Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update – October 20, 2020
Good Afternoon Bermuda, and welcome members of the media.
Today, I am joined today by the Minister of Health who will be providing an update to the public on the latest from her Ministry including the most recent Coronavirus test results. Following that I will give an update on matters related to the Tourism, The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, and our recently concluded Tech Week.
Minister of Health:
From Sunday and Monday, 1692 test results were received by the Ministry of Health, and three were positive for COVID-19.
The most recent cases, which are classified as ‘imported’, are among visitors who received their positive test results on their Day 4 tests. One visitor arrived on DL 584 from Atlanta on 14 October 2020. The two other visitors arrived on BA 2233 from London on 14 October 2020. All cases are asymptomatic. Case isolation and contact tracing has begun.
Bermuda now has 188 total confirmed positive cases with status as follows:
- 5 active cases, who are
- all under public health monitoring, and
- none are hospitalized or in critical care;
- a total of 174 have recovered, and
- the total deceased remains 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 to 101 years.
Overall, 49% of cases were Black, 42% White and 9% other/unknown.
The average age of all deceased cases is 74 and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 77 are Imported
- 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- none are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status is “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.
I would like to thank everyone who has come out so far for the Department of Health’s Flu Express. The turnout has been tremendous; so much so that we have had to relocate some of the locations to accommodate more people. It is fantastic to see so many people taking charge of their health and, through that, the health of our entire community.
The remaining October Flu Express days and locations are as follows:
- At Pennos Wharf, St. George’s on Wednesday 21st October from 10am until 2pm.
- And at the Clock Tower, Dockyard on Wednesday 28th October from 10am until 2pm.
During the month of November the flu vaccine will be available at the Hamilton Health Centre in an outdoor setting using a pop up tent from 2pm until 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Priority persons who should attend the “Flu Express” are:
- Healthcare workers, caregivers and essential service workers;
- Persons aged 65 years and older;
- Any person with chronic medical conditions who is at risk of complications from the flu, e.g. diabetics, asthmatics and those with heart disease;
- And children.
The flu vaccine is a safe and highly effective method of preventing most cases of flu.
Today, as Halloween gets closer, I want to reiterate some of the guidance I have already provided in terms of how to celebrate safely, which is based on CDC recommendations.
Some low-risk activities which you can do safely this year include:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household;
- Decorating your house;
- A virtual Halloween costume contest;
- A Halloween movie night with people you live with;
- And a trick-or-treat hunt with your household members in or around your own home.
Meanwhile, moderate-risk activities which you should do only if you can do them safely are:
- One-way trick-or-treating where individually-wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go – such as at the end of a driveway. (Note that you should wash your hands before preparing goodie bags);
- A small outdoor costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart;
- A costume party held outdoors where masks are used (costume masks do not count) and people can remain more than 6 feet apart;
- Visiting pumpkin patches where the use of hand sanitizer, mask-wearing and physical distancing is enforced;
- And having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart.
And, finally, high-risk activities that you should definitely NOT do this year are as follows:
- Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door;
- Crowded costume parties held indoors;
- Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and shouting or screaming; and
- any activity congregating densely with people who are not in your household.
This guidance can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm
We are expecting more visitors to our shores over the next few weeks so I would like to remind potential travellers about some of the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ they should follow in the period between when travellers are released from quarantine and their day 14 test results:
- DO NOT attend events with large groups of people (e.g. weddings, parties, family gatherings);
- Wash your hands regularly;
- Stay six feet from others;
- DO NOT hug or kiss;
- Keep social bubble small if at all;
- Keep away from crowded places;
- Stay out of closed spaces with poor ventilation;
- Exercise outside;
- Choose activities that are outdoors;
- Wear a mask in all public places;
- And protect babies, seniors/persons with chronic conditions by staying outside, wear masks and keep six feet away.
I want to end by reminding us all to avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings.
In closing, I just want to give a shout-out to the organizers of the Bermuda End-to-End for re-jigging their annual event this year to ensure it is COVID-19 safe.
The event, to be held this Saturday after a five-month postponement due to the pandemic, will follow all current COVID-19 recommendations including mask wearing at waterstops, frequent use of hand sanitizer and physical distancing.
Also, participants can start anywhere along the route that is convenient to ensure there are no large groups of people bunched together along the walk.
The event will be used to raise cash for four charities – the Bermuda Zoological Society, Vision Bermuda, the Garden Club of Bermuda and The Family Centre.
I urge everyone to come out and join in the fun and help raise much needed funds for our selected Bermuda charities.
Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.
Thank you minister.
As the Minister has reported – we have three new cases which were imported. It is important that as a country we do not become complacent and we must continue to be vigilant about maintaining physical distance, wearing our masks and washing our hands.
If you are not feeling well, have a fever or symptoms of the coronavirus, ensure that you take advantage of the free testing that is available to residents and get yourself tested.
The Cabinet Coronavirus Committee met yesterday to discuss matters related to continued enforcement of our Public Health Emergency Regulations. There is no question there is pandemic fatigue in Bermuda, businesses and persons are becoming more lax, and some persons are willfully ignoring the Public Health rules. The Government is walking a tightrope, between the opening of our tourism economy to keep people working, and the reversal of the relaxations that have seen us as a community reap the benefits of our collective hard work.
It really takes only one person at a crowded establishment or house party where people are not wearing masks and not maintaining their distance to set off an outbreak. One person to cause us to get back to hospitalizations. One person to cause us to move to a place of greater restrictions due to transmissions in the community.
Many of us are aware of trends and developments around the world. Given our access to international media, Bermudians are well-versed about the pandemic developments in our region and beyond.
As a result, we know that many would have seen some countries in Europe, the US, and many other jurisdictions are entering into new ‘Lockdowns’. In the UK they are calling them “circuit breakers”, in the Caribbean “Lockdown 2.0”; and even New Zealand who initially had very good results is now using a 3-Tiered Lockdown system.
Having come through our own toughest period several months ago, Bermuda is well-placed to build on our enviable track record. We do not have widespread Community Transmission; meaning the only cases that we have had in recent months have been imported, and our diligent contact tracing combined with persons following health advice keep cases low.
The stringent measures we have in place allow us to continue to welcome guests to our shores. Not only has airline capacity continued to increase with more tourists beginning to arrive, so far just over 350 people have been approved to ‘Work in Bermuda’ for a year. That’s potentially more than 300 new rents, 350 new residents, and 350 new voices to tell Bermuda’s authentic story on their social media, to family and friends alike; word-of-mouth recommendations from someone we know are just as effective as our advertising campaigns.
Which brings me to the ‘Reset, Re-imagine & Renew’ Tourism Summit held last week, and the more than 200 people who attended in person and virtually; some participants were divided into different venues at Hamilton Princess, with others at Tuckers Point participating via video conferencing.
As the Minister with responsibility for Tourism, I must thank officers from the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Health, and employees of the Bermuda Tourism Authority who combined to produce an incredibly good and safe event.
While exceptional advice was shared, and global trends discussed, I wish to highlight something that could only happen because of the summit but which was totally unplanned.
Many of you would have seen the video that has been shared on social media and What ‘Sapp. A speaker from the Tourism Summit, posted a personal video to her Social Media account. Without payment or prompting, Ms. Evita Robinson, a speaker at the Summit, was here representing travel company ‘Nomadness’, posted a video on her Facebook page describing her first-hand experience flying to Bermuda during. To date the video has been viewed more than 25,000 times!
Crucially, Ms. Robinson admitted to viewers that prior to flying, the trip and the worry about infection was beginning to induce personal anxiety. However, Ms. Robinson, someone who admitted in the video travels wearing a mask, a face shield, and a hazmat suit, said Bermuda’s protocols were so thorough and convenient that she did not have any anxiety either at the airport, or once she was in her hotel room.
She gives a powerful testament to Bermuda’s coronavirus protocols and the use of proper practice and sound science to reduce the anxiety that a pandemic can cause.
Posts like this will continue to help tell the Bermuda story, as we look for ways to safely welcome tourists to our shores and put Bermudians back to work.
Earlier today, the Fairmont Southampton staged a job fair for their employees providing opportunities for local businesses to set up a table and meet Fairmont staff who are looking for work. Some 17 employers together with a team from the Department of Workforce Development met with approximately 120 employees. I am grateful to all who participated. It is this type assistance that is needed during these challenging economic times.
This government will continue to provide support to everyone who is looking for a job or needs help starting their own business.
Our responsibility to displaced workers, and to other Bermudians who have made a career in retail, and the other sectors that support tourism and hospitality, and our overall duty to stimulate our economy means we support entrepreneurship.
Even prior to the pandemic, world economists maintain that small businesses are key to stimulate a country’s economy. As a result, we knew that the BEDC would be a valuable-if not the primary-resource for small business and entrepreneurs to seek relief and support post-COVID.
Some Bermudians are born entrepreneurs; some Bermudians leave unhappy jobs to strike out on their own; and others turn to entrepreneurship because circumstances force them to. Regardless the path people take to work for themselves and rely solely on one’s own efforts, the BEDC is ready to assist, and has been supporting small and medium sized businesses before, and throughout the pandemic.
With this Government’s support, the BEDC has created and/or supported three programmes that were designed either to provide relief or to help reduce red tape and other obstacles to profitability.
The first was the Enterprise Bermuda Incubator launched in 2018; this plan provided business owners with the skills and disciplines to start up their own companies, and created 22 new startup businesses. Data from the graduates shows that 66 new jobs were created.
The second scheme is the New Startups Payroll Tax Relief Programme. This modified plan removes the payroll tax obligation for new businesses to help them use the limited capital that small businesses have on-hand during the early days, for strategic and commercial development, and not for paying taxes. Since being launched in 2018, 49 new businesses have taken advantage of this allowing them to hire 81 Bermudians.
And the final highlight is the ‘COVID-19 Business Aid Loan and Grant Fund’ that was launched in April this year in response to the negative impact the pandemic was likely to wreak on Bermuda’s economy.
So far, 114 businesses have been approved, totaling just under 2.5 million dollars. 96% of the funding went to small business owners, and the vast majority (87%) of the successful applicants receiving loan and grant approval. Anyone looking for more information on these programmes or how to start your own business, is welcome to visit BEDC.bm.
I wish to congratulate the newly formed Economic Development Department for hosting its successful virtual conference last week, the Tech Education Summit. The Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain and I gave remarks, and the keynote message, “Inspiring Innovators of the Future” was delivered by Chamath Palihapitiya (Pally A Pa TiYa), a venture capitalist who captured the minds of the attendees with an inspiring vision of harnessing technology to ensure a future that is dynamic and one in which everyone can achieve their dreams.
All of the presentations will soon be on the fintech.bm website and I encourage the tech-savvy and those not so tech savvy, to explore the site and learn the various ways technology can lead to innovative solutions.
As Bermuda Emerges from the economic impacts of the Pandemic, technology will be key to ensure we as a country build an even more powerful economy of the future. I want to encourage all to visit fintech.bm and take advantage of the FREE training courses that are also available on the website – fintech.bm.
The Cabinet is focused on ensuring that we regularly communicate with residents on what work the Government is doing surrounding not only the health aspects of the pandemic but also the economic aspects of the pandemic.
Yesterday, as promised, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour, held a press conference to speak about the work that they are doing to advance the interest of the country.
The Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, the Bermuda Government Weather Service and Emergency Measures Organization are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Epsilon which is forecast to become a hurricane. This storm is a potential threat to Bermuda. The EMO will meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss and put in place the necessary preparations. Minister Ming will hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon to provide an update to the public on the EMO discussions.
This year has proven to be particularly challenging, and difficult emotionally for many. High levels of anxiety together with uncertainty for many about their employment, concern about the coronavirus and the stresses we face during hurricane season, can be difficult.
If you need help, if you want to talk with someone, if you need support emotionally please call 543-1111. Emotional support is available, so please do reach out and take advantage of that assistance.
Thank you. I will now take questions from the media.