COVID-19 Update – Bermuda Government April 27, 2021
Good evening Bermuda.
Let me begin tonight by extending my condolences to the family of the latest member of our community to succumb to the coronavirus. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them as well as all the families that have been affected by this deadly virus.
On Sunday in my National Address, I outlined this Government’s plan for “Moving Beyond the Pandemic”. The Government has set out a 3 phased approach with the goal ending the merry-go-round of restrictions and getting Bermudians back to work.
Tonight, I will highlight key messages from Sunday’s address and answer some of your questions and concerns on the pending changes at our borders coming into effect over the coming months.
I am thankful to be joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will provide an update to the country on the latest coronavirus test results, vaccination statistics and other matters from her ministry.
We are also joined by the Chief of Staff for the Bermuda Hospital Board Dr. Wesley Miller, and hopefully for question time, the Chief Medical Officer.
We will begin tonight with the Minister of Health…
Thank you Premier. Good afternoon everyone.
I begin my remarks today by offering sincere condolences to everyone who has lost a family member, a friend, a neighbour or a colleague in circumstances related to the coronavirus. Recently we have had a number of deaths, and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one during this pandemic.
On behalf of the Government of Bermuda, I am so very sorry for your loss. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers, as well as those currently in the hospital with COVID-19 related illness.
The Ministry of Health received 512 test results since the last update, and five (5) were positive for coronavirus. This gives a test positivity rate of 1.0%.
Two (2) of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.
The additional three (3) 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 13 recoveries and no deaths.
There are currently 601 active cases, of which;
- 570 are under public health monitoring and;
- 31 are in the hospital, with eight (8) in critical care.
Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 2362 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 1737 persons have recovered, and sadly, 24 persons have succumbed to COVID-19.
The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is 0.68. Bermuda’s current WHO country status remains “Community Transmission”.
Our positive case results are going in the right direction, and, so far, our recoveries are outpacing our number of positive cases. However, as I said last week, we are not out of the woods yet.
Our current COVID restrictions remain in place to reduce the outbreaks in our community, which I know is stressful news for some. A lot of us are emotionally and mentally drained from this pandemic and the restrictions. I urge everyone to please be patient for the next couple of weeks, be extra vigilant and follow the regulations and guidelines.
We are strong and resilient, we will get through this, and it will all be worth it. The more vigilant we are, the faster we will progress.
I’m confident that if we continue to pull together as a community to eliminate local transmission and make sufficient progress, we can end restrictions on household mixing and enjoy interacting with friends and family again. We can also reopen schools and other facilities and services, and we can dine outdoors.
I will now provide an update on our vaccine programme…
We have completed the fifteenth full week of vaccinations. From January 11 to April 24, 2021, Bermuda has administered a total of 55,319 vaccinations – a figure that rises to 55,904 if you include vaccinations administered on Sunday and Monday as well! –which is excellent news.
Of the 55,319 vaccinations administered for the period we are reporting on, which ends April 24;
- 53% are women, and,
- 47% are men.
Significant progress has been made in vaccinating our population and, especially, our most vulnerable.
73% of all residents over the age of 65 years have had at least one vaccination with 62% being fully immunised.
To date, 50% of the total population has been vaccinated (with 1 dose), and 37% of the population has been immunised (with 2 doses).
One of the Government’s primary objectives is to increase the avenues available to members of the public who wish to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated. With this objective in mind, we are pleased to announce the “Close to Home” Vaccination Initiative has been established, with vaccinations taking place at Penno’s Wharf today
The outreach programme to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines will continue with a ride through, drive-through and walk through venue at Southampton Princess, Thursday April 29, and Sunday, May 2, at TCD, from 10 am – 2 pm. The drive-in venue is specifically for persons who have not yet registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, do not have access to the internet, and prefer to register in person or have additional questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
As a reminder, the Bermuda College vaccination centre will continue to be open for walk-ins from 9 am to 1 pm daily. Those with appointments at the College vaccination centre are asked to attend the Old Wing of KEMH for their vaccination. The vaccination hotline will be doing phone follow up calls to confirm those appointments.
Getting vaccinated is something we can do for ourselves, our family and our community. Many have taken the step to protect themselves and their loved ones. Others are doing their research, listening to the facts, talking with their doctors and taking the time to decide for themselves and their families.
For people who have decided not to get the vaccine, please remember that you have a role to play by knowing your status. Please make sure you get tested regularly to be sure that you are not carrying the virus. And you should continue to wear your mask and follow all public health guidelines.
At this time, immunisation is our best hope to get our lives back to normal, but all of us, immunised or not, have a role to play.
We are all looking forward to the day when we can go back to the old way of doing things. We are all looking beyond the pandemic.
I do understand the challenges people are facing today. Many families in Bermuda are experiencing real emotional and financial hardships as the pandemic persists.
I know it has been said in the past and remains true today. We are each our brothers and sisters keepers. If you can, we should help someone in need. We are a community of family, friends and colleagues who have supported and continue to support each other.
Financial help is available through the Department of Financial Assistance. There are helping agencies available to provide support; likewise, there is help for emotional challenges many of us are facing. The Emotional Wellbeing Hotline is 543-1111 for support from 5pm-9pm, Monday to Saturday.
We are moving forward together through this pandemic. Thank you to each of you who has followed Public Health guidelines. They are put in place to protect each of us. Thank you to each of you who has decided to get the vaccine. Thank you to each of you who has made a difference in the life of another. We will continue to move forward together.
Before I end, I want to send a special thank you to Dr Ayo Oyinloye, Dr Carika Weldon, Dy-Juan DeRoza, and Dr Ramon Arscott for their very informative Facebook Live panel discussion – Vaccine Myth Busters Addressing Fears & Concerns” on Saturday evening [April 24]. They did a great job of making it easy for the public to understand vaccines better. Congratulations to you all on a good presentation. It was informative and provided sufficient and appropriate information for people to decide whether or not to get vaccinated. If you missed seeing it live, you can still see it on the Government of Bermuda’s Facebook page.
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. Do the research, talk with your doctor and make an informed decision about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Thank you Minister…. For the work that you and your team are doing, I’m certain that the contact tracers are relieved with the reduced workload with less cases. It is important that Bermuda keeps up the good work as we work to meet our data targets and move to the next phase.
On Sunday I confirmed that we are currently in Phase 1 of 3 on our Roadmap to Reopening. Combined with the 7 day Stay at Home period, this phase and the regulations within it are envisioned to remain in place for at least the next three weeks.
I also announced that effective immediately we would take steps regarding travellers originating from or who had visited Brazil, India or South Africa in the past 14 days ensuring that they will be subject to a mandatory 14 day quarantine and electronic monitoring to ensure compliance.
In addition to this, we will also see further changes at our borders which will be implemented to protect our community from the variants of coronavirus continuing to originate in other countries.
Effective Sunday, May 2nd, all non-immunised travelers entering Bermuda will be required to quarantine for 4 days, pending a negative Day 4 test. This is in line with the current policy for travellers arriving from the United Kingdom.
June 6th will see the implementation of the additional changes at our borders, which has caused much conversation in our community. Effective June 6th, all non-immunised travelers, including Bermudians and local residents who travel abroad, will be subject to supervised quarantine for 14 days in a Government designated facility at their own expense. In addition to that, the following changes will occur:
- The time period for a pre-test required for visitors to obtain a travel authorisation will move from 5 days to 3 days, which is in line with the global standard.
- All non-immunised travellers who are entering Bermuda, with a negative pre-test, will not be required to quarantine after their negative arrival test, but they will still be required to be tested on days 4, 8 and 14.
- Immunised residents entering Bermuda without a negative pre-test will be required to quarantine until their day 4 negative test result.
In regards to supervised quarantine, we are aware that there are many questions from the community as to how it will impact students returning home, families with children, how it will function and how much it will cost. The Government will provide full details on the supervised quarantine on May 6th, to give travellers at least 4 weeks’ notice prior to the changes going into effect.
The purpose of this action is to again protect our Island from the continuing mutations of the coronavirus that are taking their toll in so many countries around the world. We have experienced the severity of the U.K variant ourselves over the last few months. Many will have seen the recent coverage of the double mutant variant which has had devastating effects on India, with world-record cases reported over the last week and their healthcare system teetering on collapse. The scale of that outbreak means there will undoubtedly be more variants that will emerge and that will spread around the world.
The Government is committed to protecting the health and safety of our country from such variants. We are committed to getting Bermudians back to work, to bringing families back together and we also committed to getting children back into the classroom safely and irreversibly. Stronger protections at our border are necessary so that our Island can do what we said we want to do, and that is to move beyond the Pandemic.
These actions are not intended to punish anyone, they are put in place to ensure that we can return back to normal life and minimise the risk of having to go backwards as we’ve had to do twice over the last six months. We are fortunate as an island to have a border that we can control easily, and these new protections are necessary to achieve that aim.
By implementing these measures at our borders, and with adherence to the current Phase 1 regulations, it is hopeful we can continue to bring down our case numbers and progress to the next phase. As I mentioned on Sunday night, the Government will be led by the data in deciding if it is safe to progress.
The criteria that will be considered is a test positivity rate of less than 1%, an average of no more than 7 unlinked locally transmitted cases per day over a 2 week period, and our 7 day average of our Real Time Reproductive number must remain below 1. If this criteria is not met we will not proceed to the next phase.
We hope that Phase 2 will commence on Sunday May 9th. This phase will see the end of restrictions on household mixing, as well as reopening of schools, leisure facilities, churches, gyms, outdoor bars and dining. Limited personal care services will be permitted where masks can remain. If the mask is required to be removed that service cannot be provided at that time. It is also envisioned that working from home will no longer be mandatory in Phase 2, though it will still be required where practical.
Due to our collective desire to eliminate local transmission, there will be continued restrictions on activities, maximum gathering sizes and a curfew will remain in place during Phase 2. The details on these measures will be provided prior to implementation. The Government will continue to provide financial support to businesses and individuals who are affected by the restrictions.
As with Phase 1, it is envisioned that Phase 2 will last for at least four weeks. Moving to Phase 3 will be data led. The Government will consider specific criteria at that point such as a lower test positivity rate, a lower local transmission case rate, and a lower Real time reproductive number. It is hopeful we can meet those measures during Phase 2.
If the relevant criteria is met our aim is to begin Phase 3 on June 6th. Phase 3 will allow the re-opening of all other businesses which were not opened in the previous phases. The Government will also review the need to continue the curfew and also the specific restrictions on group sizes depending on what our situation on the ground is at that time.
There has been a lot of discussion about vaccinations. The Government maintains its position that whether or not you wish to get vaccinated is your personal choice. We ask persons to speak to their doctor, refer to credible information and then make an informed choice. We will continue to encourage you to do that. If you choose not to get vaccinated, that is your right.
I am encouraged that 50% of our population have received at least one shot and which equates to 60% of our eligible population over the age of 16. This means that 6 in 10 residents who are eligible to be vaccinated have chosen to do so.
We will continue our outreach regarding vaccinations and we welcome you to register today at gov.bm or attend the walk-in Vaccination Centre at the Bermuda College – or our close to home vaccinations, which are taking place, as the Minister of Health announced, this week Thursday at Southampton Princess or Sunday at The Transport Control Department. Vaccinations protect yourself and others, and in particular help to protect those in our community who cannot be vaccinated, and are reliant on community protection to keep them safe from the coronavirus.
Whether or not you choose to be vaccinated, I remind all of Bermuda that we each have a significant role to play in order to see the end of restrictions in our daily lives. Though we may not always agree on how we get there, we do agree that we want to get there.
What can you do yourself?
- Please get tested! AS the Minister of Health has said, testing is free and easily accessible to anyone who wants or needs it. There is no wait for testing in Bermuda. If you are able to go to work, we recommend that you get tested to protect your family and to protect your coworkers. Testing is no longer uncomfortable or intrusive. Various types of tests are available every day at either end of the island.
- Employers, ensure that your workplace is safe by encouraging staff to be tested.
- Everyone should download the WeHealth App. It is free, and runs in the background and can anonymously alert you of a potential exposure.
- For those who haven’t been vaccinated yet, speak to your doctor to discuss if it is right for you.
- For those of you who do not support vaccinations, you have an important role to play as well. Please make sure you follow the Public Health guidelines which are essential to help stop this outbreak. Please follow the Public Health guidelines to ensure that you are not contributing to the spread, get tested on a regular basis, and do what you can to boost your own immune system. We cannot end the restrictions unless we end local transmission. Vaccinations will help us it is just as important that those who chose not to get vaccinations do their part to assist the country in observing the guidelines.
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.
Support for affected businesses also remains in place through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation. Those who require support can go online to bedc.bm to apply for the updated COVID-19 Emergency Grants. It is important to recognize that grants are available for overheads for businesses, which is important as there have been lots of discussions about loans that have been extended. If you are a business affected by closures the BEDC is giving grants to cover overhead such as rent, health insurance for employees, electricity that you may still have to run, if you need to run you’re a/c and other things.
As I close, I echo the Minister’s words that we are indeed our brothers and sisters keeper. Bermuda is stronger together, and even when faced with the challenges of a global pandemic we have shown our collective strength and courage. We are a community and a country that will continue to move forward as long as we remain united.