Government Weekly Press Conference July 16 2020

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 16 2020

 

 

Good afternoon Bermuda.

I hope all of you are doing well and enjoying the blissful Bermuda Summer. This afternoon I am joined by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Works.

As a country we have, for the most part, followed the rules, behaved appropriately, and contributed to our success in battling this pandemic. We could not have made it this far without unity, hard work and dedication.

It has not been easy . . . sheltering in place, curbside shopping, grocery days by last name, curfews, social distancing, face coverings and economic hardship. This has taken a tremendous toll on all of us. But as I have said before, collectively as a country Bermuda rose to the occasion, and we have shown ourselves to be an example to the world of how to manage and live with this virus.

While most of us have done well, by following the guidelines – we must remember that it only takes 1 undetected case to set us back. So while we have earned the changes that will be announced today – we must remain ever vigilant.

We will begin with the latest update from Minister Wilson on COVID 19 testing.

MINISTER WILSON STATEMENT

Today there were 363 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and two were positive for COVID-19. Both new cases were imported on the Delta flight on 15th July by returning residents.

It saddens me terribly to have to tell you that, unfortunately, one of the persons involved did not adhere to the required quarantine period and attended their workplace before receiving their arrival test results, which turned out to be positive. Consequently, the case management team is now contact tracing all the persons they were in touch with on island, in addition to the nearby passengers on the flight.

The advice for other passengers on the Delta flight 656 of 15th July is to proceed with extreme caution, follow the quarantine instructions you were given on arrival, monitor your symptoms, wear a mask at all times and keep 6 feet away from others. If you were sitting near one of the positive cases a public health officer will be in touch with you soon with instructions.

Bermuda now has 152 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 6 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring, and
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 137 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

Overall, 55% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 4% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 48 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 18 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 1 are under investigation

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

I now have a few updates to provide you with as it relates to arriving travellers…

As the volume of travellers increases our testing teams and capability is becoming increasingly stretched. Therefore we are reviewing the testing regime to make adjustments based on public health risk and testing capacity.

Incoming travellers are tested on arrival at their port of entry. They then have to comply with further tests on subsequent dates. One change we are implementing is that the day 3 test will be moved to day 4.

As such, persons who arrive on the BA flight on Friday will have their follow-up test on Monday. This will apply to all travellers, whether visitors or residents, except for residents who need to complete their quarantine; they will be allowed to test on day 3, which is Sunday, in order to complete their quarantine period on receipt of their negative result.

We hope this will have a two-fold benefit of encouraging residents to obtain a pre-departure test (although not required) and also make the testing schedule less arduous for our visitors.

Second, we are aware of the challenges for travellers obtaining test results within 5 days and so, will be extending the period permitted to 7 days very shortly. It will be reflected on the website when this goes into effect.

Lastly, we are gearing up to assist the quarantine process with the Aqua quarantine bracelets. Travellers without a pre-departure test – that is largely residents – have to quarantine until they get a second test result on Island (currently on their 3rd day). The intention is that they will be fitted with an aqua bracelet until they obtain a negative result.

In addition, persons who do not have a pre-departure test will be asked to undergo a saliva test on arrival in addition to the nasal swab in order to assist us in validating the saliva tests so that we can deploy them sooner. This applies to residents as ALL visitors must obtain a pre-departure test.

Additionally, the requirement to undergo a Day 7 test will change to Day 8. This is safe from a public health perspective and it will help ensure that testing sites are not swamped on certain days.

Residents who refuse all testing must quarantine for 14 days; and very shortly will do so with an Aqua bracelet.

Our goal is not to add layers of red tape and complexity to the lives of incoming travellers, but to protect us all from a COVID-19 outbreak. Our number 1 priority at all times is – and must be – the safety of our island and the protection of seniors and other clinically vulnerable persons for whom COVID is a life-threatening risk.

Independent of today’s new COVID cases, over the past few days, there have been several enquires made by companies from across various industries with regards to staff travelling overseas and then returning to work. The main question being: When can they safely return to work?

The answer to this depends on a number of factors. In particular, it depends on if your employee works in a high risk setting such as one with medically vulnerable individuals or institutionalized populations, such as a healthcare setting, for example…

If so, then those employees may want to consider avoiding non-essential travel. Of course, this is not always practical and, in those cases where workers have family overseas, an ability to travel and see loved ones could have a detrimental effect on that individual’s mental health. In those cases, we have to ask ourselves ‘What is the safest way for these individuals to return to work after travel?’…

The gold standard is 14 days of quarantine with prescribed testing procedures to provide that extra layer of security. As a Manager, ask yourself, Could this employee work from home during these 14 days?

If they must return to work (with two consecutive negative test results), determine how they can minimize their contact with others as much as possible. Each employer must decide what this looks like for their employees. However, the Ministry of Health is currently in the process of developing further guidance on this issue, which will be disturbed shortly and posted to the Government website.

In closing, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, avoid congregating in large groups, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one…And, yes, this means wearing masks at work if you are in close contact with others, such as during face-to-face meetings.

As I have mentioned before, there are three preventative behaviours which HealthIQ looks at to assess how we are doing as a country in our response to COVID-19. Two of those three (mask wearing and physical distancing) are currently ‘in the red’…which means we need to do better if we want to keep ourselves and our community safe.

I think when COVID-19 first arrived in Bermuda, there were those out there who doubted the difference these seemingly ‘small’ measures could make to the overall picture…But now I think we can all see that they were, in fact, KEY to our success; not just contributory factors.

On a positive note, today we passed 10,000 HealthIQ users so we have reached the target to put that indicator on our scorecard in the green. Please continue to sign up on HealthIQ.bm and report your status regularly.

Today’s two new cases and the quarantine breach are a reminder to us all that we cannot be complacent. How we go forward now depends on you, Bermuda.

Thank You

Thank you Minister and thank you for the hard work that your team continues to put in.

It is important to note that out of the 6 imported cases that have arrived in the last 2 weeks since we have opened the airport all of them have been returning residents.

The story just shared by the Minister of Health is disturbing – as it means that our own don’t care about the impact that their reckless actions may have on ALL of our hard work over the past 4 months. We have been successful because we have not been selfish and have thought of the collective over our own needs. That must continue.

As the Minister of Health has indicated, the matter has been reported to the Bermuda Police Service for the violations of law. No one wants to punish anyone, but the rules in place must be followed for the safety of our country and for our economy.

As I have intimated, and as the Minister of Health has also said, due to the fact that we have been faced with returning residents not following the rules, the cabinet will consider revisions to requirements for residents returning to the country and may introduce quarantine requirements for returning residents who do not possess a valid pre-test. We must keep our country safe – and if we do not hear that sadly we may all have to feel.

Traveling to the United States is something that, given the situation over there, should not be done for pleasure, but should only be done in urgent situations. We will be revising the guidance to make sure that we minimize the amounts of imported cases which may be coming from returning residents. As the Minister said, the introduction of quarantine bracelets for persons who do not have valid pre-test to ensure that we can enforce the quarantine.

What I must say, is that is a responsibility of all of us Bermudians to do our job to protect our country. Visitors are coming in, and are following the rules, it is us that are breaking them and putting our country at risk.

I will now turn the mic over to Minister Burch who will provide the latest update on regulations and changes to restrictions, most notably the time when the curfew will come to an end.

MINISTER BURCH STATEMENT

Good evening.

I am happy to provide a further update on additional changes since the implementation of Phase 4 on Wednesday July 1st.  I will first cover those matters that fall under the Covid Regulations followed by those that fall under the remit of the Minister of Public Works.

There has been some confusion surrounding a number of issues during this journey through Covid – so I will attempt to address several of them tonight.

Firstly, consideration will be given to the following changes to the current PUBLIC HEALTH (COVID-19 EMERGENCY POWERS) REGULATIONS 2020.  The term Exceptional Circumstances is confusing and as we move further into Phase 4, the removal of this part makes it easier to vet applications as per the guidelines being developed. These guidelines along with the standardized application form will lay out what is needed to be considered for an exemption, thus removing the need for this part of the clause to remain.

(4) The Minister of National Security may, after consulting, the Minister of Health, grant an exemption (a “large group exemption”) permitting a group of more than 50 persons to assemble—

There have been a number of requests to hold functions with more than 50 persons and the term “exceptional” has led to confusion from the public and an inability to adequately consider those requests by the committee. I expect we will be in a position to confirm this change, publish the guidelines and launch the online application by next Tuesday – which will provide greater clarity to the general public.

With regard to the current curfew – as indicated last week that it would be reviewed weekly – the curfew will be lifted effective next Monday, July 20th with the proviso that all liquor licensed establishments will close at midnight.  This aspect of the new regulations will be reviewed weekly.

Clarification on the wearing of masks:

Masks must be worn indoors.   Masks must be worn outdoors if physical         distancing cannot be maintained.

Clearly there is a need to apply common sense – if one is driving in a car alone or with members of their household, riding a bike, walking alone – it is not necessary to wear a mask.

Simply put – if you are in close proximity to anyone outside your family – then a mask is required.  Many stores and businesses – like government buildings – now require a mask to enter their facility.

With regard to activities over Cup Match – overnight camping in Parks and on Islands will be allowed following the removal of curfew as well as over the Cup Match weekend.

All of the camp sites are being inspected over the next few days and applications for camping permits will be accepted from Monday, July 20th.

Specifically, for Cup Match campers and picnickers will be allowed to erect camping and picnicking equipment and property on Tuesday, 28th July however camping is ONLY permitted from Wednesday 29th July until Monday 3rd August 2020 as per the Public Health (Covid-19 Emergency Powers) Amendment Regulations 2020.

Gates will be opened on Tuesday 28th July 2020 so patrons will have the opportunity to get their equipment and property into the parks and beaches until 9:30pm on Wednesday 29th July 2020 after which time Park Ranger staff on duty will be locking the gates.

All equipment and property must be removed by Tuesday 4th August 2020 or it will be deemed abandoned and disposed of.

Maintenance staff will be collecting trash and cleaning bathrooms during the Cup Match Holiday and weekend.

Park Ranger staff will patrol the parks and beaches, enforcing the  Park Regulations and addressing any other incidents in conjunction with the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

Staff will be assigned to control traffic flow and parking at the following locations:

  • Horseshoe Bay
  • Warwick Long Bay West
  • Elbow Beach Tribe Road 4B
  • Clearwater Beach Park and Coopers Island Park & Nature Reserve.

Horseshoe Bay, due to the popularity on Emancipation Day Thursday 30th July 2020 will be managed as follows:

  • Department of Parks staff in conjunction with officers of the Bermuda Police Service, Royal Bermuda Regiment and St. Johns Ambulance will be on duty.
  • Traffic flow and parking will be controlled and once the parking lot is full access will be for dropping off only until spaces open up.
  • There may be times when the parking lot is closed to all traffic in order to clear any congestion.
  • Patrons are advised that the closure of Horseshoe Bay will be at 8:00 pm when patrons must start clearing the beach in order for the cleaning to begin for the use on Mary Prince Day Friday 31st July 2020.

Park and beach users are reminded not to park on double yellow lines or block the gates as they must remain clear at all times for access by Department of Parks maintenance & patrol vehicles, as well as emergency vehicles from the Bermuda Police Service, Royal Bermuda Regiment,  Bermuda Fire & Rescue Services, EMH and St. John Ambulance.

For safety the following will not be permitted:

  • No Bonfires especially within Coopers Island Nature Reserve
  • No excessively loud music playing
  • No Dogs on the beaches
  • No Horses on the beaches
  • No vehicles inside the parks after the gates are closed
  • Clean up your trash – leave the areas as you find them.

Vehicular traffic to Coney Island Park is restricted due to the structural integrity of the Bailey bridge and patrons must walk in.

The cooperation of the patrons using the parks and beaches over the holiday period is appreciated.

All of these measures are being relaxed because of our good behavior and following of the rules.  We are still in a pandemic but we also recognize that we must gradually relax the rules.

It is vitally important that in considering our actions going forward that we all must be cognizant and careful to make decisions that do not put our families and fellow citizens at risk regarding the corona virus.  Make no mistake that if we act badly then there will be no hesitation in recommending to the Cabinet that we return to an earlier phase to protect our country.

I expect we will be as responsible as we have been which has gotten us to our current state of general compliance.

Thank you, Premier.

Thank you Col.

The ending of the curfew represents not just a major landmark in the reopening of our economy, but it also will create more opportunities for employment.

Pre-COVID-19, few Bermudians under 50 had ever experienced a curfew and we had long taken for granted the freedom to move about the country when we want, and how we want. This is something that many of us will welcome but it must not be taken as a license to lose our minds. Simply put, DON’T TEAR IT! We have come too far to go back now!

Earlier today, I had the pleasure to announce two new appointments to the Cabinet. I would like to thank MP Renee Ming for accepting the role of Minister of National Security and thank MP Neville Tyrrell for taking on the role of Transport.

Over the years they have demonstrated the commitment, dedication and wisdom that will hold them in good stead as they take over two high profile and key Ministries. I’d like to again thank the former Ministers Wayne Caines and Zane Desilva for the excellent place they left their former Ministries enabling their successors to hit the ground running.

Tomorrow the House of Assembly will meet and we will be debating the following Bills:

  • Amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act 2020
  • Riddell’s Bay (Warwick Parish) Special Development Order
  • Amendments to the National Pensions Scheme (Occupational Pensions) and Related Regulations
  • Registrar of Companies (Supervision and Regulation) Act 2020
  • Ministers and Members of the Legislature (Salaries and Pensions) Amendment Act 2020
  • Public Service Superannuation Temporary Amendment Act 2020

We will also be tabling:

  • Trusts Special Provisions #2 Act 2020
  • Gaming (Transfer of Functions) Bill
  • Government Loans Amendment (#2) Act
  • Amendments to the Tourism Investment Act 2017
  • Tourism Investment (St. George’s Club) 2020

Over the next 2 weeks over 11 Bills will be debated and passed into law with the support of Members of Parliament. This extensive work load speaks to the hard work and dedication of the Government team in continuing to deliver – and doing what is necessary to rebuild our economy; for the people of Bermuda.

Despite the restrictions and challenges posed by COVID-19, our government has remained active outside of the management of the pandemic and we remain focused on the job at hand. We work tirelessly to keep Bermuda safe, and we will work equally as hard to ensure a strong economic recovery.

One key goal our government has had throughout the pandemic has been to support local and international businesses and ensure our companies can continue to conduct their operations while fully adhering to safety protocols to meet the COVID- 19 regulations.

We were recently able to demonstrate our ability to drive a business-friendly environment despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic.

Key leaders of Athene, one of Bermuda’s largest reinsurance companies, needed to travel to Bermuda to conduct certain meetings. Together, the Bermuda Business Development Agency, the Bermuda Airport Authority, and the L.F. Wade International Airport worked to enable Athene to come to Bermuda and meet on the island in June, while ensuring full compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

The Bermuda Airport Authority, and Cedar Aviation implemented strict measures and protocols to ensure the meeting could take place safely and successfully.

Before the L.F. Wade International Airport openned to international flights on July 1, the Bermuda Government adapted swiftly and pragmatically to address the individual requirements of companies that required on-island meetings.

Athene sent us a statement of thanks from its President Bill Wheeler, which stated, “We are grateful for the support we received from the Bermuda Government, the BDA and local agencies. Bermuda’s swift action allowed us to conduct local business while prioritizing the health and safety of all those involved and ensuring full compliance with all Bermuda laws and regulations. Thank you to Bermuda’s continued exemplary business friendly approach – even during these unprecedented times.”

The Bermuda Government is grateful for the support and commitment of our local and international business partners who continue to work with us during this period of global economic challenge.

I would also, as I close, like to again thank everyone in Bermuda for your words of encouragement, your emails of support and your prayers for our health, our success and the well-being of our families. It remains an honor and a privilege to serve our country during this time, and we thank you for all that you have done over the past few months to make our burdens lighter and this work rewarding.

Thank you