Press Conference April 17th – Premier David Burt

COVID-19 Update  And Shelter In Place Extension Update

April 17th

 

 

Good evening Bermuda

And a pleasant Friday afternoon to all of you.

Today at our press conference I’m joined by His Excellency the Governor who will provide information on the next air bridge flight from the United Kingdom. I’m joined also by the Minister of Health, who will provide an update on COVID-19 cases, the Minister of National Security, who will provide an update on the revisions to our Shelter in Place changes which will come into force on Monday, and also by the honorable Attorney General, who will provide an update on the Department of Child and Family Services, in addition to information regarding domestic violence.

We continue to pray, for the health and safety of those that have contracted COVID-19 or who have lost loved ones to this virus.  Our hearts are with you, and we pray that you all will recover swiftly and that the friends and families of the people we have lost loved ones are finding comfort in their time of grief.

COVID-19 has brought tragedy and swift unwelcome change to the way we live and interact with each other…It has also brought forth innovation and flexibility in thought and deed. Today, that innovation and flexibility was demonstrated, and Bermuda made history as we held the first virtual session of Bermuda’s Legislature.  This session, held over the WebX Teams App, enabled the 35 Members of the House of Assembly and the 11 members of the Senate, under the watchful eye of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, to conduct the people’s business.

All without breaking Shelter in Place, and without disrupting social distancing. And while there were some teething problems, we got through it and we accomplished the work we set out to do. Parliament today voted to continue Shelter in Place Regulations until 6 am May 2, and for the State of Emergency Order to be maintained until June 30.

Some may have interpreted this to mean that we intend to remain with Shelter in Place in force until June. That is NOT the case.  Let us kill that rumor right now. We have every hope, and every expectation that we could emerge from Shelter in Place on May 2 and the best way to ensure that happens is for people to only leave their houses for essentials, and to maintain proper social distancing while you do. Recognize, even if you go to your neighbor’s house and talk to your neighbor without face covering and otherwise, you’re putting yourself at risk, and putting the hard work that we’ve had for the last two weeks at risk as well.

We are however in uncertain times, and the government needs to have the flexibility to quickly enact restrictions which may be necessary to control the spread of this very aggressive virus. Under our existing laws, the only way that we can have the appropriate protections to prevent the spread of this virus is via a State of Emergency. It is imperfect, and I don’t like it. To remedy this we will be bringing forward legislation to allow this, and any future Government to implement appropriate measures to manage a pandemic without the need to declare a State of Emergency.

Once this amended law is drafted, passes both houses of the Legislature, and receives its assent from the Governor, the Cabinet will ask for the State of Emergency to be revoked, as the new laws will give the Government the necessary tools in the case of a pandemic.

This Government feels for the many students and Bermuda residents that remain stranded in the United Kingdom, and around the world. In order to assist in remedying this situation, the Cabinet Office in conjunction with Government House has arranged for another flight from the United Kingdom. It is important to know that this flight is only for persons who are ordinarily resident Bermuda. That means students, and those who may have been stranded outside of Bermuda, from their travels. It is not for persons who relocated to the United Kingdom, who wish to relocate to Bermuda. Also, it must be noted that persons returning will be required to pay the sum of $100 per night for accommodation and food, in Government quarantine facilities. For further information on this air bridge flight, His Excellency, the Governor will now give remarks.

His Excellency the Governor gives remarks.

Thank you. As the Governor mentioned, Bermudian students, and Bermudians ordinarily resident in Bermuda will be returned to Bermuda via the air bridge that will be departing from London Heathrow on Friday. The London Office will be in contact with those persons who are eligible for the flight, and there is no further need to contact the London Office as they already have the list of persons who have made themselves known.

Next, I will turn the podium over to the Minister of Health, Minister Kim Wilson, who will give an update on COVID-19. Minister.

Minister of Health’s statement

Thank you, Premier.

Today, there were 20 test results received; and I’m pleased to report that none were positive. There were also no additional hospitalizations or reported deaths today.

As such, Bermuda’s total confirmed positive cases stands at 83. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 43 active cases, of which
  • 34 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 9 persons are hospitalized;
  • a total of 35 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains at 5.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56. The median age is 58, and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 91 years. The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 67 and 82 years, and the average age is 74.

Of the 83 positive cases confirmed to date, 37 are males, and 46 are females.

While there were no positives today, every new case we discover is a disappointment and worry to us all. However, our mitigation strategies helping us to contain the situation are bearing good fruit. We acted quickly and we are in a stronger position for it. Just this week Public Health England confirmed that our case vigilance and preparations for rapid case identification, case-isolation, contact tracing, and PCR testing are appropriate and proportionate.

Today I want to thank another group which has been working exceptionally hard throughout this pandemic, namely our Third Sector Coordinated Crisis Response Team.

This week, they allocated funds to the private and charitable residential care homes for additional food and non-medical supplies.

Each home has been allotted $100 per resident per month which can be used at Butterfield and Vallis. These funds will not (and are not intended to) cover the full cost of food and non-medical supplies; they are an addition to support each of the homes at this time. This will be for two months initially, to be reviewed as things progress.

This initiative will ensure that each home has a stable supply line.

It will also limit the number of outsiders delivering to the homes and limits (or even ends) staff going to stores, which aligns with the recent guidance from the CMO & Ministry of Health around Shielding of our most vulnerable.

Additionally, it frees up care home staff to focus on other critical work.

The process is straightforward. Each home will have an Emergency Fund account at Butterfield and Vallis; the funds will be pre-paid into the assigned account by The Bermuda Community Foundation.

Thank you also to the Bermuda Health Council for helping to coordinate this process.

Today I have another update regarding the Bermuda Health Council…

Some of you may have seen the covidIQ.net online data collection tool, which collects and depicts public health data around the island.

I can announce that the Health Council is working with developers to make some evidence-based enhancements to the platform, to serve as a broader public health data collection tool to inform health policy and strategy in order to improve the health of the community and reduce social determinants of ill health.  The more local data we have, the better our chances at getting the right resources to the right places at the right times.  This is definitely proving true as we navigate through this COVID crisis. It should be up and running shortly.

One question which I have heard asked quite a lot this past week is, ‘What is the treatment for COVID patients?’

As most of us know, currently there are no proven treatments to cure COVID-19.

However, the standard of care for COVID-19 is supportive management, oxygen supplementation, IV hydration, and non-invasive or invasive ventilator support where needed.

Sometimes COVID-19 can lead to bacterial super-infections and hemodynamic instability which can be treated with antibiotics and mediations to elevate the blood pressure respectively. In select cases, patients may be offered other medications if a physician believes the potential benefits outweigh the risks, based on limited evidence. Such cases would require informed consent by the patient or a patient’s designated representative after a robust discussion regarding the potential risks and benefits of the offered treatment.

In closing, I wish to thank international and local businesses in Bermuda who have collectively raised $1,044,000 to date for essential medical supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment and ventilators. I’m really proud of how Bermuda’s insurers, re-insurers, brokers, investment managers, local insurance companies, financial service companies, medical associations as well as private, individual donors have come together to support the hospital at this time.

We thank you for your support.

Thank you Minister of Health.  It is great news to know that there are no new cases reported today. When Shelter in Place was first enacted, we had hoped, two weeks would be sufficient to achieve our objectives. Regrettably, this is not the case, and we’ve had to extend until May 2. During this period we have been humble enough to listen and flexible enough to recognize that some of the aspects of our previous regulations would need to be revised to help our island get through this next two week period, so that we can be as productive and as healthy as possible. Minister Caines will provide an update on the new regulations for Shelter in Place which will go into force on Monday, and on the activities of Bermuda Police Service and The Bermuda Regiment. Minister Caines.

Minister of National Security’s Statement

Today I will provided an update on the additional businesses that have been added to the category of “permitted business” to operate during the extended Shelter in Place. These amendments come into force on Monday, 20th April 2020. These businesses have significant restrictions placed on them to ensure that they follow the social distancing guidelines.

They include:

  • Roadside sales by a licensed fisherman;
  • Roadside sales by a registered commercial farmer;
  • Laundromats under certain restrictions;
  • Pet shops;
  • Hardware stores (including paint stores);
  • Plant nurseries; and
  • Shipping and freight company including couriers.

As it relates to grocery stores and gas stations,the changes to the alphabet system policy have been made. Instead of two segments it has been expanded to three segments.

Visits to a grocery store or gas station are as follows:

  1. Mondays and Thursdays are for persons whose surnames begin with the letters A to F only;
  2. Tuesdays and Fridays are for persons whose surnames begin with the letters G to Q only;
  3. Wednesdays and Saturdays are for persons whose surnames begin with the letters R to Z only;
  4. Sundays are reserved for:
    • persons aged 55 years and over;
    • disabled persons; and
    • essential services workers and workers not required to work from home.

*These individuals can also shop on their relevant day and on Sundays.

Additionally, pest control operators, are permitted to attend calls to required businesses. These visits are subject to the supervision of the Chief Environmental Health Officer.

Also, those engaged in the wholesale distribution to grocery stores of alcohol and tobacco products can re-stock these businesses. Further amendments will be shared in due course.

Other Shelter in Place updated regulations are as follows:

Laundromats:

Laundromats can only operate with the written permission of the Minister of National Security, and must meet the following conditions:

  1. opening hours of 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday only;
  2. only one customer is allowed in the laundromat at any one time, and by appointment only;
  3. a wash and fold service may be provided, as long as customers do not enter the premises during the drop-off or collection of their laundry.

Pet Shops:

Pet shops can only operate with the written permission of the Minister of National Security, and must meet the following conditions:

Operate between the hours of 9am to 5pm on Monday to Wednesday only, with:

  1. Mondays are for persons whose surnames begin with the letters A to F only;
  2. Tuesdays are for persons whose surnames begin with the letters G to Q only;
  3. Wednesdays are for persons whose surnames begin with the letters R to Z only.

 

Hardware Stores:

Hardware stores can operate with the written permission of the Minister of National Security under the following conditions:

  1. customers should not enter the store but can have curbside pick-ups only;
  2. collection of pre-paid goods is permitted from 9am to 5pm Monday to Wednesday only as

follows:

  • Mondays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters A to F only;
  • Tuesdays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters G to Q only;
  • Wednesdays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters R to Z only.

Plant Nurseries

Plant Nurseries can operate with the written permission of the Minister of National Security under the following conditions:

  1. customers should not enter the nursery;
  2. collection of pre-paid goods permitted from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Wednesday only, as

follows:

  • Mondays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters A to F only;
  • Tuesdays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters G to Q only;
  • Wednesdays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters R to Z only.

Shipping and Freight Companies

Shipping and freight companies can only operate with the written permission of the Minister of National Security:

  1. Customers should not enter the premises;
  2. Collection of goods allowed from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Wednesday only:
  • Mondays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters A to F only;
  • Tuesdays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters G to Q only;
  • Wednesdays – Persons whose surnames begin with the letters R to Z only.

Deliveries:

Deliveries are allowed by persons who have the written permission of the Minister of National Security. This includes taxi drivers.

All delivery operators must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • They should not enter a customer’s home.
  • They must leave the goods outside the customer’s door; and call to let the customer know the delivery has been made.
  • They must wear the appropriate protective equipment and follow the hand sanitizing guidance from the Ministry of Health.

Again, these amendments take effect Monday, 20th April 2020.

Thank you Minister Caines.

The Attorney General Statement 

Good Evening Bermuda

In this time of profound uncertainty, community welfare agencies face unprecedented challenges to ensure the safety, well being, and permanency for our vulnerable citizens and their families. The Government of Bermuda understands the stress that many families have to bear while we shelter in place. We remain grateful for our third sector and charities who provide protection, accommodation, and support for our families and vulnerable members of the community.

As the public health crisis persists, we must critically assess and safeguard the needs and rights of minor children and their parents who are the subject of Court-ordered arrangements. In particular, the existing law under Regulation 3(3) of the Emergency Powers (Covid-19 Shelter In Place) Regulations 2020 provides that for the avoidance of doubt, a minor child of parents who do not live together shall remain at the home where the child is living at the commencement of these Regulations cease to have effect. This provision has given rise to practical challenges for some parents who fall within this category.

As the Government continues to be responsive to the needs and concerns of all its citizens, I can report this evening that the Ministry of Legal Affairs in consultation with the Judiciary, we are in the process of considering amendments to the Regulations to address practical issues that have arisen for parents who share parental responsibility for minor children, and who do not live in the same home as the state of emergency and its accompanying restrictions has been extended. More information will be shared early next week.

During the month of April, the Ministry commemorates several observances. This month we would typically focus awareness of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention, and the International Week of the Young Child. While we have not had the opportunity to recognize these observances, I wish to thank our community partners for their unwavering support. We appreciate the services of the Centre Against Abuse, SCARS, the Coalition for the Protection of Children, the Family Centre and other charities who work with us to assist our most vulnerable citizens.

We know that during this extended Shelter in Place period, children in abusive situations may be more susceptible to incidences of sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect as they remain in their homes.

Should anyone in the community have concerns about the welfare of a child, please contact the Department of Child and Family Services on-call social worker on 332-0091 or the on-call supervisor on 335-9095. If it is an emergency, please call 911.

Since March 24, the Department of Child and Family Services has received 18 new referrals, requiring investigation. There have been 10 children exposed to domestic or family violence; 1 child in moral danger which means that the child has been exposed to unsafe behaviors such as drug trafficking, prostitution, theft, criminal behavior and/or individuals engaged in active abuse of illegal substances; 1 lack report of supervision of a child; 2 child on child sexual abuse; 2 children physical abuse, and 2 referrals for parents abusing substances. Investigations are underway, and DCFS workers are making contact with the parents to ensure that safety plans are in place.

During this period of sheltering in place, all DCFS staff have been supporting clients weekly via video conferencing and telephone calls. DCFS has assisted in providing groceries and medication supplies to families and linking families to community resources such as the Eliza Doolittle, The Loren/BNTB initiative, Women’s Resource Center and the Coalition for the Protection of Children. Clients are given information on how to talk to their children about COVID-19. In addition to activities that they can do with their children. The Foster Parent Association is also gearing itself to assist foster parents who may be struggling through this period.

The Department of Child and Family Services will continue to work closely with third sector partners, as well as public health partners to respond to any calls for assistance.

The public is reminded that domestic violence that involves adults-only is referred to the Centre Against Abuse and or the Bermuda Police Service.

Since March 30 the Centre Against Abuse has reported that they answered over 34 calls on their hotline; worked with five clients to complete filing six Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs); and assisted four families with safe shelters.

Between March 23 and April 13, 2020, the Courts have issued 13 Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVOPs). The public is reminded that the Centre Against Abuse operates a 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. The Centre’s hotline line numbers are 297-8278 and 292-4366.

We share the concerns of the Centre Against Abuse and note that there are persons in our community, who are in abusive situations, but are not ready to take the step of leaving their abusers. In such situations, the Centre of Abuse recommends the following safety tips:

  • Be very aware of your partner’s mood, and when you see it changing for the worse, if you can, get out of the house to a safe space
  • Identify safe spaces in your home, that you can go to should an argument break out:
    • Rooms with windows and doors
    • Spaces without weapons, such as knives, bottles, etc
  • If violence is unavoidable, and you are stuck and cannot escape, crouch right down on the floor and curl up into a small ball on the floor with your face towards the floor and protected and your hands over your head and your elbows covering the sides of your face
  • If possible, always keep your phone on you so you can call 911
  • Ask a neighbor to call 911 should they hear anything from your home
  • Ask your children to call 911 should they hear or see any abuse
  • Set up a secret code word like ”RONA” with a close friend or family member that you can send to them, so they know that it means to call 911 for you
  • Teach your children to get out of the house safely
  • If you can, reach out and talk to trusted family and friends to release your stress
  • You can search safely online for counselling assistance with CAA via info@centreagainstabuse.bm

To every woman, child and man, it is important to note that nothing that a victim does, deserves any abuse from an abuser.

We encourage anyone in the community in need of assistance to review the Third Sector Crisis Response Essential Services Contact sheet which provides a list of available help and support resources at www.gov.bm/coronavirus-resources.

In closing, we urge you to stay informed and vigilant. Do not live in an abusive situation. There is help available as previously stated, please reach out to us.

 

Thank you Attorney General.

I’ve been informed that at the beginning of this broadcast that some persons did not receive all of the information. So I’m going to briefly recap some of the stuff that I said at the beginning because it’s important information that all persons needs to know, and then we will move on to questions.

Parliament today voted to continue Shelter in Place regulations, until 6am, on May, 2, and for the State of Emergency orders to be maintained until June 30. Some may have interpreted this to mean that we intend to remain Sheltered in Place until the end of June. That is not the case, and let that rumor die tonight.

We have every hope and expectation that we could emerge from Shelter in Place on May 2, and the best way to ensure that happens is for people to only leave their houses for essentials, and maintain proper social distancing when you do. We are however in uncertain times, and the Government needs to have the flexibility to quickly enact restrictions that may be necessary to control the spread of this virus. Under our existing laws, the only way that we can have the appropriate protections to prevent the spread of this virus is via a State of Emergency. It is imperfect, and I do not like it. To remedy this, we will be bringing forward legislation to allow this, and any future, Government to implement appropriate measures to manage a pandemic without the need to declare a State of Emergency.

Once this amended law is drafted, passes both houses of the Legislature and receives its assent from the Governor, the Cabinet will ask for the State of Emergency, to be revoked as the new laws will give the Government, the necessary tools, in the case of a pandemic.

Bermuda we’ve come through to the first two weeks of Shelter in Place, a sacrifice that we have all made, and the challenge, we all have had to overcome. What is most important is that we have shown that we can do this, and we can get through this next two weeks. To those of us who have followed the guidelines and stayed at home, I am truly grateful.

For our people who have lost their jobs, due to this virus, many of you have already received help from the Government. For those of you who have not yet received the help you need, we are adding more resources and manpower to get those funds to you as quickly as possible. It is not your fault that you are in this position, and we will continue to do all that we can as quickly as we can to support you. We cannot, and will not allow bureaucracy and red tape to get in the way, when there are people who may be hungry. We have had companies, charities, and members of our community giving generously and helping to feed people in need during this crisis, and for that I am grateful.

Sadly, there are those who are hoping that we will devolve into political tribalism, devolve into the regular he said, she said, nitpicking, name calling, and political games. To them I say simply cool out. When this is over, when our people are healthy and safe fed and employed. Maybe then you can go back to business as usual.

But it is my sincere hope that after this period of crisis has passed, we all will have grown, and we all will have evolved, and we would have been ready to put politics as usual aside. People have died. People are fighting to restore their health, this very minute, and we fear that many more of our friends, our neighbors and our coworkers, and our family members may also be impacted by this virus.

To us, keeping them healthy, protecting our families and staying focused on the job at hand is more important than politics as usual. We would not turn on each other during a hurricane, so it is important that we do not do this now. Earlier today, in the sitting of the House of Assembly, I pledged to be the best bipartisan Premier that I can be, as the most important thing that this country requires right now is unity. For us, this must be the time for unity of purpose, unity of vision and unity of spirit. And with that, we will all get through this.

Thank you, and I’m happy to take any questions that you may have.