Today, people around the world are observing International Worker’s Day, also known as Labour Day or May Day in other jurisdictions. Though in Bermuda we celebrate Labour later in the year, I want to acknowledge the workers of Bermuda and the global struggle for better work conditions, better wages, and better lives for all. I commend our Island’s unions and their members for the contributions you have made over the years, and the contribution you continue to make for the betterment of our community.
From the start of this national health crisis, we have sought to be as bipartisan and inclusive as possible, as we believe that not only do many hands make light work, but many minds, working together on our collective problem is likely to produce better outcomes for all. COVID-19 does not care if or how you vote and at this time, neither should we. In perhaps what is a first in modern Bermuda history, I am joined at an official Government press conference by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Craig Cannonier who will be addressing you as well as the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education. The Minister of National Security, without his dog this afternoon, is also here to answer any questions you may have regarding the enforcement of our rules in phase one.
First, I would like the Minister of Health to provide an update on COVID-19 cases in Bermuda and the work being carried out by the Ministry of Health.
The Minister of Health’s Statement
Today there were 207 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.
Bermuda continues to have 114 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
- there are 60 active cases, of which
- 44 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
- 16 persons are hospitalized
- a total of 48 have now recovered, and
- the total deceased is now 6.
I realize some members of the media have a great appetite for intimate details about patients, including how many are on ICU and on ventilators. These are small numbers of people who can easily become identifiable in our small community, so I ask you: if it were your loved one, would you want their information discussed in the press? Probably not. I know I would not want it for myself. So, while I can tell you that there are 4 COVID patients on ICU currently, this is not a figure we will report routinely out of respect for those 4 patients and their families. I ask that you to refrain from seeking further details on such small numbers of identifiable people.
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 95 years. The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 57 and 91 years, and the average age is 76.
Just under 2,800 (2,791) people have now been tested for COVID-19. This represents 4% of our population and it is an excellent rate compared to the region overall, placing us among the top 10% in the world. Aggressive testing will continue next week, prioritizing physician referrals, contacts, nursing homes and essential workers including public officers. The drive-through will operate daily from 2pm to 7pm.
As I have mentioned before, the island’s increased testing capability means not only that more people can be tested, but also that we can retest people who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure that they no longer carry the virus.
I am sure many of us are eagerly awaiting the lifting of sheltering in place tomorrow. But, please, as the Premier and I have already said, this does not mean that everything goes back to normal ….we are not out of the woods yet…and testing does not make us safe!
I’m increasingly worried that I hear people of all ages – young and older – are already planning parties and gatherings. Please don’t. People still need to avoid moving about and congregating with different households as much as possible. The fact that we have more freedom of movement now, does not mean that we can move freely as if COVID-19 did not exist.
COVID-19 is still with us and will be for the foreseeable future. So avoid gatherings, avoid mixing households, and avoid moving around unnecessarily.
The more we move around, the more we expose ourselves and others. The more people we have contact with, the more risk of contracting COVID or transmitting it to others.
So do not see the end of Shelter in Place as a green light to party. It is merely an amber light to proceed with caution… physically distant, masked and in small groups.
It’s probably worth noting that we are shifting our language from ‘social distance’ to ‘physical distance’. This is to emphasize the protective measure that staying six feet or two meters apart offers in preventing COVID spread. Likewise, wearing a face mask and minimizing congregating and movement serve to create physical distance between people to prevent transmission.
The point is to be physically separated, not socially isolated. This is important as we move through our gradual phases of re-opening and transitioning to a new normal.
The Premier has already outlined the precise stipulations of how we will proceed in Phase 1 of the reopening…and hopefully everyone has had time to absorb that information and will abide by the restrictions. How will we know if you aren’t? Among other things, we would see a rise in hospital admissions for the virus or signs of community transmission, which the island has avoided so far. If this happens we would have to start looking at suppression measures, including recommending a return to shelter in place to bring COVID under control once again.
As we start to remove our movement limitations, I would like to remind the public that it is Vaccination Week in the Americas.
Unfortunately, we do not yet have an effective vaccine for COVID-19 and, until a vaccine for COVID19 is available, immunizations can and must be delivered by our health services alongside the response to COVID-19. Here’s why:
First, we must vaccinate to protect our health workers, the elderly and vulnerable populations from other respiratory infections, such as influenza and pneumococcus, which can lead to more hospitalizations and may be harder to diagnose in the context of COVID-19.
Second, if we fall behind on routine immunizations, particularly for children, we risk outbreaks, thus overwhelming hospitals and clinics with preventable diseases in addition to COVID-19.
The impact on our health systems would take months or even years to reverse. Remember, ICU capacity is among the factors that would determine if our hospital could cope if COVID-19 cases were to increase sharply.
COVID-19 is putting our health systems to the test. Going forward, the challenge is to ensure that our health systems deliver on our priority health programs, even while responding to COVID-19… which is why we also want to continue to encourage persons with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) – such as diabetes, hypertension and COPD – to manage their conditions as much as they can so they do not end up in the emergency room.
In addition to physical distancing to prevent COVID, technology is going to be a big part of how stay informed and monitor our health. In this vein, I’m pleased to highlight the Bermuda Health Council’s establishment of an online health monitoring tool called HealthIQ.
The Health Council worked with young local talent, Gabriel Jones who is an 18 year old Saltus student, and a seasoned software engineer, Lee McArthur, to launch HealthIQ which will help us, as a community, to track symptoms based on COVID criteria. It will also provide users with individualized information and follow-up by professionals based on various risk factors (such as being medically vulnerable), and track trends and gaps so that we can better identify places where partners like donors and the Third Sector can focus resources.
This data is very important as we plan for and transition from Phase I, to Phase II, Phase III, and Phase IV. This data will make sure we are informed so that we do not skip vital steps in our recovery and are not forced to start back from square one.
By having this critical data, the Health Council will be able to support the Ministry’s Incident Command Team and the contact tracers in their work to identify and contact persons if they are feeling unwell and provide support and advice on what to do.
HealthIQ will also provide the island with more insight into where potential cases of COVID-19 may be and give us a proactive way to address them… giving us tens of thousands of eyes so that we can all stay safe. As we have seen in other countries such as South Korea, the more information known about the community, the better decisions the population can make about their movement and the public health measures they must adopt.
We are asking that each household go to healthiq.bm and enter your information immediately and update it often. This is especially important as we all start to head out of our homes more. We need all 64,000 represented in this data so all of our 64,000 can move forward. Give yourself and your community a better understanding of how we’re all doing.
As I wrap up, I would like to remind all food businesses that are opening tomorrow that they must ensure that the premises are fully cleaned and pest-free before opening. A guidance note in this regard can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm.
In closing, I would like to remind you to continue with physical distancing (keep six feet between you and others), wear a mask in public places, practice respiratory hygiene, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for no less than 20 seconds.
Thank you very much, Minister of Health. I think that it is refreshing to note that as you said in your comments that Bermuda as a percentage of population tested is now in the top 10% of the world. That is a massive accomplishment over the last weeks where we’ve been able to ramp up our testing capacity, and I am grateful for the efforts of all persons who have been involved in that particular effort.
As Minister of Health ended on the technology solutions that are going to be launched to assist us in our battle with COVID-19, I do want to expand a little bit on those particular matters as some of these also live with myself as Minister responsible for technology for the Government of Bermuda.
I just want persons to know that we are evaluating a wide array of options, and our goal is to leverage technology as a tool to assist in reopening our economy as quickly as possible, while minimizing the risk of the spread of this virus. Managing this is certainly something that is complex, and we need to make sure that we can use technology to effectively: understand and evaluate trends of symptoms that could indicate a further spread; understand the movement flows and congregation of people as an aggregated group, not as individuals to better understand the risks; to continue to aggressively test our essential workers; and to make sure that when, in any case that there’s a positive case, we can assist persons in identifying their contacts, so that we can isolate those cases and ensure that those persons can also be tested.
What is most important from a technology perspective, is the anonymous interactions that we are exploring potential community technology solutions to address and where cell phone based apps can help. But, they also require a large segment of the population using them to be effective. Therefore, it is essential that we focus driving that level of confidence in any choice that the Government makes going forward. Any solution must put privacy first. If not, it will not be successful.
Beyond that, we are looking for solutions that are cost effective, have active development communities, have a limited requirement for technical resources, and are compatible across all jurisdictions, as we look to eventually open our borders. While some countries like Singapore and Australia have rushed to launch apps, there are well-documented challenges. Others are waiting on Apple and Google, who have announced API’s that will allow for more efficient apps to be developed, which will put less burden on individual’s devices, and also encourage greater participation.
We are exploring a number of key areas to address these challenges and have actually completed some of them. First, is a self-centred reporting tool, being launched by the Bermuda Health Council, which the Minister of Health just addressed. Second, is the record-keeping solution to assist the efforts of the contact tracing team, which is the Go.Data platform, which the Minister of Health has also said has been brought live. Third, is a GPS location tracking app for essential services workers who interact with at-risk individuals to quickly recall where they went and who they interacted with, should they become affected. That is something that will be able to be piloted next week. And then finally, a Bluetooth contact tracing solution to better manage anonymous interactions.
Here’s what’s important. It’s important that we recognize the difference between the two apps: the GPS apps can tell you where your phone is or was at a certain point in time, the Bluetooth apps can tell you how close your phone is to another phone that may be running the same app.
These sorts of technology solutions are not magic fixes. They are tools that can be leveraged by our teams to better provide insights to support their particular efforts. We continue to explore and evaluate the possible solutions, so that we can fulfill our goal of opening our economy as quickly as possible while mitigating any risks, and certainly technology that can help us track and trace will be a key tool in that endeavour.
However, it is essential that persons in Bermuda understand that these solutions are being evaluated carefully. As we need your participation in order for this to be a success, we are not rushing to any solution and we’re only going to implement a solution that can be certain that can protect individuals’ privacies. We are working as quickly as possible on these particular solutions, and we’ll be pleased to update you in the future. Right now, the team consists of Dennis Pitcher who is the Chief FinTech Advisor, Martin Walsh who is working in the Information Development team inside of the Government, and we’re also working with overseas universities, and a place to look to pilot a particular application here in Bermuda. So that is the update for that.
Now I will say that before we go to the Minister of Education, as shelter in place ends tomorrow we will enter Phase one of the careful reopening of our economy. This is important to get our country moving again and getting some persons back to work. While schools will not be reopening at this phase in the process, we recognize that we cannot send our people fully back to work if our students are unable to return to school. Today, the Minister of Education will provide an update on Education and the work ahead. Minister.
The Minister of Education’s Statement
In our efforts to keep the general public informed and specifically our entire education family, this evening I am providing updates on both Department of Education and Bermuda College matters, for our students, educators, and parents and guardians.
Prior to the updates, let me say that today is Principal Appreciation Day! At this time I want to acknowledge and thank all of our educational leaders in both the private and public school systems for their commitment to the education of our children. Their leadership is applauded through this unprecedented time, and we say thank you!
I will begin with sharing brief updates for the Department of Education covering:
- Remote Learning
- Provision of Laptops
- Preparation for School Reopening
- Graduation Requirements
- Student Transcripts
On Wednesday this week the Hon Premier announced in his Press Statement that after the lifting of the Shelter in Place, all schools will remain closed. This means that next week our schools will continue with remote learning until the decision is made for schools to reopen. I applaud the trojan efforts of our principals, our teachers and staff as they deliver remote learning experiences to our students.
I have seen several videos and WhatsApp meesages that are being circulated and I must say that there are many amazing learning experiences happening for our students at all levels of the Education System. Using Zoom as the major technology tool, schools are holding weekly student assemblies and in some instances are students are leading out, morning meetings are held as well as circle times with students. Teachers are delivering lessons in real time. They are also sharing pre-recorded lessons and providing a variety of stimulating activities for all subject areas, including science experiments.
Students are receiving small group instruction; with Learning Support teachers and Reading teachers joining in sessions with their students during their class or individually scheduled time. Students are uploading videos, pictures and other evidence to confirm what they are learning and what they can do.
Students are also receiving services from educational therapists, para educators and school counsellors. I am pleased that some of our parents are engaged in conferences, MTSS Sessions, and some parents have participated in Zoom chat and chews. There are some principals who are teaching classes; and one principal has even launched a Youtube video for read aloud time with students.
As we close out the month of April, which was autism month, I commend the teachers in our pre, primary, middle and senior schools who deliver the Autism Programme for our students with autism. They too are using Zoom to provide interactive lessons and appropriate sensory activities for our students.
As parents adjust to the steady demands of remote learning, providing support is critical. I extend my gratitude to Mirrors who is assisting with coordinating donations for laptops for students; and with supporting parents through their Parent Connect Programme. Parents who are seeking support with navigating Zoom and the remote learning experience can use the Bermuda Public School System (BPSS) Family’s electronic feedback form to access the support. The link to the form will be sent to parents again next week.
Laptops for Teachers and Students
Last week the Department of Education’s IT team prepared laptops donated by PWC for distribution to some of our teachers. We are very much grateful to PWC for the donation of 90 laptops These were delivered this week to 59 teachers with the assistance of staff from the Ministry of Public Works. The delivery of the remaining laptops will continue next week.
I also extend my gratitude to the Bank of Bermuda Foundation for providing laptops to some of our students and teachers valued at rougholy $34,000. There were 21 students at The Berkeley Institute, and 10 students and 7 teachers at the Dellwood Middle School who have received Laptops.
Let me acknowledge CEO Mr. Frank Amaral of One Communications Ltd. Mr. Amaral contacted CedarBridge Academy to offer free WiFi hotspots for students without internet. These devices will enable students to participate in the school’s remote learning programme for the remainder of the online learning experience. One Communications Ltd. has provided over 60 devices for public schools, with CedarBridge Academy receiving 22 devices for senior school students. I thank Mr. Frank Amaral and One Communications Ltd. for their generous donation and support of students in the Bermuda Public School System.
Also, Bermuda-based Legal & General Reinsurance will be launching a ‘Lighthouse Connect’ fund to raise monies to purchase free laptops to public school students. Legal & General have already provided an initial contribution to the funds. The laptops will be procured in stages as funds are raised; and the distribution of laptops will then be managed by the Mirrors Programme in conjunction with the Department of Education. We thank the CEO of Legal & General Reinsurance, Mr. Thomas Olunloyo.
The generous donations from PWC, the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, One Communications Ltd. and, Legal & General Reinsurance will certainly strengthen the remote learning programme and ultimately benefit all of our students and teachers.
Preparing for School Reopening
Although there is no fixed date when our schools will reopen, there is still the need to be positioned and ready for effective delivery of classroom teaching and learning. Therefore, technical officers in the Department of Education led by the Commissioner of Education have had several planning meetings preparing for the reopening of schools. Department staff are working closely with Ministry of Health representatives who have provided extensive guidance and technical support on health and safety protocols that must be implemented when schools reopen. A draft plan of considerations for reopening schools was developed with components detailing the various protocols required. On Wednesday this week, we held a meeting with all three Union stakeholders (the BIU, BPSU and BUT). We were very pleased that the President of each Union participated. There was much exchange including comments, feedback on the draft plan and recommendations for improvement. The componenets of the draft plan was also shared with our school leaders at a meeting held yesterday. The information received will help in finalizing the school reopening plan.
We have received questions from our students and parents about graduation requirements and obtaining school transcripts for university, scholarships and awards applications.
At this time, I want to personally inform our S4 senior school students, our parents, and the educational community that I have agreed to the recommendations made to revise some of the requirements for our High School Diplomas, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. These changes will affect both the Bermuda School Diploma (BSD) and the Bermuda Alternative School Diploma (BASD); and, are applicable only for the June 2020 cohort.
Our senior school students transitioned to remote learning on March 19th as a result of the closure of schools. Additionally, the shelter in place impacted many students’ ability to complete all the requirements for graduation which included the required hours for community service, co-curricular hours, and work placement activities.
Therefore, I have agreed that the minimum requirement for community service, co-curricular activities, and work experience will be waived where normally applicable. All other graduation requirements will remain in place. That is, for both the Bermuda School Diploma (BSD) and the Bermuda Alternative School Diploma (BASD), students must still meet the minimum requirements for course credits, the grade point average (GPA), and school attendance.
The revisions to the diploma requirements apply only to those criteria impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. I am satisfied that the revisions are reasonable and will not compromise the academic standard or currency of each diploma. I thank our senior school Principals and staff for their collaborative efforts to facilitate remote learning for our students. I also wish our S4 students well in their efforts to meet the requirements for their respective graduation diploma.
Also, as our students prepare for after high school experiences, I want to ensure that they are clear about the process for securing transcripts.
Each senior school has a designated member of staff who is responsible for responding to requests for transcripts. As a first step, students are to email requests for transcripts to:
- Ms. Nicole Crockwell at The Berkeley Institute; and,
- Ms. Shampagne Cann at CedarBridge Academy.
Once the transcript verification process is completed for a student, staff members, at each of the respective schools will complete the transcript request form and submit it to the Department of Education. Once received by schools, transcript requests will be completed within 5 business days.
Former students of the Bermuda Public School System who require transcripts will need to complete the relevant form which can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website at www.moed.bm. Requests for transcripts from former students will be filled within 3 business days.
Before, moving on to the Bermuda College, I would like to provide a brief update on the Ministry of Education scholarships and awards offerings, to let applicants know that the deadline has been extended to Thursday May 7th. I know that many of you are operating under difficult circumstances, but I encourage those who are pursuing post-secondary education to find the time to complete their applications. Upon reviewing the number of applications received this morning, we noted that the number of applications submitted is lower than last year for all categories, with the exception of two. So, with the extended deadline, this gives time for applicants to still submit applications. Anyone with questions or concerns should email email@example.com assistance.
Thank you to those who completed our scholarship survey and shared how COVID-19 has impacted planned studies and/or your ability to complete scholarship applications. We received 108 survey responses which are currently being analyzed. The results will help us to better support applicants and our upcoming scholarships recipients.
I now turn to the Bermuda College updates as impacted by COVID-19.
On March 23rd, just after the first positive case of the virus was reported in Bermuda, the Bermuda College closed its campus and moved its classes online, while its employees began working remotely from home.
However, during the past 5 weeks, some of the creative and innovative activities that have been occurring include:
- Virtual science labs and field trips,
- Culinary arts students conducting labs in their own kitchens supported virtually by their instructors, and
- Zoom lectures, group discussions and musical performances.
Students in environmental studies even sponsored an online “Trashion Show” using completely recyclable materials. To continue unparalleled support of students, counselling services, academic advising, and tutoring have all continued virtually.
Let me extend my gratitude to the faculty and staff at Bermuda College who have ably risen to the challenges of reverting to an e-learning platform with little notice, and who have innovatively facilitated the success of student learning.
Unfortunately, like many of its overseas counterparts, Bermuda College has decided not to hold a Commencement ceremony this year as a result of COVID-19. They will be celebrating the Class of 2020 at a future date. However, the College will be putting a plan in place so that graduates can collect their certificates, diplomas and Associate degrees on May 28th 2020.
Summer School at the Bermuda College, that was due to start on May 18th, will now start on June 1st and all courses will be on line. The course schedule for the academic and professional development courses will be available on the College website, www.college.bm on May 5th. This is an opportune time to learn new skills, expand your resume, and develop your personal or professional worth. With its international accreditation, students from overseas institutions can also take summer courses to decrease their course load for the Fall term. We encourage students and adults alike to discover new course areas such as FinTech, data analysis, project management and managing remote teams, that are particularly pertinent during these times.
I am particularly pleased to note that the PACE Division will be offering the Certificate for Nursing Assistants programme online, which is both timely and relevant because of the critical and immediate need for healthcare professionals.
As a way of assisting the community during these unprecedented times, Bermuda College is also inviting the community to take advantage of its online training resource, Hoonuit (pronounced Who Knew It). There are a wide variety of tutorials available covering: software and technology, goal setting, time management, and teaching and instructional resources. This resource will be offered to the community at no charge from May 5th until September 1st. The registration form will be available on the Bermuda College website on May 5th.
Finally, Bermuda College is considering various options for the next academic year and will be making a decision about its Fall semester courses in early June. For further details on programmes and courses visit the Bermuda College website at www.college.bm.
As I close, I commend the Bermuda College students on their hard work in adapting to remote learning under these circumstances, and encourage them to continue their studies in the Summer and/or Fall. I want to also thank the Bermuda College employees for all that they have been doing, and are doing to ensure tertiary education continues during this pandemic.
Thank you very much, Minister of Education. As mentioned previously we are joined today by the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Craig Cannonier. During this period of national crisis, it’s important for the people of Bermuda, to know, feel, and understand that both sides of the political divide are working together for the good of the country. Following our meeting on Monday, I’ve invited the Opposition Leader to say some words to Bermuda. Opposition Leader.
The Opposition Leader’s Statement
Thank you very much premier and good evening Bermuda
I want to give great thanks for the opportunity that we have this evening to sit at the table in a bi-partisan approach to a virus that seeks to annihilate us. One of the things that I am clear about concerning this virus is it’s after our most precious resource, and that is you Bermuda. What I am clear about this virus is that it also seeks to destroy our economy. What is has clearly highlighted however, is our need for each other. And so again I thank the Premier again for this opportunity, because only together will we get through this as best we can.
My presence here this evening marks the Premier and my self’s commitment to seek every opportunity we can to seek to fight this virus. Clearly you have seen that we are in uncharted waters and so leadership many times will not be spared the scathing of criticism but what is clear is that we, as a people, must stick together to eradicate this very thing called COVID-19 that seeks to destroy each and everyone of us. So again I say thank you to the conversations, to our Premier, for the conversations that we have had; I would like to say thank you to the cabinet and the opportunities and agreeing that I could sit at the table to show you Bermuda that there is hope at the end of this tunnel that we can come together and fight this thing.
This COVID has caused us to question our politics, it has caused us to question our economy and it has caused us to question our priorities. And so as the Premier and myself continue to walk through and have discussions, we many not always agree, but what we have agreed to do is ensure that the line of communications is open and that we will do everything possible to create an environment of safety and to lessen the pain that we are going through.
I have had the opportunity and have spoken to the Premier about the fact that I am out on a daily basis delivering meals, and it is clear that this virus has pointed out that we have some challenges that we must face as a people. We have far too many people still hurting and together, I believe, that we will find the solutions to ensure that anytime that anyone is under threat that it will get a bi-partisan approach to dealing with these situations.
And so to our emergency services I want to say thank you; the conversations that we have had have been great. And I know it is not always easy when we are serving one another. We can be pretty tough on one another at times. I recognize that there is true real fear out there because lives are at stake. And so together I believe and I know that we will solve the challenges that we face. We must continue to aggressively quarantine, test and trace and as the Health Minister has said, in addition to that, we must follow the guidelines that have been set out before us.
If is required in an environment to wear your mask, YOU MUST WEAR YOUR MASK. If it’s an environment were you must wear your gloves and you must socially distance yourself YOU MUST FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES. It is our future that is at stake. And so once again I am grateful, I don’t want to take up too much time as we move through. We have regulations that we are about to go through this evening, but I want to thank the Premier and Bermuda, you, for the calls and the conversations and the questions. I am sure the Premier is scratching his head some nights when we are up at mid-night and I forcing through and pushing through questions to him, there is truly an effort being made to get to the resolution of getting Bermuda back to its normalcy as best as possible.
But bare this in mind, Bermuda and the rest of the world will not be the same after this virus. The new norm will not be before January, it will change. And I am here to support every minister and the work that they do, the cabinet and the Premier as we move forward. Asking questions, and many times tough questions, but they must be asked because the benefit of Bermuda truly resides in us working together. Thank you Mr. Premier.
Thank you, Opposition Leader. I do know that there are a few persons questioning why I’m wearing red today. No, it was not at the invitation of the Opposition Leader. It was actually the invitation of the President of the Bermuda Public Services Union, as Red is the colour for International Workers Day. So I don’t want anyone to be confused there. But thank you, Leader of the Opposition, we are working together and we’re going to continue to work together. And as we have laid out, trusting each other is not the easiest thing to do, but the country needs to see that we can work together during this very difficult, challenging time for the country. And I think that we are making progress in that regard.
Shelter in place ends tomorrow at 6 AM, and we move into phase one. How long we will be in phase one and how long it will take us to move to phase two will be up to each and every one of us adhering closely to the guidelines and keeping each other accountable. To allow for more substantive questions from members of the media, the Physical Distancing and Closure Schedule has been handed out and has already been posted on the internet, in addition to the new regulations which will govern this shelter in place period. Following conversations with the Leader of the Opposition and also His Excellency the Governor, these Emergency Powers Regulations will be tabled in the House of Assembly when the House of Assembly meets virtually on Friday. It is likely that we will also debate those matters that Friday, or possibly at the next sitting, but it is important that we maintain the level of parliamentary scrutiny. And we want to make sure that we can go through these things together.
As I have already outlined, in phase one it will no longer be illegal to visit another household. However, it is strongly encouraged that persons do not visit other households. Remember the more closely we adhere to the guidelines, the faster we can safely move to Phase 2. A curfew will remain in place between the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM. During that time, it is illegal for you to be in a home that is not yours.
Gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 persons. This is outdoor gatherings and indoor gatherings, including private homes. It is not the time to host parties, as it is an offense to host a group or gathering of more than 10 persons.
Permitted businesses will be able to remain open between the hours of 7 AM and 9 PM. Permitted businesses are the only businesses that are allowed to have customers inside of their business, and those are: retail grocery stores; pharmacies; banks; gas stations; office of a registered health professional, clinic, hospital, or other health facility; a pet shop with the permission of the Minister of National Security; or laundromat with the permission of the Minister of National Security. Grocery stores, gas stations, and pet stores remain open under the current conditions of lettered days of shopping and those things will be continued to be prescribed with minor modifications to Sunday shopping.
During phase one, bars and clubs; beauty salons, spas, barbers; cinemas, concert halls, theatres; gyms, sports clubs; restaurants for dine in; and swimming pools in hotels, guest houses, and other vacation rental properties will be closed.
Retail businesses and restaurants will be permitted to open between the hours of 7 AM and 9 PM with conditions. When it comes to retail stores, customers shall not be permitted to enter the premises. When it comes to restaurants, only one customer at a time shall be permitted to enter the premises in order to collect or pay for an order and dine-in services are prohibited. Retail stores and restaurants are permitted to make deliveries between the hours of 9 AM and 9 PM and deliveries can be performed by delivery vehicles from those companies, by taxis, and/or other public service vehicles. When it comes to fishermen and farmers, licensed fishermen may sell fresh local fish and registered commercial farmers may sell fresh local produce roadside on Monday to Saturday only, subject to the supervision and permission of the Minister of Home Affairs. These persons may also make deliveries to customers.
Playgrounds and outdoor exercise equipment in public parks shall remain closed to the public. This is important as we do not have the cleaning regimes in place yet for those particular items and therefore, although it is very tempting to allow children to go to playgrounds, they are closed at this point in time. As is the outdoor exercise equipment in the public parks. However, they can run around in the public parks, they can go and run around on the beach, as long as they are maintaining physical distancing.
Regarding boating, boating activity is allowed. However, there are restrictions. Boats cannot have any more than 10 persons on them and boats cannot have persons who are from more than one household on a particular boat. That is specifically expressed inside of the regulations. Additionally, rafting up to other vessels for leisure is prohibited under the regulations as is prescribed. So this weekend is not the time, even though the weather is bad. This weekend, during the week, or next weekend is not the time to try to have that party on the water. We are not there yet.
Construction, mechanical, landscaping services, and other trades can reopen with strict physical distancing. Guidance will be released which will require all employees and customers to wear masks. Any business or job site not adhering to that guidance will be closed.
The Public Service will continue to work remotely, but limited public-facing services such as cashier counter services will reopen on Monday, May 4 for such areas such as TCD, the Office of the Tax Commissioner and the Cashiers on the ground floor of the Government Administration Building, and the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building. The Head of the Public Service has advised that Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments have developed plans for the phased expansion of Government services commencing Monday, May 4. These plans will see Public Officers who are not able to work remotely returning to their workplaces under physical distancing guidelines. In some instances, this will require Public Officers to work in rotation. There will be limited public access.
Government’s union partners have been engaged for their input, as well as to discuss any proposed plans with them. The priority is to ensure that necessary precautions are in place to keep Public Officers safe and healthy. Department heads are now discussing their revised operating plans with their staff.
Laundromats will continue to operate under the current restrictions, and they will be able to operate between the hours of 7 AM to 9 PM.
The new laws still requires employers to allow their employees to work from home if they are able to do so. Businesses that are requiring workers to come into the office when those workers aren’t able to work from home, outside of what is stated in law may be reported to the police on 211, and are subject to penalties under the law.
Parks, beaches, and the railway trails will reopen. Persons may use the outdoor facilities of a sports club, such as a golf course, tennis court, or a sporting field, provided that appropriate physical distancing is maintained at all times and any groups do not exceed 10 persons. There are no contact sports that are allowed.
Limited public transportation is set to resume next week, and the schedule will be advised in the current days by the Minister of Transport.
Church buildings will remain closed for regular services. However, members of the clergy shall be permitted to enter a church or other religious establishment, providing that appropriate physical distancing is maintained for these two things: private prayer, which is a maximum of five persons; and in order to broadcast a service via electronic means, which will include a maximum of 10 persons to conduct the service and to facilitate the broadcast. That second portion represents no change than what we’ve been under for the past four weeks.
We are planning to take a very slow and phased response to re-opening the island which will require constant monitoring of any particular increase of cases. If we see a significant increase in cases based on comparisons with our modelling or if we see that people and businesses are not complying with the conditions of Phase One, unfortunately more intense public health measures will have to be implemented. And I plead with all persons in Bermuda, do not force us to go in that direction. There are persons inside of our economy who are hurting, who want to get back to work. And it is collectively all of us working together, which will ensure that we can do that.
We are in this together and for most of this journey, we have stayed together united in one purpose, united in one vision, and united in one objective. I’m very proud of the work that each and every Bermudian has done in your way to get us to where we are, to the ending of shelter in place. As we have reached across the political divide, I am tonight reaching out to everyone in Bermuda for your help. Together we came through shelter in place and together we can come through phase one, and beyond into a new normal: where we can return to work, children can return to school, and our lives can return to some semblance of normality.
Please keep the family of those who have lost loved ones to this disease, and those that are battling with it as we speak in your prayers.
Finally tonight, I know that there are those who feel that their work and contribution to our efforts have not been recognized. With the sheer number of workers, organizations, bodies, and people involved it is almost impossible to thank everyone without leaving someone out.
This does not diminish your worth, your value, and your contribution in any way. If you or your colleagues feel that you have not received the recognition you deserve, if you feel that your name has not been called and it should have, I am truly sorry. As the Reverend Jesse Jackson once said, “Charge it to my head and not to my heart,” for while in positions and situations of fatigue and stress, our minds may sometimes fall short, but each and every Bermudian, every essential service workers, everyone from health care professionals in the hospital, to the doctors’ offices, and the frontline, all of our essential services, all the persons that are keeping the Government continuing to run, the third sector services, the persons who are out delivering food to our seniors and vulnerable populations or checking on all those persons, you are thanked from the bottom of my heart for everything that you’ve done to get us to where we are today.
When this is over, we will all have a time to collectively celebrate, but we have a lot of work to do before we get to that point. So today’s press conference has been long, there has been a lot of information, and we’re looking forward to answering any questions that persons may have. Please note that the Government website, coronavirus.gov.bm has been updated with the Physical Distancing Guidelines and the Closure Schedule. In addition, the new regulations which have been sent to the Governor for his publication will also be put on the Government website bermudalaws.bm so all persons can see exactly what regulations are in place for this next phase of operations. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.