Weekly Covid press conference May 25, 2021
Good evening Bermuda,
This week as we plan to celebrate our island, our heritage and our history on Bermuda Day we can also take pride in the progress we are making against the coronavirus and our collective work to move beyond the pandemic together. Our goals remain to be able to eliminate local transmission, protect our country from dangerous variants, and continue to progress our vaccination programme. There is still work to be done to reach and maintain those goals.
However, we are turning the page and beginning a new chapter with new tools at our disposal and renewed energy to reclaim our summer and our island from the grips of the pandemic. Through new technology in the SafeKey programme, we can stay one step ahead and begin to enjoy more activities such as indoor dining while reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Tonight the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson will provide the country with an update on the latest coronavirus test results, vaccination statistics including this weekend’s record mobile vaccination numbers.
Following the Minister, I will provide an update on the amended Public Health regulations which will allow for indoor dining through the use of SafeKey, and other matters.
First we will hear from the Minister of Health…
Thank you, Premier, and good evening everyone.
The Ministry of Health received 927 test results since the last update, and none were positive for coronavirus. This gives a test positivity rate of 0.0%. Additionally, since the last update, there were 15 recoveries and no deaths.
There are currently 42 active cases, of which;
- 40 are under public health monitoring and;
- Two (2) are in the hospital, with one (1) in intensive care.
Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 2490 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 2416 persons have recovered, and sadly, 32 COVID related deaths.
The source of all cases is as follows:
- 302 are Imported
- 2156 are classified as local transmission of which:
- 1675 are Local transmission with known contact/source and
- 481 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source
- 32 are Under Investigation
As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change. The seven-day average of our real-time reproduction number is less than one (1). Bermuda’s current WHO country status remains “Community Transmission”. The numbers of confirmed positive COVID cases continue to decrease, and after a long year of battling the coronavirus, things are improving. Bermuda is making good progress, and we are slowly getting back to normal.
I will now provide an update on our vaccination programme. We have completed the nineteenth full week of vaccinations. From January 11 to May 22, 2021, Bermuda has administered a total of 68,104 vaccinations – a figure that rises to 68,822 if you include vaccinations administered between Sunday May 23rd and Monday May 24th as well! –all of which is excellent news.
Of the 65,104 vaccinations administered for the period we are reporting on, which ends May 22nd :
- 52% are women, and,
- 48% are men.
77.6% of all residents over the age of 65 years have had at least one vaccination with 72.4% being fully immunized. Last week, I reported 79.9% of all residents over the ages of 65 have had at least one vaccination, however, the corrected number is 76.36%. To date, 55.7% of the population has been vaccinated (with 1 dose), and 50.5% of the population has been immunized (with 2 doses). Again, we are making significant progress vaccinating our residents.
I encourage everyone who wishes to be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. You can get vaccinated at the Bermuda College, which is open Monday to Friday, 9:00 am until 1:00 pm for walk-ins. You can also make an appointment to get vaccinated at Bermuda College between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. However, the Bermuda College is not open for vaccinations on the weekend. The Bermuda Hospitals Board vaccine centre is open daily between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm for anyone with an appointment. This is especially convenient for people who are working during the day and who need an appointment in the evening or on the weekend. They will be accepting walk-ins this Saturday and Sunday.
This week the Close To Home COVID-19 mobile vaccination programme will be at the following locations:
- Thursday, May 27, at the Sandy’s Secondary Middle School from 4 pm until 7 pm, and,
- Saturday, May 29, at the National Sports Centre from 10 am until 2 pm.
At the National Sports Centre on Saturday, vaccine certificates will be provided to those who do not have internet access. Also, 200 free meals will be given away from the caterer Kenny’s Kitchen thanks to the generous donation of Red Laser Ltd. There will also be other participants that will be joining Bermuda’s objective for community immunity and will be giving out gift cards and vouchers to those that get vaccinated at the National Sports Centre this Saturday, May 29th. I would like to thank Auto Solutions who will be donating free car wash vouches and Frontline Foundation who will be donating gift cards from various businesses in the community to those that get vaccinated.
We are reaching a milestone Bermuda, as there are 2 weeks left to assure yourselves of two (2) doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Next week the mobile vaccination locations are:
- Shelly Bay Marketplace on June 1.
- TN Tatem Middle School on June 3
- Victor Scott Primary School on June 6.
The Close to Home mobile vaccination neighbourhood sites are for people 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. There will be doctors on site to answer any questions you have, and you don’t need an appointment. You can just show up and roll up your sleeve. We recommend the Close to Home mobile vaccination programme as an ideal opportunity to learn more for those people who want to hear about the COVID-19 vaccine from a trusted source. If you need a free ride to any of the vaccinations sites, call 533-5903 between 10.00 am and 1.30 pm. Mini-buses are available to take you there and bring you back home. Since the mobile vaccination programme began on April 27, a total of 1729 vaccines have been given as of May 24. About 78% of injections were administered to people receiving their first dose.
Thanks very much to the Bermuda Health Council and the Royal Bermuda Regiment who have been assisting the Ministry of Health with this programme. And thanks to all of our healthcare-workers and stakeholders who have been assisting with our mobile vaccinations.
If you need assistance getting vaccinated or simply have questions, please contact email@example.com, or call the hotline 444-2498 and select Option #2. The Vaccine Call Centre is available from 8 am – 4 pm, Monday to Friday and Saturdays from 9 am – 3 pm. The Call Centre is closed on Sundays.
As I have mentioned previously, Bermuda’s current supplies of Pfizer BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines expire on June 30. The Pfizer vaccine requires three weeks between doses. This means the last, first dose can be given on June 8, which is fast approaching. To be assured you can receive 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine please either register for an appointment at gov.bm or attend the walk-in facility at the Bermuda College or attend one of the Close to Home locations before or 8th June.
Yesterday was a monumental day for Bermuda. To ensure we limit vaccine wastage, 9,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to Trinidad and Tobago on a private fight. Our neighbors in the south have had some challenges with retaining sufficient supplies of vaccines and I am proud of how the Bermuda Government and the community joined together to support Trinidad and Tobago as we believe it was a win/win for both countries. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be administered up to 12 weeks after the first dose. Therefore the first dose can be given until June 30, with the second dose administered from a new batch of vaccines received from COVAX.
There is currently enough COVID-19 vaccines available in Bermuda for anyone who wants to be vaccinated. Once the existing batches of vaccines have expired, more will be sourced in the coming months. For those who wish to get the Pfizer vaccine, now is the time. There are no guarantees of Bermuda getting more doses in the immediate future. Those parents who are interested in having their children vaccinated can register their appropriately aged children on gov.bm so the Ministry of Health can gauge interest in being vaccinated.
As I mentioned last week, the Food & Drug Administration and Health Canada have both approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years old. However, as the Memorandum of Understanding between the Bermuda Government and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in the UK specifies the vaccine can be used only on people aged 16 years and over. Bermuda and other territories are facing the same challenges and continue to wait for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve use of the Pfizer Vaccine for this age group. This is an issue we are still working on resolving before we can begin to administer the vaccine to the lower age group of 12 – 15 year olds.
On a final note, tomorrow at 8 pm, we have a panel of experts who will explain how the COVID-19 testing works and they will share the research about giving the COVID-19 vaccine to 12–15-year-olds. On the panel will be Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ayo Oyinloye, Dr. Carika Weldon, Dr. Ramon Arscott, Epidemiologist Ms. Dy-Juan DeRosa, and Pediatrician Dr. Sylvanus Nawab. They will debunk myths and answer questions from the public so I encourage you to tune in with your questions. This informative programme will air live on the Bermuda Government’s Facebook page, CITV, and YouTube, at 8 pm, Wednesday May 26.
Please remember, each of us must do our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It is essential that we all 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.
Stay safe, Bermuda, and don’t forget to avoid the three “Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places and close contact settings.
Thank you Minister of Health
Thank you to your team for the work that you continue to do in this country’s battle against the coronavirus. Thank you as well to the doctors, nurses, Bermuda Health Council, Royal Bermuda Regiment and also the support staff from Public Works who all helped to make this weekend’s mobile vaccination programme a resounding success. All of the individuals and teams involved did an excellent job ensuring all of those who wanted to receive their first shot or get their second shot received it.
Thank you to those Bermudians who turned up in record numbers this weekend to get vaccinated and to take our country a step closer to Community Protection. The Government remains committed to making the vaccine accessible to anyone who wishes to get it, and whether you are in the east, central or west of the island mobile vaccinations are coming your way this week.
While we continue to move toward Community Protection, there is still the need to protect our island, and particularly our healthcare system from dangerous variants that continue to affect other countries around the world. It is with this in mind that the Government will implement mandatory supervised quarantine for all non-immunised persons beginning on June 6th.
I have often said that Bermuda cannot afford another stay at home period or the tightening of restrictions on economic activity. This remains the case and all our efforts are designed to ensure we will not go back to that. We continue to work on providing the best framework for the required quarantine of unvaccinated travellers arriving into Bermuda.
As the public debate indicates, these are sensitive issues and the Government is determined to achieve the correct balance. We are also determined to respect individual rights while keeping Bermuda safe from the threat of variants and the ongoing community transmission in those gateway cities with direct service to Bermuda and beyond. Like most aspects of the pandemic our thinking must be centred on the public health concerns as well as the unenviable requirement to adopt policies that are not popular.
There is a steady increase in vaccinations locally and even the staunchest critics are coming to an understanding of the need to protect their fellow citizens from what remains a potentially harmful or as we have seen in the last few months a potentially deadly disease. We will keep working on the operational aspects of the policy and will do so sensitively, prudently and in the best interests of the people and the economic recovery so desperately needed.
While we protect ourselves from variants from abroad, and continue to eliminate local transmission, there is a need to stay one step ahead of the coronavirus and to get more Bermudians back to work. Last night, her Excellency the Governor Rena Lalgie, on recommendation from the Minister of Health signed into law amendments to the Public Health Regulations to permit indoor dining with the use of SafeKey. There will be further amendments made imminently to add churches to allow increased capacity, as we mentioned last week at the press, but there was a drafting issue which was resolved earlier today.
Licensed restaurants are now permitted to open for indoor dining so long as they ensure all patrons are in possession of a valid SafeKey. SafeKeys are QR codes which are being issued to fully immunised persons along with their upgraded vaccination certificate. Both documents are downloaded pdfs, which persons can print or keep on their portable electronic devices such as a phone or tablet.
Licensed restaurants will also need only to have a portable electronic device such as a smartphone or tablet with a camera that is capable of scanning the QR code on the COVID-19 SafeKey using verify.gov.bm.
Local businesses and app developers have continued reaching out for information on how they can integrate SafeKey into their own apps or systems and this information can be found on gov.bm/safekey.
It is important to remember that you do not need a vaccine to participate in the SafeKey programme, and you can also do it by getting a negative test at any of the public testing facilities. Tests are free in Bermuda and readily available.
When a patron arrives at a restaurant, the restaurant must scan their SafeKey and check that their photo identification matches the information on the SafeKey. Verify.gov.bm will show their initials, the month and day of their date of birth, the expiry date and a green check if the SafeKey is valid. Restaurants that do not check the SafeKey and ID of all persons may be subject to closure by the Minister of Health.
There was a slight issue earlier today where some valid QR codes were showing up as invalid. That issue has now been fixed.
It is important for both the restaurant and patrons to note that the same rules apply to indoor dining as with outdoor dining:
- There is no service permitted at a bar;
- No more than 6 persons to a table;
- Tables must be placed at least 6 feet apart;
- Persons can only remove masks while seated, if they are getting up to go to the bathroom they must wear a mask.
Persons can dine indoors once in possession of their SafeKey, either through being fully immunised or testing negative. SafeKeys are being issued via email in pdf form and can be printed or downloaded and kept on a phone or tablet. It is important to note that to access places you must have photo identification with you to ensure that the restaurant or establishment can validate your SafeKey.
The Government appreciates the growing interest in SafeKey for individuals and businesses alike. Many are eagerly awaiting the receipt of their SafeKey and have contacted my office to ask if they can apply. To those who have not yet received their SafeKeys please be patient and please be aware that you do not need to apply, if you have been fully immunised, that means two weeks after your second shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Or if you elected to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, two weeks after your second shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Ministry of Health has already issued 13410 emails as of an hour ago containing updated vaccination certificates and SafeKeys and they will continue to issue more this week, at this current pace no later than Friday all of the persons who have been fully immunised would have been issued their SafeKey. It is important to note, that if you have received a link for your SafeKey and you share it with another individual who has not yet received that email, the link will not work for them. They are individual links for individual persons, and the emails are certainly coming to the email address that you registered to make an appointment for the vaccine.
There are persons who are fully immunised who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and are at least two weeks past their second shot should look out for an email from “Bermuda Government” with the Subject “Government of Bermuda COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate”. The email will be sent to the email address provided at the time of registration for the vaccine. All you have to do is click the link within the email to verify your information and you will be issued an upgraded vaccination certificate accompanied by a SafeKey.
A few people have written to say that they went to verify.gov.bm and scanned their SafeKey and all of their information came up, my full name, and my date of birth when I got it. It is important to note that within the link you are sent is both your vaccination certificate and SafeKey. Your vaccination certificate is at the top and on the page it says to scroll down to find your SafeKey, and if you scroll there is a separate pdf document that is your SafeKey. You get issued two documents, one is your vaccination certificate if you need to travel, for anywhere that you are going if you need a proof of the vaccine, or the SafeKey which is issued for persons who have been fully immunised or persons who receive a negative test.
So in the exact same way if you get a negative test and you get that email you have your negative test certificate at the top and below that negative test certificate you will also have your SafeKey which will enable you to enjoy indoor dining.
If you are not 2 weeks past your 2nd shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, you will not receive an email for a SafeKey at this time. Any persons not fully immunised, can still enjoy indoor dining by booking a Coronavirus test and your negative test result email will also include a PDF containing your SafeKey.
The resumption of indoor dining will allow for hundreds of Bermudians who have been unable to work during the pandemic to return back to work thanks to the implementation of SafeKey. The safe return to normal operations for local businesses is an essential first step to Bermuda’s economic recovery, and the first step as we turn the page to a new chapter on our journey beyond the pandemic.
SafeKey is necessary to allow for more activities while we are in phase 2, to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus but it will not be necessary forever. I have heard some complaints, asking why do I have to get a test every three days to have indoor dining, and that this is crazy and when will it end? It will end when we move to Phase 3 and indoor dining is open to everyone. But, while we still have cases of local transmission, while we are still working to move past local transmission, it is important that we minimise the risk and being at certain places can increase that risk.
When Bermuda eliminates local transmission, there not be a need for restrictions or need for a SafeKey to be presented for indoor dining or other high risk activities. The only time SafeKey will be necessary will be for large events such as the Bermuda Day event we are having this month, County Games or Cup Match.
Safekey was designed with the protection of privacy for individual users at the forefront of its design. Minimal information available through SafeKey, and with secondary checks of photo Identification to ensure it is being used by the correct person. Beyond the issuance of the SafeKey based on negative tests or persons being fully immunised, it is not possible to track someone’s movements using SafeKey. This is a very important point that I want people to know and understand. People have said that the government can track your movements using SafeKey, and that is just not true.
It is open sourced, the code is available for anyone to see at gov.bm/safekey and you can recognise that it is not something that is dealing with the logging of information. It is perfectly understandable that people have this fear, but I promise you there is far more risk of being tracked inside your cell phone or any apps that you have installed which can track your location than anything that is done by the Government of Bermuda. These are things that we made sure we reviewed with the Privacy Commissioner, we understand and just like with WeHealth that has privacy in mind and cannot be tracked. People asked the questions, why can’t you just issue the codes, why can’t you tell us how many codes were issued, and that is because it is privacy based. We won’t be able to tell how many people have been to a restaurant and other aspects, but what we will do is ensure that there are spot checks, as restaurants must adhere to the rules. That you have to make sure that someone has a SafeKey and make sure that you check the photo identification to ensure that it matches with that person so that we are able to have these things open before we get to Phase 3.
Within this new chapter is also a brand new addition to our tourism product with the opening of the St. Regis Hotel. St. Regis will not only provide world-class accommodations for locals and visitors, but a much welcomed economic boost for the town of St. George and it has and will continue to provide jobs for Bermudians. I had the pleasure meeting many young Bermudians at St. Regis this past weekend, many who are in hospitality for the first time and who are eager to welcome guests and to be a part of Bermuda’s world-renowned tourism industry.
This weekend also saw the return of a much welcomed sight off of our shores, with Viking Cruise Orion sailing on our crystal blue waters to begin their Bermuda Escape Homeporting Itinerary, with the first cruise leaving from Bermuda on June 15.
I thank the Minister of Transport, the Hon. Lawrence Scott and his entire team for all of their hard work in making this initiative possible. Our tourism renaissance is well and truly underway, and we are continuing to do the work that is necessary to make Bermuda a ‘must-visit’ destination to tourists from around the world, which will only benefit our local economy and local businesses.
The Government has finalised a policy to encourage the group business that provides benefits to hotels and other establishments. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many venues have been unable to plan for group business. There is no plan in place that allows for venues to secure approval in principle for large social gatherings.
We recognise that the large gathering process can take a while, and that uncertainty makes it difficult to plan events. To streamline the process around gaining exemptions for large group sizes/large group gatherings, Hotels and other event venues are looking to implement a plan so that they can secure group business and bookings. To date, these venues have lost a tremendous amount of business because there is no framework in place that allows them to promote their safe operations which meet all public health guidelines. Our aim is to allow venues to grow their market share in this area and continue to extend the recovery in additional sectors of the economy that depend on this business.
Throughout all of the work being done within the Government and by you, the people of Bermuda we must also take time to enjoy our day as a country, as we celebrate Bermuda Day, albeit in a different fashion, for the first time since 2019. It is thanks to our collective work, and our collective Bermudian resilience that we can enjoy celebrations that were not able to be held last year.
We will utilize our new SafeKey tool, to safely hold the Bermuda Day Showcase at the National Sports Centre, and the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon. We will return to celebrating our heritage, which is a truly indicative sign that we are beginning to reclaim our summer and our normalcy here in our island home.
This week is a time for us to remember what unites us as a country, rather than what divides us. It is a time for us to celebrate the uniqueness of our culture, the strength of our community, and the beauty of our island. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable Bermuda Day.