COVID-19 Update – Bermuda Government 27 March 2021

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

Good Evening Bermuda,

We started down this road over a year ago.

Over the last year, our management of the pandemic was based on risk mitigation, balancing the country’s health and our economy.

Although Bermuda is one of the world’s leaders in testing and vaccinations, we are currently being challenged by an aggressive strain of the Covid-19 virus.

I am joined tonight by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will provide an update on the latest COVID-19 test results, and where we are currently from a medical perspective.

I will provide confirmation on the new restrictions coming into effect tomorrow morning and other matters.

First we will hear from the Minister of Health….

Good afternoon.

The Ministry of Health received 1339 test results since the last update, and 81 were positive for COVID-19. One of the new cases is classified as imported by a non-resident who arrived on British Airways BA 2233 from London on 11 March 2021 and tested positive on their Day 14 test.

Thirty-five of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.

The additional forty-five 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 no recoveries.

There are currently 294 active cases, of which;

  • 293 are under public health monitoring and;
  • One is in hospital with none in critical care.

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 1028 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 722 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 40 years (median: 38 years), and the ages range from less than one year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 33 years (median: 34 years), and the ages range from less than ten years (age group: 0-9 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

Details will not be provided for the hospitalised case to protect privacy and confidentiality.

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 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:

  • 239 are Imported
  • 676 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 584 are local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 92 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 113 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.

Of the over 190,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years), and the ages range from less than one year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real-time reproduction number is above one, and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Sporadic Cases” (as determined by the World Health Organisation) and “Community Transmission” (as determined by the Pan-American Health Organisation).

Bermuda, this is a significant outbreak. We have never experienced community spread.

“Sporadic cases” means having a few cases, which may be imported or locally acquired. However, “community transmission” signifies outbreaks where it is difficult to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for large number of cases or there are widely dispersed cases detected in the past 14 days. Bermuda exhibits signs of both these situations. This is new territory for us.

It is more critical than ever that we take responsibility for our behaviour and act in an abundance of caution. In other words, stay in your household bubble. Do not socialise outside of your household or invite others into your household. Do not mix households, as we know this is contributing to the spread.

I know that this sounds punitive and not welcoming news at all, but we are all in this together, and we have to recognise that we have a serious problem, and we all need to be part of the solution.

Everyone must do their best to prevent further spread and prevent more critical illness and death from this third wave – which is presently on track to be larger than the second wave because the UK variant spreads easily and is spreading incredibly fast.

If you have not already, you need to download the WeHealth app, which is designed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by anonymously notifying app users of potential exposure to COVID-19.

Everyone should continue to wear a mask, physically distance and practice good hand hygiene, especially if you are in quarantine and unable to be separate from others in the same household. These are first principles of containment and must be practices at all times by everyone.

Also, be aware of the symptoms. We are finding most symptoms associated with the UK variant of the virus are easily associated with allergies – sore throat, tiredness and headaches, coughing and sneezing.

The Ministry of Health has two new walk-in and drive-through pop-up locations that will offer COVID-19 testing to the community.  You do not need an appointment to get tested at these locations.

The locations are:

TCD (outdoor drive-through lanes), Monday 29 March and Wednesday 31 March, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

Horseshoe Bay Beach car park, Monday 5 April and Wednesday 7 April, from 4:30 – 7:30 pm.

We are making it easy for people to get tested. These new pop-up testing locations are safe, quick and convenient, as we are meeting people where they are to make it easier to get tested.

I encourage persons to get tested so that they know their COVID status. Especially now as we have this aggressive variant and we are seeing an increase in positive cases.

Both walk-in and drive-through testing will be offered at TCD, while only walk-in testing will be offered at Horseshoe Bay Beach car park.

If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your doctor. Your doctor will schedule you or direct you to the COVID-19 helpline at 444-2498 for symptomatic testing appointment slots.

The test locations for travellers only are Perot Post Office Monday to Saturday, and Sundays at Penno’s Wharf. Testing times are emailed to travellers and operating hours depend on traveller demand.

Before closing my key message to everyone – stay in your bubble, do not socialise and avoid contact with those outside your immediate family. Get tested and get vaccinated.

And please, follow the guidance and obey the restrictions that are in place.

We are having to put more restrictive measures in place to minimise COVID-19 transmission by limiting social movement.

We have said numerous times, this is all preventable if we all do our part, have patience and do everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As I said last Tuesday, we will get through this current challenge, and I am grateful to all of those dedicated healthcare professionals who are working tirelessly to fight this pandemic and keep us all safe.

Thank you.

Thank you Minister.

Thank you again to you, your team, and all of the teams that make our healthcare system, who are so vital to our success in beating the coronavirus. Together we must do all we can to ensure that you all are protected, and do our best to keep you from being overwhelmed and to keep resources from being stretched any further. We thank you for your dedication and again for the outstanding perseverance that you all continue to show.

It would be an understatement to say that it is disheartening for Bermuda to be where we are. 2021 is still a year that continues to hold some promise of an improved economic situation and this current setback is one from which we will recover.

There is a clear path to that recovery and it starts with a renewed and unified effort to mitigate the risks presented by this increase in positive cases, which are the result of this dangerous and incredibly transmissible variant.

We laid out indicators, where if necessary, we could systematically rollback measures to reduce the virus transmission. The stricter measures that will be adopted are designed not only to protect but to preserve the basic progress we all made over this last year. This UK variant is a strain that has caused many other countries to suffer the same slowdown in the fight against the coronavirus.

Our island is at a serious juncture as our public health system is being significantly challenged. The teams are struggling to keep up with contact tracing and the work that is necessary to control this outbreak. The severity of this outbreak and impact on individuals and healthcare systems could be further magnified if we do not arrest its current spread. Our first duty as a Government is to do what is in the best interest of the island and her people.

That responsibility cannot be tempered by convenience, frustration or fatigue. We are unwavering in our determination to keep Bermuda safe and to strike the necessary balance to preserve life and ensure economic survival.

Therefore, Earlier today the Cabinet met and decided the following changes to the Public Health Emergency Regulations, which will come into effect from tomorrow, March 28th at 6am:

  1. Churches / indoor religious services save for funerals are closed to congregants but open to a max of 10 clergy or those persons required to facilitate services for broadcast.
  2. Indoor dining is prohibited save for hotels whose indoor dining is restricted to hotel guests only. Outdoor restaurants and bars can remain open.
  3. Indoor gyms are to be closed, as well as bowling alleys, indoor cinemas, museums, or any other indoor place of public resort. Outdoor facilities such as golf courses, tennis courts, parks, and outdoor gym equipment can remain open.
  4. Retail stores to be restricted to 20% of approved fire occupancy at any one time.
  5. To minimise mixing of school age children, where we have seen a significant level of cases – Schools and camps are to be closed. However, licensed day care facilities will be allowed to open following strict public health guidance and  will be visited by public health officers.
  6. Remote working will now be mandatory where at all possible.

All other regulations that were in place previously, will remain in place, including personal care services, which are allowed so long as masks do not have to be removed. The curfew will remain from 11PM – 5AM.  Simply put, indoor activities that require you to remove a mask are not allowed.

For Christians, tomorrow begins Holy Week, the culmination of Lent, a period of sacrifice and preparation. Again this year it would appear that traditional celebrations will be impacted and we will have to avoid large family gatherings that often accompany this Season. But in the midst of what is a difficult period we must continue to have hope.

We have seen what happens when we follow public health guidelines. We know how effective it is when we protect our most vulnerable. The unity of the last year was no accident and is not some distant memory. Our collective compliance is what got us in sight of a change in this pandemic and I am confident that with the status of our vaccination programme and with the cooperation of the entire country we will have it again.

My message to all echoes precisely what the Minister of Health has said, as much as possible, stay at home and stay in your family bubbles.

We will, over the coming days, look at what adjustments are necessary in light of vaccinations status and others. But on a broad level – now is the time for a shift of behaviour. This situation is very serious and we must all take personal responsibility for our actions, and collective responsibility as a community to protect our brave frontline healthcare workers.

We must be vigilant and use what we have at our disposal. We have the tools to keep this virus at bay, but the only thing that will help us all is if we follow the rules and stay at home. We will have more details on Tuesday at our next press conference, but for now there is only one message; we need people to remain at home.

Thank you.