Bermuda Government Press Conference COVID-19 Update September 16, 2020

COVID-19 Update Deputy Premier 16 September

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

Good evening and thank you for coming.

I am sitting in for Premier the Hon. David Burt this evening, because he has a standing engagement on Wednesday evenings that is normally only broken in truly extraordinary circumstances. Today, like every other Wednesday, the Premier is busy as he attends his son’s football training every week. This Government supports youth, family, and fathers being present in their sons’ lives, so the Premier is excused from this duty with our blessings and pride.

I am joined today by the Minister of Health, Hon. Kim Wilson and the Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain.

I will now hand over to Minister Wilson who will give a COVID-19 update and speak to other matters related to the Pandemic.

Minister Of Health Statement

Good Afternoon, I hope you all made it through the hurricane with minimal discomfort or damage to your property.

Today there were 818 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and one was positive for COVID-19.

The new positive case is an imported case in a visitor who tested positive on their day 4 test having arrived on BA 2233 on 11 September 2020. The case is isolated and contact tracing has begun.

Bermuda now has 178 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 164 have recovered, and
  • there are 5 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 57 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 10 to 101 years.

Overall, 51% of cases were Black, 40% White and 9% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 67 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.

I want to remind residents wishing to travel abroad that a COVID-19 test taken in Bermuda before you travel will NOT count as your pre-departure test for re-entry into Bermuda. Once you leave Bermuda and enter a jurisdiction with community transmission of COVID-19, you are at risk of being exposed. The pre-departure test needs to be taken in the overseas jurisdiction in which you have visited, prior to returning to Bermuda. Residents who do not take the pre-departure test before returning home will be required to quarantine for eight days.

I would now like to commend my Ministry of Health team for successful management of the COVID testing programme following Hurricane Paulette. This involved significant logistical reorganization of testing and communication with travellers to advise them of their new testing times, as COVID-19 testing was, of course, cancelled on Monday.

Yesterday, following the departure of Hurricane Paulette from the area, Perot Testing facility opened at 10am to recommence COVID-19 testing for travelers. Also, the Heron Bay testing site was prepared to function as normal today per the original schedule.

Additionally, the hotline was back up and running yesterday to answer queries, assist with Travel Authorization processing and provide the same resilient support they have been over these difficult past few months.

I should note that if travelers are unable to receive emails at this time, they can contact the call centre at 444-2498 and they will be provided with their revised scheduled time for testing.

With Hurricane Teddy tracking towards Bermuda, it is important for travelers to be aware that further testing times and locations may change as the storm gets closer to our shores. People scheduled for traveler testing and pop-up testing may need to be rescheduled so it’s important for those individuals to check their emails and stay abreast of the latest developments. Those travelers due for testing that are under quarantine and will be affected by the closures should remain quarantined and should not take it upon themselves to attend a testing site and date of their choosing.

Re-opening of testing sites and Government’s lab following the storm will be communicated via press conference or press release and posted on the Government portal and social media channels as soon as possible.

Once again, the Ministry of Health is reminding residents that all restaurant patrons must wear a mask at all times when not seated at their table. This includes entering the premises and exiting, as well as when using the restroom. The wearing of masks in these instances is compulsory and dining establishments are required to enforce these rules.

I would also like to remind members of the public to please provide your contact details at the businesses you visit such as bars, restaurants, gyms, salons, theatres and recreational charter boats in case the Ministry of Health needs to contact you about a possible COVID-19 exposure. For more information about contact tracing or anything related to COVID-19 please go to coronavirus.gov.bm

I end by reminding us all to avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and Thank You.

Thanks you Minster Wilson, your team has done extraordinary work getting our testing back up and running so quickly, they are to be commended.

Now Minister Rabain will review the plans for the reopening of schools tomorrow.

Minister of Education

All public pre, primary, middle and senior schools, in addition to DAME and Success Academy will be open for our students tomorrow, Thursday, September 16th, 2020.

All students are to report to school in uniform, at 8:30 am, ready to participate in the entry screening, which involves taking temperatures and responding to four COVID-19 questions.

Yesterday, staff from the Department of Education’s Facilities section, staff from the Ministry of Public Works Estates section, as well as school principals and custodians, carried out assessments of school buildings post-Hurricane Paulette.  I am pleased to report that our school buildings fared the Hurricane well. There was power loss, water seepage at some schools and debris was found on the school grounds, but all in all, there was no significant damage to our school buildings.  Also, some schools still need to have the grass cut, debris removed, but this will not impact tomorrow’s opening of schools.

In a combined effort which started yesterday and which continues today, staff from Agriculture and Parks; Public Works; and school custodians are working to address these issues created by Hurricane Paulette, so that our schools are ready to receive our children tomorrow.

I am making this one request of commuters in the morning and afternoon, and that is to use patience and caution in our school zones.  Schools will be fully operational, and there will be congestion in the areas. I am encouraging the public to use extra care in these areas, especially since we have implemented new safety and health entry procedures at all public schools across the island.  The public needs to be aware that ALL schools:…pre, primary, middle and senior, will open at 8:30 am.  We are advising additional caution in the areas that have two schools.

One such an example is Northlands Primary School and the Berkeley Institute.  Commuters are advised that there is likely to be a a high volume of traffic on Berkeley Road in Pembroke between the hours of 8:00 and 9:15 am on weekdays.

Parents have also been asking about the bus schedule; it is being continuously updated and can be viewed at www.gov.bm/bus. 

I want to take this time to thank our Facilities staff, the Custodians and those from the Ministry of Works. They worked incredibly hard pre-hurricane to ensure our schools didn’t suffer any significant damage.  They have also worked very hard and under tremendous pressure, post-hurricane to have our schools repaired and cleaned to be ready to accept our students tomorrow.

I would also like to thank our Educators who have also done the hard work necessary to prepare for the students to return.  I am sure they have missed their students as much as the students have missed them.

In closing, I wish all staff and students a very safe and successful start for the school year. Thank You

Thank you both.

The work done by all of the persons who assisted all of our schools, 37 properties is total, to get back up and running is a testament to the dedicated public servants. Well done.

We received an update from BELCO at 5pm today. There are currently 702 customers without service. They are in:

Sandys – 23

Southampton – 127

Warwick – 57

Pembroke – 144

Devonshire – 129

Smith’s – 14

Hamilton – 25

St. George’s – 5

BELCO will continue to provide updates on their website as they work to get everyone back online.

As another note, earlier today on twitter the Premier did issue an apology to commuters who were affected by the bus service not operating today. The Ministry of Transport has confirmed that the bus service will run tomorrow.

The modifications to our schools, the implementation of innovative policies, procedures, and regulations have proved to be resilient and agile enough to ensure the safe reopening schools tomorrow, and fair enough to hold a General Election.

As a result of Hurricane Paulette’s extended impact on our Country, to ensure as many Bermudians vote as possible, and to preserve and defend our robust democracy, the Parliamentary Registrar has extended the Advanced Poll for seniors, travellers, incapacitated voters by one day.

To be clear, voters who are voting in the Advanced Poll can vote today (Wednesday 16thSeptember), Thursday, Friday, and now also on Saturday; at any time between the hours of 8:00am and 8:00pm.

I would like to advise those who are voting between today and Friday, which Polling Stations are correct:

Voters in Constituencies 1-9,                                      Midland Heights 7th Day Adventist Church, Hamilton Parish

Voters in Constituencies 10-18                                   The Pavilion at National Sports Stadium

Voters in Constituencies 19-27                                   St. Paul AME Church Centennial Hall

Voters in Constituencies 28-36                                   St. Mary’s Church Hall, Warwick (opposite the Rubber Tree)

Voters who vote in Constituencies 19-27 need to be aware that there has been a change in your Polling Station for the Advanced Poll. Originally you would have voted at Horticultural Hall in Botanical Gardens, however for ease of access and other logistics, voters will now vote at St. Paul’s AME Church Centennial Hall in Hamilton; the best entrance is from Court Street.

There are two Advanced Poll Polling Stations for voters who wish to vote on Saturday September 19.

If you live in Constituencies 1-18, you will vote at the Bermuda College Cafeteria; if you live in Constituencies 19-36, you will vote at St. Mary’s Anglican Church Hall on Middle Road in Warwick.

While we are logistically prepared for the General Election, and we have faced and overcome the challenges of Hurricane Paulette, we must ensure our COVID-19 protocols are maintained and followed during voting.

Accordingly, voters who attend Polling Stations, whether voting in the Advanced Poll or in the General Election on 1 October, must adhere to the following regulations and protocols:

  • Every person must adhere to physical distancing from the moment they enter the property, including parking lots;
  • Every person must wear a mask and keep it on from the time they enter onto the property, while queuing, while voting, and until they are back onto or inside their vehicle;
  • Whether outside or inside the Polling Station shaking hands, fist bumps, hugging, or elbow bumps are strictly prohibited;
  • Every person will be asked to sanitise hands using the sanitizer that is provided.

The Pandemic has affected many Bermudians, and though our handling of the pandemic has enabled a large amount of Bermudians to return to work there are still many in our community who still require support. The Government created the supplemental unemployment benefit to provide ongoing assistance to Bermudians and families who need ongoing support and health insurance following the expiration of the COVID-19 Emergency Unemployment Fund. The Minster of Labour has informed me that payments will be made for the supplementary unemployment benefit before the end of this week. I know this will be welcome news for many families, and I encourage those who need assistance to contact the department of Financial Assistance to apply for the supplementary benefit.

There is assistance available in case you need it, but it is up to you to apply.

There is another matter that concerned a number of Bermudians that I also wish to address. These are the most uncertain times we have faced as a people, and we are deeply aware of the impact on a person’s mental wellbeing when their finances, home, and food are threatened, or appear to be threatened. Accordingly, I wish to provide clarity over the recent confusion surrounding the administration and disbursement of pension payments.

Ordinarily payments that are paid out by a Government cheque are delivered in the mail on 15th of each month; however during this month, Government was closed on the 14th and most of the 15th, meaning cheques were not delivered in the mail as usual; those cheques will be delivered tomorrow 17September, by mail. There has been a delay through no fault of recipients, and we are apologetic for any concerns the delay caused.

I should advise that persons who receive pension benefits online, were paid on time on the 15th September.

For the sake of completeness, I should also state and add that each month there are 14,632 pension benefit payments made; but only 170 are paid by cheque.

While I am aware that some people may have concerns about internet banking technology, the Ministry of Finance strongly urges those who are paid by cheque to obtain online banking to avoid any possibility of further delays.

I just received an update on buses from the Minister of Transport. The Department of Public Transportation (DPT) can confirm that the public bus service will resume normal operations starting Thursday, September 17th 2020.

In addition, the school bus service will start on Thursday, September 17th 2020. As a reminder, the 2020 School Bus Schedule has been updated and can be found at www.gov.bm/bus.

DPT has extended the use of minibuses to ensure a reliable school bus service for the 2020/21 academic year, with DPT buses also available to supplement the school bus service where required.

As previously outlined, COVID-19 mitigation protocols remain in effect for the public bus service and will be implemented for the school bus service.

Following these guidelines will help to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all passengers and staff, which remains the top priority for the Department of Public Transportation.

As I conclude my remarks, I will add my thanks and appreciation to all who are away from their families and continue to serve Bermuda during difficult times. Those essential workers who are in the Royal Bermuda Regiment, the hospital and seniors homes staff, members of the Emergency Measures Organization, government public officers, the Bermuda Police Service, Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and others who are not visible but continue to work when many of us are at home.

On behalf of everyone in Bermuda I say thank you.

As we all are watching the weather and closely following the path of Hurricane Teddy, I urge everyone to start preparing now. Make a list of needed supplies, check on family members and neighbours especially the elderly. We have the time now to prepare.

Thank you and I will now take questions from the media.