Bermuda Government Press Conference COVID-19 Update January 26 2021

COVID-19 Update –  26 January 2021

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Good evening Bermuda,

As I begin my remarks this evening, my thoughts are with the family of the late Financial Secretary, Mr. Anthony Manders, as the family prepare to lay him to rest tomorrow. His passing is a tremendous loss to Bermuda. He was a truly dedicated public officer who gave his all in service for his country and he will truly be missed.

Tonight, I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will provide an update on the progress of our vaccination programme, the opening of a second vaccination centre and give further updates from her Ministry on the latest to do with the coronavirus.

I will provide you with an update on the arrival of the next batch of vaccines, and details regarding the new Public Health Emergency Order which is now in place in addition to other matters of importance.

First, we will hear from the Minister of Health.

Good Afternoon,

There were 543 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and two were positive for COVID-19. Both of the new cases are classified as imported. The first case is a resident who arrived on S46227 from the Azores on 16 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 8 test. The second case is a resident who arrived on B62231 from New York on 24 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

Additionally, since the last update, six cases have recovered.

There are currently 30 active cases, of which;

  • 25 are under public health monitoring and
  • Five are in hospital with none in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 688 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 646 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 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 49 years (median: 47 years), and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 77 years (median: 78 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:

  • 198 are Imported
  • 481 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 397 are local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 84 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 9 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.

Of the over 160,000 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 less than 1 (0.23) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Sporadic Cases”.

We have now added an interactive coronavirus dashboard to the gov.bm, coronavirus website: www.gov.bm/coronavirus-covid19-update,

  • It is updated daily between 6.30 and 7 pm
  • It provides statistics on active cases, cumulative cases, recovered and other data around COVID
  • The public can manipulate the dates for the information from March of 2020 to date

Additionally, a new page on the coronavirus website contains guidance for holding events and gatherings. This page includes a link to the ‘exemption for large gatherings’ electronic application form that must be completed to request an exemption from the Minister of National Security to gather in a group of more than 25 persons.

This new page has been linked to the top of the Covid-19 guidance webpage: www.gov.bm/coronavirus-guidance (under “Events and Gatherings Guidance”).

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.

I would now like to provide an update on the COVID-19 vaccination programme. We have completed the second full week of vaccinations, and for the period through to 23 January 2021, Bermuda has vaccinated a total of 2,932 persons, and the breakdown is as follows:

  • a total of 1227 or 42% males and 1705 or 58% females
  • with 845 or 29% persons who are under 50,
  • 881 or 30% persons between 50 and 64,
  • 598 or 20% between 65 and 79, and
  • 608 or 21% persons who are over 80 years old.

Of the vaccine sites,

  • the Vaccination Centre at the Police Recreation Club administered 2021 or 69% of vaccinations,
  • 152 or 5% were administered at rest homes,
  • 730 or 25% were administered by the Bermuda Hospitals Board; and
  • 29 or 1% were administered at Corrections.

Assessed against our vaccination targets, the Ministry can report that of the first groups in Phase 1A, we have vaccinated

  • 608 persons or 20% of those aged 80 years or older,
  • 294 persons or 40% of those in rest homes and long term care facilities,
  • 602 or 25% of health care workers, and,
  • 799 or 34% of essential service workers.

We can see that we still have a long way to go until critical groups that are at risk are safely vaccinated. If you know anyone in any of our high-risk target groups, please encourage or help them to register their interest online at: forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine.

As I have said before, vaccines save lives, and it is no different with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being used in Bermuda now. Getting the vaccine greatly reduces your chance of contracting COVID-19 – in fact, the Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective in this regard. If you do get COVID-19, you are likely to experience more mild symptoms and become less ill, as your body is better able to fight off the virus. This means we can keep people out of the hospital and have less deaths due to COVID.

With a reduced viral load in your system, it is also hoped you are less likely to transmit the coronavirus as well, although that aspect of the vaccine’s ‘power’ is not fully known at present.

The Ministry has taken steps to provide information about the vaccine and vaccine safety online at: www.gov.bm/vaccines. Check out this webpage to learn how the vaccine works, find out about its safety, educate yourself about the benefits, possible side effects and more. We encourage you to get your information from this trusted source – not everything you read on Facebook is true!

As was reported yesterday, the Ministry of Health has been working to identify suitable locations to serve as additional vaccine centres before the arrival of the next batch of vaccines. This is necessary as it will allow the Ministry to dramatically increase the number of vaccines we are able to administer on a daily basis, and will provide residents with more convenient options to get vaccinated.

One of the sites identified was the former Emergency Room that was previously located in the wing of the Hospital closest to Berry Hill Road, and I am pleased to say that Bermuda’s second Vaccination Centre opened yesterday.

The Bermuda Hospitals Board Vaccination Centre will initially be open from Monday-Friday from 8.00am to 5.00pm and will be able to administer approximately 150 – 200 vaccinations per day on an appointment only basis. At this time, vaccinations will not be given to walk-ins, and the system that we currently have for appointments will remain in place.

I thank everyone at BHB who worked tirelessly to get the second vaccination centre open and ready for operation yesterday morning.

The current protocols require you to register your interest to be vaccinated online first. For those residents who haven’t registered as of yet but would like to, as I mentioned just now, the registration form can be found at: forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine

While we continue to ask those in Priority Group 1(A) or 1(B) to register their interest, I must emphasise registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment at this time. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto-generated submission receipt. Your submission will be filed, and you will be contacted as appointments are scheduled. Please remember that appointments are based on a medical risk assessment that is conducted manually by the medical team. Currently, the focus is on those who are eligible in Priority Group 1(A) and (B), and then based on age and medical vulnerability. Every submission will be replied to, and there is no need for you to re-submit.

To the week ending January 23, 10,691 persons have registered their interest in getting vaccinated. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 1534 Black
  •  5,430 White
  •  889 Mixed or Other
  •  2,838 Not Specified or Prefer not to say

To reach herd immunity we need many more people to get vaccinated.

For those that have already indicated their interest and are getting appointments, the Ministry has been informed by members of the Prospect Vaccination Team that they are encountering an issue which is leading to residents experiencing delays when they arrive for their appointment time. Specifically, the issue is traffic and the number of people who are coming to the Vaccination Centre without an appointment. I am appealing to the public for their assistance with this – if you do not have an appointment, please do not attend the Centre as there are no walk-ins accepted. Additionally, we ask the public to please note that only one person is allowed to accompany a family member and you do not need to arrive early. For both the Prospect and BHB Vaccination Centres, you should arrive no earlier than your appointed time.

Of course, if you are assigned an appointment, it is critical that you show up! The vaccine supply is not unlimited, and we cannot have wastage.

The Ministry has also received queries as to whether non-Bermudians are eligible to get the vaccine and how much getting the vaccine costs. I can confirm that the vaccine is available to all residents, but again, will be allocated based on the priority phase we are in. I can also confirm that there is no cost for the vaccine for any Island resident. The vaccine is not available to non-residents, as we seek to achieve herd immunity in Bermuda, and only residents can make this happen.

The next batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are scheduled to arrive in Bermuda on Thursday, 28 January. As more doses of the vaccine arrive and become available, we will be moving to the National Allocation Strategy’s next phases. So, at this time, we are asking for people in Phase 2, which is people 50 years and older, as well as vulnerable people (those with heart disease, chronic kidney or liver disease, and diabetes, for example), essential travellers and residents with disabilities to register their interest online.

As we transition through the phases, there will be changes to the protocols, and these changes will be communicated to the public.

I can say that we are reviewing vaccine centre resources, hours of operation and shifts, because from February 1, we must be able to administer both first doses and second doses. This means our capacity must increase to more than 800 vaccinations each day to vaccinate approximately 19,500 or 30% of the population by 31 March.

To conclude, preventing infection, the onset of the disease itself, and community spread via mass vaccination will be a critical part of how we navigate our way out of this crisis. We have all felt the impact that COVID-19 has had on us personally, and we all know how it has impacted our Island’s economy. Getting vaccinated is an integral part of our ongoing collective effort to reduce the spread of the virus here. This is essential, not only for our health but also to help allow us to return to a sense of normalcy with our daily lives.

Thank you.

Minister, thank you and your team for your continued hard work over the last ten months that we have been battling this virus. Your work enabled us to contain the recent outbreak, earned us an upgrade to our country classification and has seen the opening of a second vaccination centre at the hospital.

As the Minister has said, this second vaccination centre allows us to expand our vaccination programme to serve more residents. As a country, we should be proud of the continued progress that we are making in managing the pandemic.

The officers, many of our family and friends on the frontline daily working for us, deserve our gratitude. The measures that have been put in place to date have been largely effective, and I encourage all residents, to continue to follow them. The Cabinet will be reviewing all regulations next week at the regular two week interval, and I will provide an update at next week’s press conference.

Despite the progress we are making, the coronavirus remains a severe threat to public health in Bermuda. At 6am yesterday, January 25th, the Public Health Emergency Order expired and a new Public Health Emergency Order with accompanying regulations came into effect after being signed by the Governor. The new Public Health Emergency Order 2021 replaces the 2020 Order and there are no substantive changes to the regulations which were outlined last week.

The new Order and Regulations are set to expire at 6am on February 24th. If the Minister of Health is satisfied that at that time we are still in a Public Health Emergency, she will ask for the Order to be extended when the House of Assembly convenes on February 19th.

It is essential that we keep doing what we have been doing over the last two months to ensure that this virus remains under control as we ramp up our vaccination programme so that we can see the end of this Public Health Emergency as soon as possible.

The best way to assist in that aim, of ending the Public Health Emergency, is to get the facts surrounding vaccination, and following that – get vaccinated when you are able to do so. If we want to return to our pre-COVID lifestyles, it is essential that as many persons as possible get vaccinated.

Government House, earlier today, has confirmed that an additional 19,500 doses will arrive on the British Airways flight on Thursday, January 28th (weather permitting). This is enough to fully vaccinate at least, 9,750 additional residents. As a country, our goal remains to vaccinate 19,000 residents or 36% of the eligible population by March 31st. I remain confident that as a country we will meet this target.

There are many countries around the world that are still waiting to receive their first doses of vaccines, so we are very fortunate, however we must not take this for granted. I encourage those persons who are eligible in Phase 1, those 65 and over, to get the facts and register to receive the vaccine.

If you have questions or concerns, speak to your medical doctor. Do not make a critical medical decision based on advice from social media or a WhatsApp forward from your friends – you wouldn’t rely on that for any other medical decision – so do not do it with this one. Go to credible and trusted resources for your information. Research, and talk to the experts and professionals whose job it is to advise you regarding your health.

The faith and trust we have shown in our testing system should also apply toward our vaccination programme. You should not leave it up to random social media posts to advise you on how to best protect yourself and your family from the coronavirus, or worse, cause you to not take the vaccine which can help you protect you and your loved ones.

I welcome the news that there has been an increase in the number of black persons registering their interest in the vaccine, as has been seen in the last few days of registrations. As more people understand how the vaccine works and see for themselves that it is indeed safe and effective, I am confident that more Bermudians will step forward to get vaccinated.

My hope is that with the trusted information available from the Government, with the leadership and guidance from local physicians such as Dr. Wilbert Warner, Dr. Kyjuan Brown, and overseas Bermudian physicians like Dr Shammah Williams and Dr Michelle Spencer, we can continue to move more persons towards vaccine acceptance. I thank these doctors for leading by example and getting the vaccine and continuing to help promote its safety to their patients and to the wider public.

We have all seen how we have come together as a community to tackle crises, emergencies, and natural disasters. You need to look no further than what happens in every neighborhood across the Island after a hurricane to see the true Bermudian resilience and spirit. Let us harness that same spirit of togetherness to protect one another by getting the facts around the vaccine and when it is our turn, get vaccinated.

I am now going to address a recent incident regarding an imitation firearm. Carrying an imitation firearm in public puts you and others at risk of injury or worse – it can also be unlawful. Thanks to the quick response and precise decision making of the Bermuda Police Service no one was hurt. I thank them for their handling of the situation. I ask those in the community, please do not carry an imitation firearm and put yourself and others at unnecessary risk. Ensure you are getting the necessary permits if you are engaged in artistic activity to ensure that everyone remains safe.

It’s been rather cold and windy for the last few days, and as you may have heard, we are expecting more bad weather for the rest of the week. The Bermuda Weather Service is forecasting gale and storm force winds that could reach gusts of up to 70 knots, and all are asked to pay attention to the updates from the Government and Bermuda Weather Service.

The Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, will convene the Emergency Measures Organization tomorrow in order to ensure that we are prepared for the winter storm.

Following the meeting, Minister Ming will provide the country with an update on the weather and the activities that will be undertaken by EMO agencies. The Ministry of National Security is also working with the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors to provide accommodations for Bermuda’s unsheltered population, to keep them safe during the extreme weather.

We know that many in our community may need extra support emotionally. If you need someone to talk with, please call the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline. The phone number which is still being manned is 543-1111 and remains open every Monday to Saturday, from 5pm – 9pm.

There help is available if you need someone to talk with, if you are:

·         feeling anxious;

·         feeling isolated;

·         or if you are not feeling yourself.

So please do not feel the need to suffer in silence, you may call 543-1111 and there is help available.

As I close, To get accurate and  reliable information, sign up for the Government’s WhatsApp service. Add the phone number 504 6045 to your contacts and send a simple message saying ‘hi’, and you will receive WhatsApp updates from the Government of Bermuda, including any warnings due to this week’s expected inclement weather.

And as always, you can always get the latest updates from the government Bermuda’s Treefrog app or regarding the coronavirus, you can go to coronavirus.gov.bn.

With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.