COVID-19 Update – Bermuda Government April 20, 2021
Good evening Bermuda,
Thank you for joining us as we come out of the 7 Day Stay at Home Order and into the next phase of regulations to allow for some safe economic activity.
Firstly I begin by sending my condolences to the families of the three people we lost over the past few days. We are again reminded of the human cost that this virus has imposed on families within our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those lost over the weekend and yesterday, as well as with all families who have been impacted by loss during this pandemic.
I welcome and thank the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson for joining me tonight as she provides an update to the country on our latest coronavirus tests results, vaccine data and other updates from her ministry. Following the Minister I will reiterate the regulations which came into effect at 5am this morning. We are also thankful to be joined by Dr. Wesley Miller Chief of Staff to the Bermuda Hospitals Board. First we will hear from the Minister of Health….
The Ministry of Health received 578 test results since the last update, and 12 were positive for coronavirus. This gives a test positivity rate of 2.1%.
One of the new cases is classified as imported by a resident who arrived on American Airlines AA 2044 from Charlotte on 18 April 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test.
Three of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as associated with known cases.
The additional eight 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.
Additionally, since the last update, there were 23 recoveries and no deaths.
There are currently 893 active cases, of which;
- 858 are under public health monitoring and;
- 35 are in the hospital, with six in critical care.
Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 2226 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 1313 persons have recovered, and sadly, 20 persons have succumbed to COVID-19.
The seven-day average of our real-time reproduction number is 0.76. Bermuda’s current WHO country status remains “Community Transmission”.
Please keep in your prayers those persons currently in the hospital with COVID-19 related illness, as well as the families who have lost a loved one due to coronavirus.
This is still an intense outbreak, and the virus continues to circulate in our community. We are not out of the woods yet. Are we on the right path? I think so. Our number of positive cases is slowly going down, and we see more recoveries. Things seem to be getting a bit better. But hospital admissions are too high, and the number of deaths is troubling — my sincere condolences to those families who have recently lost loved ones.
I will now provide an update on our vaccine programme…
We have completed the fourteenth full week of vaccinations. From January 11 to April 17, 2021, Bermuda has administered a total of 50,992 vaccinations – a figure that rises to 52,337 if you include vaccinations administered on Sunday and Monday as well! – all of which is very good news.
Of the 50,992 vaccinations administered for the period we are reporting on, which ends April 17th;
- 53% are women, and,
- 47% are men.
Significant progress has been made in vaccinating our population and, especially, our most vulnerable.
70% of all residents over the age of 65 years have had at least one vaccination with 61% being fully immunised.
Bermuda’s goal of “herd immunity” will be achieved when 70% of the population has been immunised. To date, 46% of the population has been vaccinated (with 1 dose), and 34% of the population has been immunised (with 2 doses).
People have asked for an explanation of ‘herd or community immunity’ and why it is important. Community immunity happens when enough of persons in our population have protection against an infection that it stops being able to spread – the so-called ‘dead end’ effect. For COVID-19, scientists estimate the threshold for community immunity is 65% – 70% of the population.
In Bermuda, this means something closer to 80% – 85% of the population that is eligible to be vaccinated because, as you know, the vaccines are not yet approved for youth under the age of 16 years. So, once you remove young people from the calculation, we need a much higher rate of vaccination among those that are left – namely, the people who are 16 years and over.
Yes, this is an ambitious target and that is why the Ministry has focused on, and worked hard to achieve, a high rate of vaccination among our most vulnerable group: people over the age of 65 years. 70% of this age group have had at least one vaccination, and that is excellent news.
In a recent Omnibus survey consisted of telephone interviews with a representative sample of 400 Bermuda residents conducted between March 8th and March 17th, 2021, 8% indicated they will definitely not get the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a decrease when compared with December 2020, when 28% indicated they would not get the vaccine.
I will continue to encourage those not registered to be vaccinated to do your own research using reliable sources and to speak to a doctor.
I know that some of the reluctance to get vaccinated is due to concerns about the side-effects. I cannot speak for everyone’s experience, just mine. My arm was sore after the first shot; and that was all. After the second shot, which I had a 9 in the morning, I felt fine throughout the day but woke up that night at about midnight with a very, very bad headache. It felt like the flu. With Tylenol and some rest, I was feeling absolutely fine within 24 hours. There is certainly a sense of relief in knowing that I am protected now.
Yes, getting vaccinated is something we can do for ourselves but, again, we can do it for our family and our community. Immunisation will get us out of this pandemic!
The expansions in the vaccinations programs at the Bermuda College and the Hospital helped us to exceed 5000 doses in one week for the first time! Well done, and thank you to the entire vaccination team. I extend my personal thanks to all those working at the Bermuda College Vaccination Centre, as well as the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Kudos to you, well done!
The vaccine programme has expanded hours and days so that we can move towards community immunity. To push us towards achieving our goal, the Bermuda College is accepting walk-ins this week. Thursday and Friday are 8am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday are 9am to 3pm. You don’t need to register – just show up.
I will now briefly speak to the Public Health (COVID-19 Emergency Powers) (Stay at Home) Regulations 2021. The revisions that went into effect today are necessary to protect our community. They are not designed to make people’s lives harder. We understand the economic and emotional strain this is having, but the outbreaks we see occur in closed settings with mixed households, people not following the guidelines, and not adequately using personal protection equipment (PPE). If we do not follow public health guidelines and safety measures as outlined in the new regulations, our community spread will continue, hospitalisations will increase and sadly, we will see more COVID related deaths.
I will remind you that if you are back at work, do not mix and mingle with your co-workers. Contact tracers have identified your work environment as a major reason for transmission – including driving in the same car or truck to get to a work site. Your colleagues are not part of your personal bubble. Sharing a lunch or break room without adequate protection has also led to outbreaks. In all situations, outside your immediate household, you must wear your mask, keep physical distancing and practice proper hand hygiene at all times. We see these types of workplace transmissions regularly. I cannot overemphasise that the mixing of households has gotten us where we are today.
Before I close, I want to extend my appreciation for the Environmental Health team. They have been carrying out invaluable work trying to manage the Covid-19 pandemic since the start. This has included:
- As part of the overall Port Health Team – Monitoring all travellers arriving in Bermuda at the airport and seaports to ensure compliance with the Quarantine laws and traveller rules
- Carrying out investigations of cases/outbreaks in businesses, workplaces throughout our community
- Providing advice and support to businesses on legislation, guidance and best practice to prevent the spread of the virus
At the same time, they have continued to provide essential services such as Vector Control. So, thank you to that entire team.
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 are what is going to get us out of this pandemic.
Thank you Minister and I echo your message of keeping those in hospital in our prayers.
As of this morning the strict “Stay at Home” period has ended. This short and sharp stop to activities has allowed our essential services such as contact tracing to catch up on the high volume of work they were faced with and allowed us to meet the objective of increasing our pace of vaccinations while expanding testing. I wish to thank all who adhered to the Order and stayed home as much as possible – the teams who have been working on the frontline of the Pandemic thank you for your cooperation.
Each of us plays a significant role in our country’s success against the coronavirus whether we are on the frontlines working in healthcare and essential services, a staff member of a permitted business, or a resident staying at home. Our progress is reliant on all individuals making responsible decisions in the interest of the collective safety of their family and the Bermuda community.
As we enter the next phase of regulations I ask that each person watching and listening remembers that the ultimate purpose of such measures is to protect you, to protect your loved ones, and to protect Bermuda. We recognise that even with the best of intentions, to live under restrictions is frustrating and tiring for many but I encourage everyone to keep the end in view. Our vaccination programme has accelerated, and we are making consistent advances towards our goal of community immunity. Community immunity, combined with increased vigilance at our border will allow many of our restrictions to be but a mere memory. We can only get there if we remain united and not think about just ourselves, but the community.
The Government is being led by the data as we decide what each phase on our road to reopening will entail. It is with this data in mind, and with consideration for our healthcare system and our economy the following changes took effect this morning:
- Curfew will be in place from 8pm – 6am every day.
- Household mixing is not permitted.
- Permitted businesses including grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, gas stations & registered health professional offices and facilities can continue to operate between 7am-7pm.
- Grocery stores will continue to operate on the alphabetical system.
- Retail stores, including pet stores, will be permitted to open for curbside and delivery service from 7am-7pm.
- Restaurants can open from 7am-7pm for take-out and delivery services only.
- Laundromats will be permitted to open from 7am-7pm. They will be open by appointment for one household at a time to reduce mixing. A wash & fold service may be provided as long as customers are not permitted to enter premises during drop off or collection of their laundry.
- Licensed fishermen and registered commercial farmers are permitted to sell local fish & local produce respectively on the roadside and may also engage in delivery.
- Construction, maintenance and landscaping services are permitted to resume on outdoor sites and for indoor sites that are vacant or uninhabited.
- Courier, delivery and trucking services are permitted to operate. Speak to the courier service about delivery and curbside pick-up of your package if needed, as you are not permitted to enter their premises.
- Parks, beaches, playgrounds and railway trails are open but you may only visit with members of your own household. Golf courses are open for use by a person and members of the same household, but the clubhouse and other facilities must remain closed.
- Recreational boating will be permitted for members of the same household only. Tying to other boats or rafting-up is not permitted and this will be strictly enforced.
- Schools remain closed. Nurseries are also to remain closed except for those approved by the Ministry of Health to care for children of essential workers.
- Remote working remains mandatory, subject to the exceptions in the Regulations. Employers should not force employees to come into work if they are able to perform their duties from home. If you feel that you are being asked to come in against law please report it on the Employment Violations Tipline: bermudajobboard.bm/evtl
To answer some previous questions the Government has received in regards to the latest regulations:
- There is now no restriction on the amount of time a person can exercise outdoors. You do not have to stay within 1km of your home – however there is one restriction – no mixing of households.
- Minor children of parents who do not live together may spend nights at the home of either parent to give effect to an agreement between the parents.
There is still community transmission of the coronavirus in Bermuda, and we must continue to be vigilant as we go about our daily lives. Please continue to wear your masks, practice social distancing and sanitize. These regulations will remain in place for at least two to three weeks, at which point the Ministry of Health will review the data and make recommendations to the Cabinet.
For those who are now returning to work in retail, restaurants and other businesses allowed to operate as outlined in the latest regulations, the Government encourages you to take advantage of free testing and know your coronavirus status. Employers, ensure that your workplaces are safe. We have allowed some economic activity to return, but it is vital that you ask your employees to be tested to ensure that you do not subject your business to a 14 day shutdown due to quarantine.
For those persons who are still unable to work due to business closures and are in need of support please go to uba.gov.bm to apply for the Unemployment Benefit administered by the Ministry of Finance.
Support also remains in place for affected businesses through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation. They can go to 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.
While contact between persons must remain to a minimum, and with the difficulties this pandemic has brought, we know that there are persons going through a difficult time emotionally.
The Emotional Wellbeing Hotline is now open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm to 9pm and they are here to help you. If you or anyone you know requires extra emotional support, please call 543-1111. Do not keep the challenges you are facing or your emotions to yourself, if you need help please reach out.
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 in an emergency even while the curfew is in place from 8pm-6am.
On Sunday evening, I will address the country and to provide an outline of where we have been, where we are now, and what the future will look like for Bermuda. The goal of the national address will be to share with the country what we have learned throughout our battle with coronavirus, how we have adjusted our response and our roadmap for the return of a sense of normality for our beloved island. Further details will be released in the coming days, and I encourage all to tune in.
I remind all of Bermuda that our goal remains to be to achieve community immunity by having the majority of the country fully immunised from the coronavirus and to end restrictions. Taking the vaccine is a personal choice. For those who have not already done so please speak to your doctor about the vaccine, and get proper medical advice on if it is right for you. If it is, we welcome you to register as soon as you are ready on gov.bm.
In closing, I ask that we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as they contend with the impact of a devastating volcanic eruption in their country.
I again thank the Minister of Health and her team at the Ministry, my Cabinet colleagues, my parliamentary colleagues and all public, healthcare and essential workers for all that they do.
And I thank the people of Bermuda for your patience, cooperation, and understanding of the necessary but difficult decisions we must make as the Government. There is hope for a post pandemic future. Please stay safe and let’s keep moving forward together. Thank you.