COVID-19 Update – Bermuda Government April 16, 2021
Good evening Bermuda.
Thank you for joining us as we complete our 4th day of our seven day period of “stay at home”. This short, sharp stop was implemented to allow our essential services such as contact tracing to catch up to the volume of cases brought on by this outbreak of the B.1.1.7 variant in Bermuda.
As I speak to you today, 17 people have died, a number of persons are in the intensive care unit and over 40 people are in hospital directly as a result of COVID-19.
In the midst of the clamor for exemptions and the criticism of this renewed period of restrictions on movements around the Island, I urge everyone to pause and reflect on the incredible human cost that we are seeing and recognize that all that is in place is designed to prevent more families enduring the pain of loss and anguish of serious illness of loved ones.
I am joined today by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson and Dr Wesley Miller, Chief of Staff to the Bermuda Hospitals Board who is here to answer questions from the media.
I now invite the Minister of Health to give an update from her Ministry.
There were 1385 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and 37 were positive for coronavirus. This gives a test positivity rate of 2.7%.
2 of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:
- 1 resident who arrived on British Airways BA 159 from London on 6 April 2021 and tested positive on their Day 8 test
- 1 resident who arrived on American Airlines AA 308 from Miami on 31 March 2021 and tested positive on their Day 14 test
12 of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as associated with known cases.
The additional 23 new cases are classified as under investigation. These cases are among residents with no currently identified link to other known cases or history of travel in the past 14 days. There were 55 recoveries and 0 deaths.
Bermuda has 2060 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows.
There are 848 active cases, of which:
- 808 are under public health monitoring and
- 40 are in hospital with 8 in intensive care;
- a total of 1195 have recovered, and
- the total deceased is 17.
As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.
Of the over 200,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median: 42 years) and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is just below 1 (0.99). Bermuda’s current WHO country status is “Community Transmission”.
Yesterday I announced that Bermuda had reached more than 2,000 positive cases. Today that number is 2,060. 2,060 people. 2,060 families who are living or have lived with health concerns about themselves and their loved ones. Asking questions like, will the symptoms be mild or severe? 2,060 people worried about the impact their diagnosis will have on others. Their extended family. Friends. Colleagues. Elderly relatives. We must continue to look beyond the numbers and see the people, understand their concerns.
We must also remember and keep in our prayers the families who have lost a loved one due to coronavirus.
Over the months and weeks, people have shared their stories with me. Told me how they have managed. How family and friends have come to their aid. The loneliness of being in Shelter in Place and, this week, during the Stay at Home Regulations. One colleague shared how her brother who lives alone had to be alone while he was sick. No one could visit. Family and friends doing what they could from outside the house. I’ve had seniors share with me their fears about seeing their children and grandchildren asking “Suppose they had the virus when they visited but they didn’t know it?”
It’s these stories and others that speak to why we have the Stay at Home Regulations this week. This is why we must not mix families at this time. The number of positive cases must drop, we have to provide the healthcare system with relief, and this includes the hospital.
I must report again today, there are 40 patients in the hospital who need medical support to battle this disease. Since yesterday’s update, and at the time of our reporting, there have been three new admissions, five people have been discharged, eight are in ICU and one patient is intubated. We also send our prayers and thoughts to each of them and their families.
Against this backdrop, some in our community are choosing not to get vaccinated. If you have questions, visit coronavirus.gov.bm and other reputable sites. If you want firsthand knowledge about the vaccine call your doctor. Ask all the questions you have about the vaccine and whether or not you should get it.
There is no single decision process. People decide to get the vaccine because they want to protect themselves and others. Some make the decision because they want to travel when it is safe to do so. Others do it because it is the right thing for our community and they want to get back to the new level of normal.
If you haven’t already done so, register today to get vaccinated. Having the vaccine does not necessarily stop you from getting the disease but it does lessen the severity of the disease if you do get it.
To this end, I repeat my appeal to doctors in Bermuda to give us some of your time. If every doctor in Bermuda takes one or two shifts on a weekday evening or during the day on Saturday or Sunday, we will succeed in reaching our goal of community immunity by Bermuda Day – 28 May. If you can help, please send an email to Dr Brett Lefkowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, thank you to all those medical professionals who have already come forward to say they will assist.
As revised restrictions are put into place, I must restate that the UK variant of the coronavirus is extremely contagious and the symptoms can be difficult to pinpoint. Symptoms include cough, tiredness, headache, muscle ache and sore throat. If you experience any of these symptoms please contact your doctor and make an appointment to get tested. Likewise, if you have been in contact with someone who has these symptoms, immediately make an appointment to get tested.
As a reminder, each of us has a role to play in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Follow Public Health guidelines, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distance and download the WeHealth Bermuda app. If you haven’t already done so, register to get vaccinated – because vaccinations work.
Thank you Minister…
And thank you for the tireless work that you and the team at the Ministry of Health continue to do.
Bermuda, the Government understands that many are frustrated and stressed by reliving last year’s restrictions and it may feel that the progress we made as a community is in danger of being erased. However, even in the midst of this outbreak we have cause for optimism. We have been able to test widely, isolating positive cases and ensuring that people know their coronavirus status. For the 2nd consecutive day – we see recoveries outpacing new cases, and our 7 day average of our reproductive number is now below 1.
Our vaccination programme has continued and it is encouraging to see more and more people registering to be vaccinated. Our contact tracers continue working around the clock to get current with the investigation of positive cases and early indications are that the mandate preventing the mixing of households is slowing the spread.
The reality is that our economy cannot be made to endure additional prolonged periods of economic inactivity. When work stops and stores and restaurants are closed, the impact is not just to the convenience of those of us who are customers, but to workers in those sectors who cannot earn what they need to meet their commitments and take care of their families.
With due consideration for public health and the cautious approach needed to safely promote economic activity, the Government has considered what can be done in this regard with effect from this upcoming week.
Therefore, from 5am, Tuesday April 20th, the following adjustments to the existing regulations will take effect:
- A curfew will be in place from 8pm through 6am every day; permitted businesses continue to be open 7am – 7pm
- Retail stores, including pet stores, will be permitted to open for curbside service and delivery services.
- Restaurants / food service will resume for take-out and delivery only, likewise subject to all necessary public health precautions.
- Remote working will continue to be mandatory however, we are working with employer groups and other stakeholders to provide a framework of testing employees before their return to work in those areas such as retail and food service that will reopen. This will promote a safe working environment for workers and customers alike.
- The Tyne’s Bay drop off facility will reopen for its usual operating hours on the alphabetical system
- Grocery stores will continue to operate on the alphabetical system
- Laundromats will be permitted to open, and similar to last year they will be open by appointment, with one household at a time to minimise mixing.
- Licensed fishermen and registered commercial farmers will be permitted to sell local fish and local produce respectively at the roadside and also to engage in delivery.
- Construction and landscaping services will be able to resume.
- Courier services will be permitted to operate.
- Parks will reopen, but the mixing of households is still unlawful.
- Recreational boating will be allowed, but the mixing of households is unlawful, and will be strictly enforced.
All other restrictions at this time are unchanged. Remote working is still mandatory, and it is vital that we continue to be vigilant in order to reduce the spread. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor our situation, and recommend to the Cabinet the appropriate next steps to take. The regulations announced tonight will remain in place for at least the next 2 weeks, unless the data on the ground shows that we can move to the next phase sooner.
I noted during the last press conference that the Ministry of Labour will provide information regarding if employers can force sick or vacation leave on employees during the Stay at Home Order. Employers cannot force employees to take such leave, and further information can be found online in addition to a place where you can report violations: bermudajobboard.bm/evtl
The Government will continue to support those cannot work due to mandatory closures and quarantine. Those persons can go to uba.gov.bm to apply for the Unemployment Benefit if they have not already done so.
There is also ongoing support for affected businesses through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation. Those who require support can go online to bedc.bm to apply for the updated and expanded COVID-19 Emergency Grants as well as updated and expanded COVID-19 Combined Loans/Grants under the Business Continuity & Sustainability Funding Programme.
I am mindful of the embodied men and women of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, the Bermuda Reserve Police and the Bermuda Police Service who have returned to the enforcement of these restrictions. I wish to thank them for answering the call and encourage everyone in the community to respect the job they have to do as part of keeping us all safe.
Needless to say, the brunt of any outbreak like this is borne by our healthcare workers and professionals. From the Ministry of Health, to the Hospital, to our doctors’ offices, to the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, Vaccination Centre staff and volunteers, and many others, this is a whole country effort that fills me with pride. The incredibly hard work that is demanded of these women and men every day is the single most important shield in defence of the full impact of a pandemic that has and continues to turn the world upside down.
I would also like to thank the Cabinet for their dedication and outstanding work in helping to guide our country through this difficult time. Each Government Minister has been steadfast in the leadership of their respective ministries and unwavering in their support of the tough but necessary decisions we have had to make together. I thank each of them for their service, and am thankful to work with such a committed team.
Throughout the pandemic, the ability to work remotely has allowed some sectors to continue their operations and minimize their losses in this challenging COVID-19 economy. This is not the case for our tourism sector.
The lifeblood of tourism is the experience provided by exemplary service and the amenities that guests look forward to enjoying as part of a Bermuda vacation. Bermuda’s success in managing the coronavirus early in the pandemic built confidence in our tourism product that has seen a stronger than expected return of group business.
This fragile recovery must also be protected as we navigate this outbreak and we must continue to demonstrate that Bermuda can and will be open to tourism. We are working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and other tourism stakeholders to craft a message for the world that clearly indicates that Bermuda is working to contain this outbreak and that group business and the leisure travel sector will be able to enjoy Bermuda as we approach the traditional peak tourism season.
The pace and penetration of the vaccination strategy in the United States, in particular, is a source of some comfort for us as we stand a great chance of attracting fully immunized guests. We will also work with hoteliers and our partner Unions to continue promoting the vaccination of hotel workers to provide a fully immunized Bermuda experience for our guests.
In keeping with tourism, over the past week a lot has been said on matters regarding the St. Regis development. The development of the first luxury property in Bermuda for many years cannot be seen as anything other than a national priority.
Despite what has been said, I remind everyone listening that this development is not only about providing world-class accommodation for our visitors and locals, but also about providing much needed jobs and training opportunities for Bermudians. A few weeks ago alongside HotelCo and St. Regis, the Government announced such opportunities were already being created including 90 jobs available in the first phase of opening.
Projects such as this are good for Bermuda, and I encourage persons to support these initiatives on behalf of those Bermudians in our tourism industry who are in need of opportunities.
In regards to Sail GP, they have been working with the Government to drastically scale back its operational requirements over the Stay at Home Order period. Measures include reduced number of people onsite to only those that are essential to finishing the preparations of all eight boats and the on-water safety trials, a reduced training programme from eight race boats to four boats, plus the reduction of onsite hours as much as possible. In addition, SailGP is further revising aspects of its event programming next weekend to ensure a safe and successful event. This includes changes to its hospitality programme to comply with the latest government protocols and the cancellation of the ticketed tour boat spectator experiences. To ensure the safety of both local residents, its world-class teams, and support staff, SailGP has worked closely with the Ministry of Health, alongside other leading experts, medical professions and other major elite sports events, on creating and implementing a robust COVID-Safe Plan.
This includes creating protocols for all staff to operate in strict designated bubble environments – which ensures absolutely no external contact – daily health reports and regular testing, among other measures.
Last night on the local news many would have seen interviews from the members of two Historic Black Sailing Clubs, East End Mini Yacht Club and West End Sailboat Club. The clubs’ leaders outlined some of the incredible benefits they are experiencing as part of this event.
We heard how all eight boats involved in SailGP have adopted a local sailing club. How the clubs and their youth members are benefitting from the world-class experience , knowledge and sponsorship being shared by the participants, who are showing them that there is a career in sailing that they can take up from right here on their own island.
The Government is committed to ensuring that Bermudians can benefit from such initiatives and SailGP is no exception to that commitment. After this pandemic Bermuda will need to go and it is important that we demonstrate to the world that we are able to host international events, despite the circumstances that the country may be facing.
As we begin our weekend and many convene to ‘worship where they are’, I invite you to spare a thought or a prayer, if that is the manner of your faith, for the people of St. Vincent and The Grenadines.
In all that the world has to endure as a result of COVID-19, my heart is moved by the uncertainty and devastation wrought in that Island by the volcanic activity this week. Even in the midst of our own struggle at this time I know Bermuda has the capacity and the heart to remember the suffering of others.
Next week will see more activity and with the activity will be the need for more care in how we move about. We should still only leave home when absolutely necessary. We are not yet able to mix households and so we must continue to safeguard those that we love. There is progress; there are small advances and the more we adopt proven methods of public health guidance the sooner we can see a return to normal life.
In light of the setback we have endured with this outbreak of B 1.1.7 in Bermuda and adjustment that has had to happen over the past week the Government is also taking this time to map out what the future will look like for Bermuda. Next week Sunday, I will be giving a speech to the country to lay out where we have come from, where we are now and where we will go in the future.
Our goal is simple to take account of the ever changing circumstances that this virus presents to our country and our plan to adjust so that this battle ends once and for all.
I again implore anyone going through a difficult time emotionally not to suffer in silence, the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline is now open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm to 9pm. If you or anyone you know requires extra emotional support, please call 543-1111.
If you are in an abusive situation and need help the Centre Against Abuse offers a 24 hour helpline 297-8278 where their counsellors conduct sessions over the phone. If you have an emergency, dial 911. You do not need permission to leave your home if you are suffering from abuse, it is an emergency.
As I close I leave you with these words from Nelson Mandela “Difficulties break some but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of one who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that they will rise in the end.”
Bermuda we will rise in the end. We have shown our resilience time and time again, and we have not given up. We must continue to be our brother and sisters keeper, and never allow the challenges we face to take away our hope or the hope of those around us that brighter days are on the horizon.
I thank you for your time, please stay safe, and let’s continue to unite and move forward together.
Thank you … and now look forward to the questions from members of the media.