test again on days 4, 8 and 14 of their stay – this is the same for non-immunised persons;
- If an immunized person does not have a pre-arrival test (and this can only apply to residents), the person must remain in quarantine at their accommodation until the day 4 test – this is different compared with a non-immunised person, who must quarantine until day 8;
- After two negative test results – pre-arrival and arrival or arrival and day 4 – the immunized person can carry out regular day-to-day activities;
- Immunised travellers will not be required to wear a wristband; and,
- ·All immunized travellers – like everyone in Bermuda – must continue to follow public health guidelines such as wearing a mask, being physically distanced from others and practicing good hand hygiene.
Information about immunized travellers and, in particular, business travellers, can be found at: gov.bm/coronavirus-covid-19-information-immunised-travellers.
Before I close, I must remind the rule-breakers, those throwing parties and events with more than 25 people in attendance – this is not allowed, and it is dangerous and irresponsible behaviour. The more of these parties that occur, the more chances there are of spreading the coronavirus. If the virus spreads, we will likely end up with more restrictions – beyond a midnight curfew and gatherings limited to 25 people. As it stands, the Ministry is carefully monitoring the current outbreak – and it is an outbreak – and has recommended the current restrictions remain in place for a further two weeks. The carelessness of party-goers may change that for the worse.
Please, everyone, follow the rules and guidelines … continue to wear your mask, practice hand hygiene, and physically distance.
Avoid the three ‘Cs’ – 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 greetings.
Thank you, Minister…
It was Wednesday March 18th, 2020 – almost a year ago – that we first stood before you to announce the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bermuda. Since then, the Minister of Health, her team, and so many public officers (including the Communications team who organise these press conferences) have worked tirelessly to help us battle the coronavirus, protect our most vulnerable, and keep our economy going. I thank them all for their dedication, professionalism, and perseverance.
Thanks to this work, we have been able to enjoy a greater sense of normality than many countries around the world. It is also thanks to the collective work of all of us that Bermuda continues to be one of the top countries in the world for both testing and vaccinations.
We have now administered 30,481 doses of the COVID vaccine, including launching a walk-in service for those persons who are most vulnerable. Minister and CMO, thank you – to you – and to your teams for their hard work in accelerating the pace of vaccinations and putting Bermuda in a strong position. You should be proud of what has been accomplished.
The truth is Bermuda that vaccinations are the only way out of this pandemic, and there is no way in beating that reality. The world is in a race to stay ahead of the coronavirus mutations and have persons vaccinated to protect them not only from sickness and death but also to protect them against quarantine if they are exposed. Bermuda, we are in a fortunate place because of an arrangement between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories to supply vaccines.
Tomorrow, in my weekly meeting with the Governor, I will look to get further clarity on the future supply of vaccines so that we can look to further expand vaccine eligibility in Bermuda. I urge all persons currently eligible to please register online to receive your vaccine and do your part to ensure that Bermuda defeats this deadly virus.
As I said on my social media platforms this weekend, coronavirus fatigue is real, we have seen it unfold in other countries, and have seen how single events where regulations are not adhered to can lead to an outbreak here on our island.
Bermuda, we cannot let our guard down. The overwhelming majority of the active Coronavirus cases in our country are the ’UK Variant.’ This strain is known to be more transmissible and more deadly. We are making great progress with our vaccination programme, but this progress will slow if we do not contain this outbreak – as we will have to put more resources to do contact tracing and less to do vaccination. To do your part to assist in this effort, ensure when you go out, you are using the WeHealth app.
We have an efficient vaccination programme underway, have an extremely accessible and aggressive testing regime, and the scientific capabilities to determine which variants are present on our island. These are vital tools that we will continue to utilise to keep our island safe and our economy running. If you are eligible, get vaccinated. If you are not, get tested and know your status.
Along with the technology and vaccines that we have, we all can continue to take personal responsibility in our everyday lives to control the spread. I echo the Minister of Health’s consistent reminders to use hand sanitiser, wear a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth when in public, and keep your distance from others.
The next six weeks are critical and will require us all to do our part to break the chains of transmission while we continue to vaccinate our seniors and our most vulnerable.
Today, in line with recommendations from the Ministry of Health, with the support of the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee, and due to the current outbreak, the Cabinet has agreed to the following:
- All current restrictions will remain in place as they are for a further two weeks
- This includes curfew, which due to the continued presence of the highly transmissible UK variant will continue to be implemented from 12am-5am
- Due to the continuance of the curfew, all businesses are required to continue to close at 11pm
- Boat curfew remains at 8pm
- The maximum number of persons for group gatherings in a public or private setting remains at 25
- Outdoor funerals can be attended by up to 50 persons
- Indoors funerals can hold up to 25% of the maximum capacity for the venue in which they are held
- Table size in restaurants, bars and nightclubs remains at ten persons
All measures will be reviewed by the Cabinet again in two weeks time. There was a discussion within the Government as to whether we should tighten restrictions due to the amount of cases but in the end, it was decided that the 98% who are following the rules shouldn’t suffer further for the 2% who are not.
We have seen persons arrested who will be brought before the courts for breaking these rules. Whether these rules are broken in a private home or within a business, there will be consequences. The Government takes no joy in persons being charged, but we will continue to take a forceful approach toward breaches of the regulations to protect public health and to protect our economy.
The Government is not saying stay in your homes. What we are asking is that when you do go out, ensure that you go to a place or gathering that abides by the regulations. Do not go to an event or a gathering where there are more than 25 people. Do not go to events and gathering where people are not wearing their mess, do not go to a gathering where people are not practicing social distancing and do not go to a gathering when people are huddled indoors.
We are dealing with an outbreak at present, but it is important that we all acknowledge we are in a much different place than we were in November. Thankfully, we have a significant amount of our elderly and vulnerable population vaccinated, and we continue to accelerate our vaccination programme.
Earlier this week COVID exposures were identified in Dellwood Middle and Northlands Primary Schools. Based on the level of exposure and the quick work of the Department of Health conducting risk assessments, the affected persons have been quarantined, and the schools have been cleared to remain open after deep cleaning of the affected areas was completed.
Late this afternoon, we were alerted to a potential COVID Exposure at Whitney Institute. As per protocols, a letter from the Dept of Health has been sent to staff and parents. A risk assessment is being carried out at the school. Further details will be sent once the risk assessment has been completed.
The COVID protocols in place that allowed our schools to open have been regularly reviewed and updated as necessary. It is a testament to these protocols, and the hard work of our school leaders and educators, and the progress we have made that we can safely keep our schools open.
Last night, the Bermuda Football Association announced that the local football season will not continue. It is the Government’s understanding that this decision was made democratically with the individual clubs voting and voicing their reasons as to why.
The Government gave permission for football to commence and was hopeful that through the staged Return to Play initiative managed by the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport in partnership with the Bermuda Football Association, Bermuda could enjoy a return to local sport as safely as possible.
I am very disappointed for those young people who have been training, undergoing the necessary testing and anyone involved in preparing for the restart of the season. However, the Government respects the decision of our local football clubs and we will not question it. The permission to resume football has been given by the Government, and if there is an opportunity for the clubs to reconsider, then I hope they will do so – so that our young people can return to what they love, competitive sport.
Some have questioned why football will not return, but international events are currently moving ahead. I want to be clear on this, and reiterate again, the Government gave permission for football to re-start and agreed with the BFA a strategy for how they can do so safely. Sadly the local clubs have made the decision not to continue the season.
The Government did not make this decision for them. Last year permission was given for many sporting events, the same permissions were given to both Cricket and the World Rugby Tens last year, both of these sports made the decision to commence under the guidelines provided, while the Eastern County Cricket Association decided they did not wish to hold their competition under the rules that were provided. The government provides the guidelines and organisations, decide whether they wish to go ahead or not.
Any events which are safely able to take place will hopefully benefit our economy and our local organisations. Earlier this month, the Government presented grants to 3 historically black sailing clubs, East-End Mini Yacht Club, West End Sailboat Club, and the Mid-Atlantic Boat Club to assist them with facility upgrades so that they can be involved in SailGP’s local initiatives. We were committed to supporting these clubs and recognised that if we can find money to support SailGP, we can also find funds to help local sailing clubs.
We also presented grants to 6 other local sporting and community clubs totalling over $398,000 to assist them in upgrades to their facilities, and purchasing essential equipment. These grants have already supported projects at clubs such as Devonshire Recreation Club, St. David’s Cricket Club, and Harrington’s Workmans Club, which has helped put Bermudians back to work by improving local clubs that serve the community.
Through initiatives such as these and numerous projects taking place under the Economic Stimulus programme currently underway, we are beginning the process of enhancing our infrastructure, and continuing to support local small & medium businesses.
In addition to supporting local businesses, we are also continuing to create opportunities for Bermudians within our tourism industry. Last week I, accompanied by the Junior Minister of Labour Arianna Hodgson, announced the new partnership with the St. Regis Hotel to provide training and employment for Bermudians within their organisation.
The opening of St.Regis will see 90 jobs created in the initial phase, and the training programmes, with the support of the Ministry of Labour, will help Bermudians to excel in these roles. I thank the owners of the St. Regis for their commitment to Bermuda, and the confidence they have shown in our country during these challenging economic times.
We have tools in our arsenal, such as the WeHealth app, to assist us in managing the spread of coronavirus, as well as the capacity for regular testing. It is up to all of us to help manage this outbreak. Whether you are in a school tomorrow, in church on Saturday or Sunday, or in a restaurant or bar this weekend, please continue to adhere to the regulations that are in place.
As I wrap up, 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 is operated Monday to Saturday, from 5pm – 9pm.
This help is available if you need someone to talk with, whether you are:
- feeling anxious;
- feeling isolated;
- caring for others; or
- if you are not feeling yourself.
Again, the phone number is 543-1111. Please call as 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.