Bermuda Government COVID-19 June 29th Update
Good afternoon Bermuda.
Today I am joined by the Minister of Health Kim Wilson who will give an update from her Ministry. The Minister of National Security, Min. Wayne Caines, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball and Mr. David Kendell, Director of the Department of Health are all available to answer questions from the media.
Before I begin my substantial remarks, I would like to express condolences from the Government of Bermuda, to the family who lost their loved one on the water this weekend. It’s certainly tragic to lose a life so young, but it is a reminder to all of us that we must make sure that we are taking extra precautions when we are out on the water, as it can be dangerous.
As we head towards sending more of our people back to work and restoring economic opportunities and jobs in the tourism economy, we understand the concerns that many have expressed about the risk that opening our borders may pose.
Like you, we have seen the examples of countries who have not successfully managed the reopening of their economies like Bermuda has been able to do, and are also concerned about potential risks to our loved ones and our community. We have been able to address those concerns through one of the most stringent screening and monitoring processes that will be in place.
It is important to note that this entire process is a change from what normally happens when a visitor comes to Bermuda. Before, they just booked the flight, showed up at the airport with their passports, and boarded the plane.
We have all been affected, or know someone who’s been affected by showing up the airport, and they did not have their ESTA for the US, or their ETA for Canada. Tomorrow at 11am Bermuda will launch its own electronic Travel Authorization form for all travelers to Bermuda, and the Minister of Health will certainly expand on that when she speaks. But, it’s important to note that:
- A traveler intending to come to Bermuda must complete a Traveler Authorization Form.
- That form will be vetted and based upon the answers provided the Bermuda Government will indicate whether or not the traveler is cleared to come to Bermuda.
- A traveler that does not have the clearance will not be boarded and will therefore not come to Bermuda.
- All visitors coming to Bermuda will be required to be tested when they arrive on day 3, on day 7, and on day 14 of their stay. The number of tests required obviously depends on the length of stay.
- We will ensure all Customs Officers, airport workers and officials will have on appropriate PPE and there will be physical distancing measures in place including physical barriers.
- At any point in time any visitor tests positive, they will be fitted with a quarantine monitoring bracelet and will be required to isolate in their room. If they attempt to leave their room, the monitoring device will alert the authorities who will take the necessary steps to protect our community.
With these measures in place, we are confident we can detect early, detect quickly, and contain any positive COVID cases and prevent the spread of this disease in our community.
Let me be clear. There is risk involved. While thousands of Bermudians successfully returned to work, there are thousands more reliant on our tourism economy and want to work, but haven’t been able to do so. While the safety net created by the government through the unemployment benefit, has been extended, the ongoing costs to the public purse is large.
I however, cannot stress enough, this is not about putting profits or the economy over public health. It is about making sure that people in this country do not go hungry, and they have the opportunity to safely get back to work, to provide for their families. I am confident that Bermuda can serve as an example to the world on how to manage this virus, and how to be successful, while allowing persons into your country safely with the right protections in place.
A series of videos will be released this week, as well as a social media and radio campaign further explaining the strong protective measures in place, and how Bermuda’s testing regime and protective measures are some of the strongest in the world.
Now, we’ll hear from the Minister of Health, who will update about the latest test results and also give the expanded version of the traveler entry process and the electronic travel authorization.
THE MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT
Between Sunday and today there were 378 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.
Bermuda has 146 total confirmed positive cases. As of today we have only two actives case in Bermuda, of which one is currently hospitalized but not in critical care.
- A total of 135 have recovered, and
- the total deceased remains 9.
The news of only two active cases remaining is wonderful news for the country. We can all be very proud of this achievement, as we are on the cusp of being a COVID-free nation.
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, 57% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 3% are other or unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 42 are Imported
- 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 15 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- 4 are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status is “Local Transmission – Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is below 1.
At Thursday’s press conference, I detailed the process that incoming travellers – residents and visitors –will be required take when entering Bermuda as of July 1st, and in the subsequent days after their arrival. All of this information can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm along with a detailed FAQ document.
Today I want to talk specifically about the Travel Authorization application, which is similar to the process that one would have to go through to apply for an ESTA when entering the United States, for example.
I want to be clear that both visitors and residents entering Bermuda from abroad must apply for this Travel Authorization prior to travel, which will be available on the government website coronavirus.gov.bm (travel page) from tomorrow. There will be an online application form for returning residents and arriving visitors.
This Travel Authorization helps us ensure that our strict testing regime and health protocols are adhered to by travelers, in order to keep our island safe.
The application will require travelers to confirm that they have negative COVID test results, and to answer questions about their health like whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms .
A one-time fee of $75 is required when applying for the Travel Authorization and includes all COVID-19 tests required within the stipulated 14 day period.
In order to enter Bermuda, visitors will be asked to confirm that they are travelling with health insurance that covers illness and injury outside of their home jurisdiction, including those related to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis while in Bermuda. If they are not travelling with insurance, they must tick the box that states that they understand they will be responsible for the all health and accommodation costs should they require treatment and/or quarantine, whether related to COVID-19 or otherwise.
Once a traveller completes the online form, they will receive an email advising whether it has been approved. If approved, the Travel Authorization must be shown at the departure gate; either a printed version or directly from your mobile device. Travellers will not be permitted to board without proof of their Travel Authorization.
The Travel Authorization is only needed when coming into Bermuda. It is not required when leaving. Persons travelling outbound to other countries should research what is required of them by the jurisdiction they are going to; the Government of Bermuda has no control over what other countries require for entry and/or free movement around their country.
In closing, I want to urge residents to please…not let your guard down when you are out and about.
Please continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.
We are each responsible for our own health as well as the health of our community.
…And with more freedom, comes more responsibility.
Thank you Minister of Health, and that’s certainly good news that we’ve gone ten days without any new cases, and we’re down to only two active cases.
As most would be aware, the state of emergency, that has been in place for Bermuda, since the 1 April, comes to an end tomorrow. Phase 4 of our reopening plan starts on 1 July. One of the changes to Phase 4, and the announcement which was made by Colonel Burch will be that, following a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on the reopening of Bermuda today, and following reports that came back to the Cabinet Committee from Bermuda’s grocers, the Cabinet Committee advised that grocery shopping days will end with a start of Phase 4 on 1 July. So, come Wednesday, persons will be permitted under law to attend grocery stores on any given day.
The question is, why did this change take so long? The fact that we wanted to ensure that where we had the number of discount days which we had asked for from the major grocers to be on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we wanted to see if the grocers would extend those discounts days. Unfortunately, all but one grocer did not take up the offer to extend those discount days. So, tonight I want to give a special thanks to the Lindo’s Group of Companies, who has said that they will continue in the interest of our community. The discount days will be on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays at the Lindo’s stores, through the Cup Match holiday.
And they wanted to say that in doing so, customers may shop at Lindo’s during those days, and receive their discounts. They will look to go to their normal scheduled discounts for Tuesdays for seniors and Wednesdays for everyone else, after the Cup Match holiday. I want to say thank you to Lindo’s stores for working with the Government of Bermuda to try to make sure to reduce congestion, by providing discount days on multiple days.
The necessity to safely reopen the airport and restart our tourism season was underscored by an email I received earlier today. The sender asked me to issue another plea to landlords to be lenient with tenants who, through no fault of their own, have been out of work since the start of the pandemic and unable to pay their rent.
I am encouraging landlords to assist tenants experiencing financial hardship as a result of this pandemic. We ask that landlords consider realistically assessing their own financial situation, and obligations as to how you may be able to assist your tenant. Making sure that you speak with each tenant individually, if you’re renting to more than one tenant, to assess each tenant’s situation on a case by case basis.
Make sure that you’re taking into account the current ability of a tenant to pay and the history of the tenant’s payment record. Landlords are also requested to have compassion for tenants.
We encourage tenants who have the ability to pay their rent to do so in accordance with their current rental agreements If it comes time to go before the courts, and it is shown that you have had income and were able to pay your rent, then I’m quite certain that the courts will look at your situation in a less favorable perspective.
Changes to a lease must be documented and acknowledged by both parties on the agreement reached, including whether any reduction in rent is temporary, or if the rent reduction is to be deferred to a later time, when the tenant may have more of an ability to pay. In addition, any agreement reached to amend payment terms should be reviewed on a monthly basis, valid for up to 90 days.
Of course, the government website coronavirus.gov.bm has a COVID-19 rent relief form, which is there, which can assist landlords and tenants in working through these issues. This government recognizes that there are difficulties for tenants to pay their rent, whether they are at a residential or commercial property, and I want to say that this is the time for all of us in Bermuda to be understanding, supportive, and compassionate, where we are able to do so.
Another matter, regarding Phase 4 is an issue that a lot of persons have questioned – why the curfew has been kept in place. While we are consistently monitoring the situation, and having discussed this, it was determined that with reopening of bars and nightclubs at the commencement of Phase 4, it would possibly be dangerous to open up not only bars and nightclubs, but to remove the curfew at the same time.
No one has to look further than the United States of America, which has seen cases and instances where the rise and spread of the virus has been tied to bars being open and we’ve seen a number of states start to roll back those restrictions. So we’ve always done these things in a phased approach, the phased approach has worked very well for Bermuda, and we want to continue this phased approach. So, we will see how it works for one week, and as was said on Thursday, the curfew will be reviewed on a weekly basis.
It is also important that I remind everyone that wearing your mask is essential. I’ve been given multiple versions of conspiracy theories that have been shared with my by persons on social media or WhatsApp. I’ve read the cases of people around the world who are refusing to wear masks.
Bermuda, very simple, this is not the time to play around with this situation! We wear masks to contain the spread of virus through droplets when we talk, cough or sneeze. It is specifically intended to protect the people around us. We have to understand that persons can be asymptomatic spreaders; that means they don’t have a fever, they have no symptoms. However, they may be spreading the virus unknowingly. That is the reason why, especially in cases and instances where social distancing cannot be maintained, persons are required to wear masks.
I wear a mask to protect you. And you were a mask protect me. Beyond the containment measures we placed in the border during the initial stages of this pandemic, it has been the public, embracing and adhering to the wearing of mass and frequent hand washing or hand sanitizing that has kept our communities safe, and our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. It is certainly not the time to slip out of the good habits that we as a country have established. We want to go to a place where we will have a long stretch of time where we do not have cases, where we can even remove more and more restrictions. That is important. Recognize that we are down to just two active cases.
Our collective discipline and collective management of this pandemic has been better than demonstrated in larger jurisdictions. We cannot and will not allow behaviour that jeopardizes the health and safety of the community to occur. I also remind the public that violations of these rules that are designed to keep our community safe, can always be reported by calling 211.
Before I close and take questions for the media tonight, I would like to share with some persons a note of congratulations, as on Saturday, the Minister for Community Affairs and Sports, the Hon. Lovitta Foggo and I had the opportunity to participate in a drive through celebration of the Trophy Presentation to the BFA League Champions. I want to recognize them this evening.
- Premier Division Champs North Village Community Club
- First Division Co-Champs Devonshire Colts and St. George’s Colts
- U13 Champions – Next Generation Onions
- U15 Champions – Warwick Archer Bows
- U17 Champions – PHC
I congratulate all of you on your successes and like many Bermudians around the island, I look forward to the days when we can all go back to safely enjoying watching a good football game by our island’s top athletes.
With that, I want to remind everyone that Phase 4 comes into place, on Wednesday, and that is not a reason to let our guard down. That is a reason to make sure that we maintain our vigilance. The first flight is expected arrive on island on Thursday, and there will be plenty of protection in place at our airport to ensure that we keep our country safe. Recognize, we have had a good record of keeping the country safe during this pandemic and we have every intention of maintaining that good record, as we continue to work together.
With that, I’m happy to take any questions from members of the media.