COVID-19 Press Conference Update
Good evening Bermuda. I hope that all persons had a safe and happy Bermuda Day holiday. Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health, The Minister of National Security and the Minister of Tourism and Transport.
I know this press conference is focused on our continuing work related to COVID-19, but please permit me to offer these words about the news that has dominated global headlines over the past few days and has taken the coronavirus from the headlines.
In the midst of the global fight against COVID-19, the world has been reminded of an enemy that seems harder to defeat and a battle that has been waged over centuries. Systemic and institutionalized racism is a stain on modern society. We profess greatness as a generation when we celebrate conquering space or seeing leaders of colour in positions of authority. Both, however, ring hollow when neither accomplishment has succeeded in tearing down the system that makes what happened in Minneapolis a week ago possible in 2020.
A black man was murdered by a police officer in the United States. Far from being a surprise, it is the imagery that has provoked international outrage.
George Floyd lost his life to this system and his is only one name that we know. There are countless others in that country and many others who suffer similar fates daily. Black and brown people are under siege every day by a system designed to ensure that they start with a presumption of guilt and spend the rest of their lives trying, often in vain, to be respected.
Here at home, our unity has kept us focused and in an excellent position to be an example to the world of how to deal with COVID-19 and yet there remains an undercurrent of racial tension that comes to the fore the moment we assert the rights of our people in their own land.
How can we pretend to be outraged by systemic racism everywhere else except here at home? Our future depends on our ability to confront and deal with our past.
We must never forget or diminish the people who live amongst us who have experienced firsthand discriminatory laws, policies and practices stating where they should go, where they could live, what they could own, or what they could do and what they could aspire to achieve.
Too often Bermudians have been told in their own country, ‘we can’t address race right now, our clients don’t feel comfortable talking about it.’ ‘We can’t mandate our membership dismantle racism in their organizations. We can only guide them.’
Then we hear statements like, ‘Oh, we can’t address racism right now, we have to leave that for our children so they can fix it in twenty or thirty years.’
Addressing the issue of systemic and institutionalized racism is holding us back from reaching our full potential. It is causing capable, qualified Bermudians to be excluded from opportunities in their own country. Time and time again, research shows that when you have a diverse workforce, profits and profitability increases.
As a father of two young children, I always think about how this is going to impact them. And the conversations in my household this week, with a wife who is American, reminded us of the dangers of which persons of colour continue to face. From Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Sarah Reed to D-Andre Campbell and yes, George Floyd.
I think, in 10, 20, or 30 years, that could be my child. They could be doing nothing wrong and yet they could still die by state-sponsored murder.
My Bermudian family, it is important to remember this is not just an American issue. This is a global issue. And, that’s why you’re seeing protests all around the world.
We must also not forget our recent history. 2 December 2016, still weighs heavily on my heart and my soul. I need not remind people of the story, because the images are forever imprinted in our collective consciousness as a people.
As many of you know, but some might not – by order of our Constitution, the Government of Bermuda does not have operational control over the Bermuda Police Service. That power is vested in the Governor as Bermuda still is a colony of the United Kingdom. However, this government has taken several steps to build a more equitable society. Bermuda’s Attorney-General, the Hon. Kathy-Lynn Simmons will be doing a Facebook live discussion this weekend to expound on some of those initiatives which have already been approved by the Cabinet, and also to give her thoughts on legal reform in Bermuda.
It is ironic that on a weekend when the world has been forced to confront these complex and challenging issues, we lost one of Bermuda’s greatest advocates for confronting racism; Dr. Eva Hodgson. She believed and taught that Bermuda’s cultural affinity towards sweeping the issue of race under the carpet was unhealthy and creating a festering cancer, rotting away at the core of our island.
She believed that if we did not confront the issue of race, we would never be able to overcome the inherent destructiveness of racism and discrimination and she fought tirelessly to get us all to understand that racism doesn’t go away if you just don’t talk about it. She pushed and challenged all of us to do better on race in spite of the abuse, discrimination and disrespect she was subjected to over the years.
Dr. Hodgson reminded us that most people don’t want to talk about race, but, that we must talk about race. We must know our history and know that there is pain and hurt in that history and there was a struggle that got us to where we are today.
Dr. Eva Hodgson is the very embodiment of a freedom fighter, and as we mourn her passing, we must commit to seeing her work continue. No more second-class citizens; only first class men and women.
Now I will ask the Minister of Health to give an update to the country on the latest with the novel coronavirus – and the new health indicators that the Government of Bermuda will be publishing today. Minister.
MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT
Between Sunday and today there were 335 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and one was positive for COVID-19.
Bermuda has 141 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
- there are now 20 active cases, of which
- 12 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
- 8 persons are hospitalized
- There are currently no COVID-19 cases in critical care
- a total of 112 have now recovered, and
- the total deceased remains 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.
The average age of persons hospitalized is 78 and their age ranges from 66 to 91 years.
The average age of all deceased cases is 74 and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
In terms of the race breakdown: 57% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 4% are other or unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 41 are Imported
- 84 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 11 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- 5 are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is 0.60.
Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of our reopening indicators. These indicators will inform the public and the Government on how we are doing as a country towards our gradual reopening, and whether it is safe to move to the next phase.
The indicators include both outcome measures such as the number of daily cases and hospitalizations, but also, importantly and in alignment with WHO standards, they include preventive behaviours by the public and health system capacity to manage an outbreak. They will be reported with an easy to read traffic-light system to inform the community how we are doing.
The indicators comprise 11 individual measures which are grouped into 4 categories, as follows:
- Preventive behaviours are about wearing a face mask, practicing good physical distancing and the adoption of technology. We are using HealthIQ to inform these behavioural metrics.
- Capacity is about the country’s testing capacity and critical PPE supplies. This is critical to assess our readiness to manage COVID.
- Transmission is about our WHO country classification, the proportion of cases linked to known clusters, our reproduction rate and the number of daily new cases; and lastly
- Hospitalization reports on the number of hospitalized cases and those in critical care.
The reopening indicators will be updated once or twice a week and the enable all of us to participate in our state of readiness for the next phase.
The holiday weekend resulted in more socializing and congregation than we have had in months, and I’m pleased that overall Bermuda was on her best behavior. Of course, there were some incidents that attracted complaints and enforcement was appropriately deployed. The situations were dealt with swiftly by Police and Regiment. But overall, most people are following the rules and simply seeking more clarity about what can and can’t be done.
I have to reiterate that the importance of physical distancing and wearing a mask are fundamental. This is the new normal. Life will not be the same for quite a long time, so let’s embrace it and help each other stay accountable.
Bermuda can take great pride in the way the majority of residents have embraced responsible actions that make us safer as a community and have kept COVID-19 spread down. These actions have saved lives.
Remember to avoid the three ‘Cs’:
- Closed places with poor ventilation
- Crowded places with many people nearby, and
- Close-contact settings such as close range conversations
Try to stay six feet apart from others. And if you must be within a six-feet range, always wear a mask and avoid getting any closer than three feet
Your mask should be worn in any closed space, like a store, a bus or taxi. And it should cover your nose and mouth fully. Evidence around the world has shown that countries where mask-wearing is consistent, have fared better with COVID-19.
Remember that it only takes one infected person to cause an outbreak… and an outbreak can put vulnerable persons at greatest risk.
Wearing a face mask in public places, and keeping six feet apart from others will keep us all safe, but most of all, the persons in our community who are most vulnerable.
I also want to remind the public about the current directives for the retail industry regarding deliveries…
A person making a delivery should telephone ahead to ensure that the delivery can be received.
A person making a delivery to a private residence should leave the goods outside the customer’s door and telephone or otherwise inform the customer that the delivery has been made.
Where it’s necessary for a delivery person to enter a private residence, this can only occur if there is not ongoing isolation or quarantine there. In those cases no entry is allowed.
When entry is permissible, strict precautions are to be followed. These include questioning the residents to ensure that no one on the property is showing any symptoms of COVID-19 and strict physical distancing and mask-wearing by residents and delivery persons.
A person making a delivery shall not require a customer to sign for receipt of a delivery and every effort should be taken to reduce the time spent within the residence.
A person making a delivery must comply with all further directions of the Minister of Health regarding cleaning, sanitization, use of personal protective equipment and other precautions to be taken before, during and after deliveries, as published on the website coronavirus.gov.bm.
If a person making deliveries does not comply with these requirements, the Minister of National Security may order that person to stop making deliveries.
More generally, I would like to remind the public that there is abundant guidance on the website, which is extremely helpful. We get a lot of queries about what can and cannot be done; what is open and what isn’t. I invite everyone to refer to the Closures Schedule online, which details exactly what is open, what the general rules are for each setting, and the things we can’t do yet. Go to coronavirus.gov.bm on the “Resources” tab under ‘Guidance’.
I also want to remind everyone of the importance of testing, particularly for front-line persons who have a lot of interaction with the public such as beauticians, hospitality and retail. Please take advantage of the testing opportunities. There are openings to book at the Southside drive-through on Thursday 10am to 7pm; and on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1pm. Ge tested.
Finally, I want to add a quick closing note regarding the use of masks by children. I have heard of situations recently where some well-meaning parents have put masks on very young babies. Please don’t do this; it is dangerous. Children under 2 should not wear masks.
Children aged 2 to 10 should only wear masks for brief periods of time; such as when at the grocery store or other retail stores. Masks are not to be used by children aged 2 to 10 for prolonged periods of time, such as in daycare or school settings. Children in this age group are prone to fiddling with their masks and not removing or wearing them correctly; which can actually unwittingly spread the virus.
Nevertheless, for older children and adults, we all need to get accustomed to the new normal and wear our face masks any time we are out in public, particularly in places where congregation occurs and in enclosed spaces. It’s a simple rule: if you are interacting with anyone who is not in your household and you are within six feet of each other, wear your mask.
Thank You, Bermuda, and stay safe.
Thank you Minister.
Bermuda has emerged from a three day holiday weekend starting with an online Bermuda Day virtual parade and the showing of past parades on CITV, a celebration of our heritage, our culture and all things Bermudian.
I am truly grateful to the Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports for all they did to ensure that this important holiday was celebrated in spite of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet as many of us celebrated Bermuda Day, safely and calmly, unfortunately there were others who did not. The Minister of National Security will provide an update on the incidents over the weekend and on the work being conducted by the Ministry of National Security as they continue to make sure that the rules are enforced during this pandemic.
MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT
I wish to start by extending congratulations on behalf of the Ministry of National Security to Major Ben Beasley, who was officially appointed as Lt. Col. and Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment today.
Due to the current circumstances and our risk mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Change of Command ceremony was marked slightly differently at a special ceremony at Government House late this afternoon.
As Minister, I’ve been extremely impressed with Major Beasley’s guidance of our young men and women in the RBR. Under his leadership, particularly throughout this pandemic, Major Beasley has demonstrated the utmost integrity and professionalism. This should come as no surprise to those who know him and to those who serve alongside him. Major Beasley’s history of service has led him from the Scouts, to Outward Bound, to the Bermuda Police Reserves.
He served admirably in the Royal Air Force, and returned to Bermuda to take up his post in the Royal Bermuda Regiment, where he has served for much of the last decade – first as Adjutant, and then as Training Officer and then as Second-in-Command.
During the last year, through hurricanes and other events of national importance, including this pandemic, Major Beasley has commanded the RBR with focused determination.
And our country and our Government thanks him for his service. The RBR continues to prove its extreme value to Bermuda, demonstrating that it is prepared and ready for any eventuality on both land and sea. All of Bermuda should be proud of our soldiers and the service they provide.
Turning to the activities over the holiday weekend, the combined resources of the Bermuda Police Service and the RBR ensured a visible presence island-wide.
Their enforcement activities included managing vehicle checkpoints and overseeing a busy weekend of recreational beach, boating and park activity.
Although the community has been generally compliant with the guidelines and regulations during Phase 2, regrettably, we did see some instances of anti-social behaviour over the holiday weekend. While the Coast Guard maintained a robust presence on the water, yesterday proved to be the busiest day with raft-ups and physical distancing still being a huge problem.
Twelve (12) citations were issued for maritime traffic violations and 16 summons were issued for breaching the COVID-19 regulations. Regarding the curfew period, which continues to be in effect, 1,077 stops were made over the weekend.
There were over 200 visits made to public spaces over the weekend. Clearwater Beach and Coopers Island were the busiest areas – with close to 500 people at these locations during the peak period. Horseshoe Bay followed by Warwick Long Bay were also quite active.
We also had serious instances of anti-social behavior at a couple of locations, which needed Police intervention. The Parks Department’s Rangers were also on duty over the weekend and alerted the RBR and Police to a party that took place late into the evening hours at Daniel’s Head Beach Park.
Switching to the Shelter in Place accommodation at CedarBridge Academy – the Shelter is open from 7:30 pm until 8:30 am. This will continue to be a safe place for vulnerable residents as long as there is a curfew in place. We are thankful to the many volunteers who have given of themselves over the last few months.
We understand that as the island slowly reopens, most of the current volunteers will be returning to their regular jobs. Therefore, at this time we are reaching out for volunteers to assist with all aspects of the Shelter which operates overnight and 24-hours on days with inclement weather. The number to call if you are interested in volunteering is 705-9013.
Thank you Minister of National Security. Thank you to you and your ministry for their continued work, energy and effort.
There was one correction to the statement from the Minister of Health that she’s asked me to clarify for every person. Inside of her remarks she had indicated that 89 persons had recovered. Today, actually the number is 112 persons to date have recovered so that number is not 89. That number is 112 out of the 141 cases have fully recovered.
As we move through this phased reopening of Bermuda and as more and more of our people are able to safely return to work, the need for safe, reliable public transportation becomes more critical.
I am grateful to the Ministry of Tourism and Transport and the workers at the Department of Public Transportation for helping to get us to a place where our buses and ferries are operating while using physical distancing and providing our people with the means to get to and from work. Now we will have an update from the Minister of Tourism & Transport on public transportation and other matters.
MINISTER OF TOURISM AND TRANSPORT STATEMENT
(To Be Added)
Thank you Minister DeSilva.
Despite all we have faced, Bermuda is moving steadily and safely towards enabling more and more of our people to get back to work safely so that they can provide for their families.
We continue to test extensively, monitor our progress against any type of community spread and continue to be vigilant, prepared for the worst, while working hard to ensure the worst does not happen.
As I said in the House of Assembly the last that we met, I as Premier, am not willing to write off this year’s tourism season like many persons have. My aim is that Bermuda will carefully reopen its borders and welcome tourists to our shores this summer. We are increasing our testing capacity, we have invested in technology, and we will have the means to safely reopen the airport and allow visitors to come to our shores, secure in the knowledge that we can manage this virus and continue to protect our community. This is essential as there are many in Bermuda who depend on tourism for their livelihoods.
When we do reopen, Bermuda will be a changed place, our economy will be weaker, some jobs in tourism will be lost, perhaps forever, and some more businesses will close their doors. As businesses close, others will open to meet the demands of the new and transformed economy. Each of us will have to be adaptable and ready to cooperate and compete in the new economic environment.
As reported by Minister Caines last week, a number of work permit holders will be returning home. This is an opportunity for Bermudians to step forward and fill those jobs, even if it means changing careers, or using that job as a stepping stone to getting back into your field of choice to provide for your families. The more Bermudians we have working, the more Bermudians we have providing for their families, the better it will be for the entire country.
As has been said, we are all in this together and collectively we will only survive, recover and return to prosperity, if the community remains flexible, nimble and perhaps most importantly, compassionate towards each other.
Right now we are collectively building a new future and each of us has a role to play in shaping that future together.
I have been overjoyed with the amount of persons who continue to send in the ideas on forum.gov.bm. I remain pleased that people will share their ideas with us. And please know that when I say that the government is rebuilding together, the ideas are coming from all the people in this country, and there is no idea that we will not consider. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media, may have.
We are in this together and we will only survive, recover and return to prosperity if we remain flexible, nimble and perhaps most importantly, compassionate towards each other. Right now we are collectively building a new future – and each of us has a role to play in shaping that future – together.
Bermuda Broadcasting Company Questions
Question: Last week Government proposed mandatory waiving of social Insurance and pension contributions to June 2021 and said persons could make voluntary contributions if they wished. When is this supposed to start and how will voluntary contributions be handled? Ie Will the employee have to contact Social insurance department and/or their insurance company to make payments, or will the employer be able to make the deductions and forward them on behalf of the employee?
Answer: To provide further support to employers and employees during this unprecedented period it is proposed to amend the Contributory Pension Act 1970 to allow for a suspension of employee and employer contributions into the Contributory Pension Fund, for period from 1July, 2020 to 30 June, 2021.
This is a temporary measure that will provide temporary relief to employers and provide additional income to employees. Additional income to employees provides stimulus for our economy. This measure is voluntary and employers and employees can still contribute to their funds if they wish.