July 28 Press Conference Update

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 28 2020

 

Good afternoon Bermuda. Welcome to tonight’s COVID-19 press conference. Joining me today are the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, and the Minister of Public Works, the Hon. Lt Col David Burch.

We will start our press conference this evening with remarks for the Minister of Health, on the latest update regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Minister of Health.

Minister of Health

Today there were 555 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 2 were positive for COVID-19. Both new cases were imported on the Delta flight from Atlanta on 27th July 2020.

Bermuda now has 156 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 141 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 59 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

Overall, 54% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 6% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 52 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

As we enter the Cup Match weekend, some of you may have travel plans for the holiday period…I would urge those individuals – and ANYONE considering travel over the next few weeks – to read the Ministry of Health’s Travel Advice for Residents, which is currently posted at coronavirus.gov.bm.

To be clear – in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health advises that Bermuda residents should avoid all non-essential overseas travel until further notice.

Keep in mind that many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions, and new restrictions may be imposed with little warning. Therefore your travel plans may be severely disrupted and you may be forced to remain outside of Bermuda longer than expected, incurring additional expenses.

If you’re thinking about travelling off of the Island during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should consider the following:

  • Anticipate a greater risk of exposure if travelling by public means (bus, train, or airplane) and take enhanced measures to protect yourself such as wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often.
  • Explore with your employer any quarantine restrictions that you will be required to adhere to in your workplace upon you return.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient finances and necessities, including medication, in case your travels are disrupted.
  • Understand the risk of your safety and security abroad.
  • Make sure you are up to date on measles, mumps, and seasonal flu vaccinations.
  • Ensure you pack extra alcohol-based hand sanitizers and non-perishable foods; and be prepared to clean and disinfect your travel lodgings.

If you must travel during the COVID-19 pandemic there are certain things you must do during your trip. This includes the following:

  • Avoid large crowds or crowded areas;
  • Avoid contact with sick people, especially those with cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer;
  • And wear a mask in all public settings.

Upon return to Bermuda, you must comply with all testing and quarantine requirements. You will find the latest information by clicking the “travellers” tab on coronavirus.gov.bm. If you cannot get a COVID test in the country you are visiting, you will be required to quarantine for 4 days on your return.

There are also specific Return to Work standards which employers and employees should follow; these can also be found on the coronavirus.gov.bm page. They group employees into one of three workplace settings – low risk, medium risk and high risk, which then dictate how an employee should proceed when returning to work after travel.

Returning residents who work in high-exposure risk settings must quarantine for 14 days and have a day-14 negative test for clearance to return to work. This would apply to workers with close, sustained contact with the public and include institutional settings. For example:

  • Care homes;
  • Patient care settings;
  • Corrections;
  • And Health Professionals.

This is because institutionalized settings have a higher density of populations, closer interactions where it is difficult to physically distance and, in some, more vulnerable populations. Therefore the risk of COVID-19 spread is higher in these settings and the Gold standard for COVID-19 prevention should be instituted.

For those who work in Medium risk settings such as retail stores, construction sites, police, public transport and schools and camps, they have two options. They can either adopt a 14-day quarantine until day 14 test results return. Employees can work remotely if possible. Or they should wait for three negative test results before the employee returns to work following the travel.

These settings can implement physical distancing; however, a balance between testing and reconfiguring the work environment can provide some safety when returning to work. Three negative test results within an incubation period for COVID-19 provides some level of assurance.

For those who work in low risk settings such as remote workers and office workers without frequent close contact with others, return to work requires compliance with the normal traveler quarantine and testing regime, as they can work remotely and would not be of increased risk of exposing their colleagues or the public. These workers do not have close, sustained contact with other persons and therefore are of low risk to transmit the virus.

As always, before I step away from the podium tonight, 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.

I want to stress that plastic face shields are no substitute for a mask. Face shields may be worn in addition to – but not instead of – a mask. Recent studies have shown that face shields do not protect you or others from COVID-19 as well as a mask.

While on this topic of mask-wearing, I want to remind all summer camps that adults and students over the age of 10 must wear as mask if they are not physically distancing (more than 6 feet apart) from others while inside.

Also, I wish to remind diners and restaurants that there is still a maximum of ten diners allowed per table and that there is a continuing requirement for them to wear masks whenever moving around the restaurants or not at their table. These rules are enforceable by law and apply equally to bars, clubs and liquor license establishments.

I know this Cup Match holiday weekend will be completely different from anything we have enjoyed in the past – no game, no large gatherings with family and friends – but I truly hope that each of you finds joy and a chance to connect with those you love over the next few days. It will be different, but it can still be fun; it can still be meaningful…Cup Match can still be whatever it always was to you.

Thank You. Happy Cup Match. Stay safe and please practice SafeSix… keep six feet apart or wear a mask!

Thank you Minister Wilson.

Before I go to the next minister, my office has received a number of questions surrounding the ending of the Unemployment Benefit to people who aren’t able to work through no fault of their own, as a result of COVID-19.

The first question is about the schedule of payments. The next payments will be made at the end of next week, and there will be no payment made this week Friday. The Benefit ends after a maximum of 18 weeks of payments. This is made up of the original 12 week benefit, plus the initial four week extension, and the further two week extension announced last week.

Individuals started to receive the Benefit at different times. Therefore the end times will vary. However persons who received the benefit at the first week will be eligible for the full 18 weeks.

You do not have to reapply to receive the two week extension. And this extension was granted to give those who came onto the Benefit in the very first weeks, the ability to apply for financial assistance, and to give them time to submit their application and so their application can be processed.

Applications for financial assistance can be found in the lobby of Global House at 43 Church Street. Once the application has been completed. It can be returned to the secure dropbox, also located on the ground floor of Global House.

So far, just over 100 people have submitted an application for financial assistance, who were on the Unemployment Benefit. It is important to note that not everyone who is on the Unemployment Benefit will be able to qualify for Financial Assistance. For those persons who apply for Financial Assistance, and do not qualify, the government is developing a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit. The Minister of Labour will release the details of this Benefit next week.

It is critically important that everyone is aware that you must apply for Financial Assistance, so you can go through the assessment process. If you do not qualify for Financial Assistance, you will then be able to qualify for the Supplemental Benefit but you must go through the process to ensure that your needs are accurately assessed.

Many in Bermuda are starting to prepare for the two day Cup Match holiday. I now invite the Minister of National Security to give an update on what her ministry is doing to prepare for the holiday. Minister Ming.

Minister of National Security

Good evening Bermuda,

This weekend provides an opportunity for the island to come together to celebrate our Emancipation heritage once again.

Even though we won’t be celebrating via the Annual Cricket Classic this year, it’s still a holiday. And it’s our expectation that many of our residents will be heading to our beaches and parks and spending considerable time on the water over the long holiday weekend.

I would like to reiterate that our joint community engagement teams comprising of the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment will be actively visible over the Cup Match holiday.

Please note that the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) has a robust policing plan in place in order to ensure public safety.

With the expectation of large gatherings, they will be present at beaches such as Horseshoe Bay Beach, Clearwater Beach and other frequently attended beaches and park areas.

On the topic of events and gatherings of more than 50 individuals, we continue to urge those in attendance to adhere to the guidelines.

At all times, please practice the appropriate health and safety measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing and proper hand hygiene.

We are also urging the public to use common sense when it comes to alcohol consumption over the holiday period.

As you know, the BPS will be conducting Road Side Sobriety checks across the island over the holiday weekend.

As it relates to recreational boating over the holiday, the BPS and the Coast Guard will be present on our waters to ensure that the marine environment is as safe as possible.

The Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Reserve comprising of Police Officers, RBR soldiers, and Reserve Police Officers will be operating 24-hours a day across Bermuda’s waters, including up to 12 miles from shore.

Regarding the COVID-19 regulations, boaters should be aware of the following:

  • Social distancing on boats must be adhered to;
  • Raft-ups are allowed….  BUT, the right precautions MUST be in place such as the wearing of masks if 3-feet of distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Raft-Ups must not exceed 50 people.

Some general water safety points to know:

  • File a Float Plan with a friend or the Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre before leaving shore;
  • Boaters must have the appropriate safety equipment on board such as life jackets; a working VHF radio and navigation lights;
  • Boaters should not exceed the 5-knot speed limit;
  • Alcohol consumption – As a reminder, operating a vessel under the influence is prohibited;
  • Music – The public is reminded to be courteous to other recreational boaters when playing loud music on the water;
  • Jet Skis – Over the Cup Match weekend, in accordance with the Marine Board Notice 2020, jet skis are prohibited from entering the areas of Paradise Lakes and Mangrove Bay.

To quote aspects of the notice:

Any person operating a personal watercraft, commonly known as a jet ski, is prohibited from entering these areas of water, between 5.00 am Thursday 30 July 2020 – 11.00 pm Sunday 2 August 2020.

The areas include: Paradise Lakes, including all waters between Hawkins Island, Nelly Island, Ports Island, Long Island, Beta Island, Gamma Island, Delta Island, Epsilon Island, Zeta Island, Iota Island, Eta Island, Marshalls Island and Fern Island.

Additionally, the areas of Mangrove Bay in Somerset, Watford Bridge King’s Point, Somerset Long Bay, Cambridge Beaches in Somerset, and Daniel’s Head to Flora Point are also off limits to jet skis.

Ultimately, we wish to ensure a safe and peaceful time on the water for recreational boaters.

Anyone violating these regulations could face prosecution.

If anyone wishes to report a breach on land or water, they can do so by calling 211.

I wish to make the public aware that, in the event that we do have any anti-social behaviour or violence of any kind, the Gang Violence Reduction Team and our Coordinated Crisis Response Team will be on standby this Cup Match weekend to mitigate any matters.

Moving on from Cup Match expectations, I would like to take a minute to highlight and remind the public as to the guidelines for indoor dining, please remember that:

  • All staff must wear masks at all times
  • Guests must wear face masks whilst waiting to be seated and other times when not at their table
  • Physical distancing should be maintained at least 6 feet when queuing
  • Guests must use hand sanitizer or wash hands before entering establishment
  • Clear signage must be provided at the entrance to the establishment and within the premises in relation to regulations, face masks being worn, physical distancing, hand hygiene
  • A copy of the guidance document must be prominently displayed within the establishment
  • The establishment must have systems in place to ensure physical distance in restroom facilities as well as a robust cleaning regime
  • Contact tracing measures should also be in place to ensure adequate tracing in the event of an outbreak, measure such as: tables should be numbered, servers name visible, and details of each diner should also be recorded including date of visit, name, address and contact information.

These contact tracing procedures have been implemented as they are an essential part in combatting any outbreak from a communicable disease. Remember we are still battling COVID-19 on the island, it’s essential that we have procedures in place to assist with tracing any occurrence of an outbreak.

It is going to take every one of us to do our part and assist where we can.

If you visit any establishments and/or observe behaviours where the COVID-19 guidelines are not being adhered to please mention it to them and also follow up by calling 211 as well.

We have weathered this virus quite well thus far and it is my hope that we will not see a spike in cases after the holiday is over.

Finally Bermuda, I wish all of Bermuda a safe and happy 2020 Cup Match, Emancipation Day and Mary Prince Day holiday.

Thank you.

Thank you very much Minister Ming.

I will now ask the Minister of Public Works to give an update on what beach goers and campers need to know to be safe this holiday weekend.

Minister of Public Works

(To be added at a later time)

Thank you Col. Burch.

It was great to join you earlier today for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ottiwell Simmons International Arbitration Centre. And as you mentioned, its projects like this, that will ensure Bermudians are able to get back to work, as we work to rebuild Bermuda’s economy.

As we look at more seats becoming available for travelers to the island, as airlines increase their flights, more hotels will begin to open and the number of hotel rooms available will increase. Therefore, providing more opportunities for Bermudians to return to work.

It is anticipated that by the end of August, the number of hotel rooms will almost triple from 345 to 948. This is good news for the employees at the hotels that are planning to open and the government will continue to work with our hoteliers to provide the support required for their employees during this time of transition.

As we head into the Cup Match weekend, I just want to pause and reflect on the significance of the holiday. The first day is Emancipation Day, recognizing the abolition of slavery in Bermuda. This year, for the first time we will recognize the second day of Cup Match as Mary Prince Day.

Mary Prince is a Bermudian national hero. A Black woman whose definitive narrative, revealing the harsh injustices endured by black people in Bermuda in the early 1800s, formed a critical contribution to the movement for the abolition of slavery.  We honor her for her bravery and her courage and we’re proud that we celebrate Mary Prince Day for the first time this year.

As we talk and reflect on the holiday. I often speak about the new normal and many of us will be practicing it this weekend. While we celebrate and reflect this weekend, we must also be mindful of the tough times that are to come. The struggle that will test us as a country.

It is important that as your Premier, and your government, we are real and honest with all Bermudians. The new normal will not be just about social distancing. It will be about how we collectively cope during a period of great economic challenge. It will be about how we all play our part to participate and be productive in our economy, wherever we can.

It will be about how we save and invest in each other. It’ll be about how we work to be our brother and our sister’s keeper. And it will be about how we look out for those who are less fortunate than us, and strive to assist those will be challenged over the next few months.

I make no bones about it, we are certainly going to be in for a period of economic difficulty. So our celebrations must be tempered with reality of what is to come. As I’ve given the assurance at many times, the government will not abandon people,

Just like we innovated as a people to stay ahead of the virus, we must collectively be as innovative to thrive as we work together to build our economy. It’s important to note that the government cannot do it all by itself. It’s going to require a collective effort of all persons in this country, moving and rowing in the same direction.

So though I’m concerned of the challenges ahead, I have no doubt that if we remain united, as a country we will be able to prevail. Let us carry the spirit of unity into this holiday and beyond, as that is the only thing that will ensure that Bermuda can emerge from this upcoming period of economic challenge as a stronger and more united country.

As I conclude my formal remarks, I want to make sure that we continue to take precautions, as we enjoy this holiday weekend. Physical distancing, wearing a mask and appropriate hand hygiene are a must.

With the announcement of the two more important cases from a turning resident, COVID-19 is still very much a factor in our daily lives. We must remain strong, vigilant and united as a country, to keep this virus at bay, so that we can continue the work to rebuild our economy. With that, I’m happy to take questions from members of the media here this evening.