Press Conference April 6th – Premier David Burt
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media.
Today’s press conference is taking place from the Cafetorium at The Berkeley Institute. We will host future COVID-19 update press conferences from this location to ensure those who participate can exercise appropriate social distancing.
I will give an update on COVID-19 testing, discuss the Shelter in Place measures that went into effect on Saturday at 6am, I have an overview of the child care programme for essential workers, which will be given by the Minister of Education and details about the BA flight that landed this afternoon.
COVID-19 Health update
I am extremely sad to have to open today’s press conference to share with the country that we have had two COVID-19 related deaths to report today.
We learned that, sadly, over the weekend a middle-aged individual passed away. This individual had shared a household with a person previously identified as positive for COVID-19. Consequently, a test was ordered on the deceased immediately and today the test was found positive. It appears this individual was not in good health generally, so at this time it is not possible to ascertain the exact cause of death. As required, this will be investigated by the coroner so for the time being we are not able to share any further details.
The second individual is a senior who had been hospitalized and was one of the cases identified on 4 April. This person was in stable condition yesterday, however passed away earlier today.
Out of respect for the families of the deceased we ask that the media and members of the public allow them the time to grieve privately and respect the very sad loss they have experienced at this time.
In addition to this very significant development, routine testing has continued.
Eleven additional test results were received today, of which nine were negative for COVID-19, and two were positive. This means that the total confirmed positive cases in Bermuda now stands at 39.
One of new cases is hospitalized in stable condition. This was an imported case and the flight details for the case are a Delta flight on 13 March 2020. Monitoring period for other passengers ended on 27 March 2020. The person was not symptomatic on the flight but became ill within 14 days of return. Symptoms worsened and patient was hospitalized and tested.
The second positive result is the first individual I spoke about who passed away yesterday.
Out of the 39 total cases, 17 people have recovered, six are hospitalized in stable condition, and 14 active cases under active public health monitoring. As I stated earlier, sadly we have two deceased cases.
The average age of the confirmed positive cases is 47 years old, as is the median age is 47 and the age range is 18 – 83 years. The average age of those hospitalized is 71 years old. Of the 39 cases, 23 are males and 16 females.
A review of our overall testing numbers, show that out of the 306 tests that were conducted, 39 were positive, and 241 were negative and there are 26 pending results.
Following a meeting with the Minister of Health this morning, the government will significantly increase its testing regime and aims to complete a significant number of tests over the next seven days. We aim to be testing frontline workers such as health care workers, persons who are working in our nursing homes, and persons who may have been exposed to confirmed cases.
As of today, there are 52 persons who are under self-quarantine with public health supervision. However, with the BA airlift arriving today, additional persons will be quarantined at the Government facility and those numbers will be updated tomorrow.
The Shelter in Place order started at 6am on Saturday.
A minority of the people in the country chose to ignore the rules that were put in place for everyone’s safety, jeopardizing their health and the health of others.
To those people I say, stop. If you don’t care about yourself, think about your fellow Bermudians who are already hospitalized with this disease. Think about the countries that have seen their health systems overwhelmed from those suffering with the virus. Think about the Bermudian families who have lost loved ones and are grieving tonight.
Shelter in Place is a sacrifice. A sacrifice that, in the long run, will benefit our country and will save lives.
To this point two defendants appeared in Plea Court today and were granted bail in the amount of $3,000 and to appear at a later point in time. The simple message here, for those who choose to ignore the Shelter in Place order, we will prosecute.
Over the weekend there were questions asked about who can go out and when.
To be crystal clear, if you are not going to the grocery store, pharmacy, gas station, work for a critical service, or attending for medical treatment, you should be at home and not be on the streets.
You can exercise on foot within a one kilometer, of your home for one hour. I’ve seen the app created by one of the local IT companies, where you put you address in and it shows you the areas in which you can exercise. Otherwise, you must be on your property.
Essential visits to the grocery store and gas station should be made on specific days of the week according to your last name.
If your last name begins A through L – you should shop on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
If your last name begins M through Z – you should shop on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Where practical, only one member of your household should travel for groceries. This must NOT be a person who is subject to quarantine or required to be in isolation.
Single parents of young children may take their children with them. Other than this scenario, I strongly discourage children from attending the grocery stores.
Everyone must have valid ID. All forms of ID must have your name so it can be checked and verified. If you do not have an ID, a utility bill can also be presented.
Regarding Sunday, we are looking to reserve for senior citizens over the age of 65 and those persons who are physically challenged. They can make those visits on Sundays.
Seniors and the physically challenged can also go on any day that corresponds with their last name, but we are trying to set Sunday set aside for them.
These measures aren’t for some and not others to disobey.
These guidelines apply to everyone.
Thank you to the stores how are letting our essential workers go to the front of the line. It is a great thing for them to do and it shows how our private sector is valuing our essential workers who are working on the frontline to make sure that during this period in time, we can continue to have the essential services that we require.
The only way we can be safe and stop the community spread of this virus is to stay at home, except to make trips for essential items, as I outlined.
It is not okay to go outside into a park, which are all closed, to play a sporting activity.
You cannot visit family or friends at a different residence.
This is the time for us all to be at home.
If you have received an exemption from the Ministry of National Security, it is up to you to show your valid ID, together with the necessary documentation.
Over the weekend, the Government also recommended the use of homemade masks when going out in public.
It is important to remember that masks by themselves, will not protect you from contracting the coronavirus. What a mask will do is it will prevent you from spreading the virus to others if are an asymptomatic spreader of the virus. As that advice was given, and there is going to be additional advice that is going to come from the Ministry of Health. If you are going out, I encourage you to wear a homemade face-covering. Instructions for that can be found on the website, coronavirus.gov.bm.
When you wear a mask you must continue to practice social distancing. You must continue to wash your hands. You should maintain six feet distance between yourself and others.
In the Christian calendar, yesterday, Palm Sunday, marked the beginning of Holy Week. This Friday is the public holiday known as Good Friday. The Christian observance of this day is not subject to change and for those who share this belief, this day will have its customary significance. However, our current national state means that we cannot enjoy some of the community traditions we enjoy that now accompany this public holiday.
Additionally, Good Friday is one of those days when shops, by law, are closed. With the restrictive guidelines already in place around grocery shopping, I am reluctant to remove a day from the limited times when people can get their supplies.
As a result, I have asked the Minister of Finance to exercise his authority under the Public Holidays Act 1947, to allow those permitted businesses operating under the Shelter in Place regulations to remain open on Friday, 10 April, if they wish. It is completely voluntary and up to the stores themselves. Subject to the public health advice at the time, my hope is that we can partake in the community traditions that are the hallmark of this time of year later this month.
This afternoon, the air bridge flight from London, and then going on to the Cayman Islands, arrived in Bermuda at 1:45pm with some 129 returning Bermudian residents on board. Those travellers were processed at the airport and immediately taken to Government quarantine facilities where they will remain for the duration of their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
It is understood, there is also a flight coming in tomorrow from Florida. Family and friends should not go to the airport as this is not a permitted business. Anyone that is going to the airport to see family and friends is in violation of the Shelter in Place order and may be detained by the Bermuda Police Service.
It is encouraged that you communicate with your family and friends who may have returned today or the ones that are returning tomorrow by social media, cell phone and other electronic methods but they will not be allowed to visit. Likewise, those who are in quarantine are not permitted to leave their rooms.
The Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment working with the Ministry of National Security will ensure that strict quarantine guidelines are maintained.
To the returning Bermudian residents who registered with the London Office and were unable to get on today’s flight, Kimberley Durrant and the London Office are working with Government House and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the possibility of putting on another flight for returning residents in the coming weeks. That flight may provide opportunities for those residents who wish to leave Bermuda for the UK to buy a seat on the return flight.
A crisis like this can bring out the best in everyone. It can also put people in unprecedented and unfamiliar positions where they need help.
I wish to pay tribute to the generosity of all of the corporations and individuals who have stepped up to support the delivery of essential services to the most vulnerable in our community.
Donations and pledges have topped $400,000 from over 50 companies and individuals to the Emergency Fund set up for this purpose.
Allocations from the fund are anticipated to surpass this amount, as of yesterday. We hope the public will continue to give as the needs are great and are expected to grow.
Last week, $140,000 in emergency funds were distributed to ten organisations. An additional $311,000 will be deployed based on yesterday’s assessment of essential services and needs.
This money is being spent in areas critical to helping us manage this pandemic based on international standards for national disasters, and in tandem with the priorities of the Emergency Measures Organisation and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation team.
We have to make sure that our most vulnerable people are fed, our homeless are sheltered, women and children who are at-risk, are housed safely. We have to ensure that people who need medication have access to it and those who find themselves struggling to cope, know where they can get help.
- Groups like Salvation Army, Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance, who were active before this crisis, continue to provide the most essential of support to our community and they deserve our thanks.
- Fourteen food distribution services are going to receive almost $100,00 in help to distribute meals, groceries and vouchers to the people who needed these services before this crisis and people who are now finding themselves needing help.
- Almost $80,000 in support from the emergency fund has been allocated to 21 nursing homes, helping them to get phone and wi-fi connectivity. This will allow the hard-working care staff to deliver health services to seniors in the nursing homes and allow those resident to stay in contact safely and securely, with family members.
- Groups that are providing shelter and a range of services for people who have substance abuse conditions will receive more than $100,000 to continue their services.
- The Ageing and Disabilities Team, Bermuda Health Council, Age Concern Bermuda, Vision Bermuda and the Bermuda Housing Trust and dedicated volunteers are working hard to ensure that seniors in nursing homes and in private residences are getting their needs met. We are also grateful for the roles that family members play in supporting seniors to stay safely in their homes.
- On behalf of these and other groups who support seniors, I must also remind you that our seniors are the most vulnerable to this COVID-19 virus. If you are taking care of an elderly family member, please take all necessary precautions before helping them.
Thank you to the numerous volunteers who have kept these critical services going. You can learn more about the essential services that are supporting this community, online on the government website – coronavirus.gov.bm.
Last, but not least, I would like to acknowledge the collective behind-the-scenes work of the Third Sector Coordinated Crisis Response Effort – comprising the following partnering organizations and individuals, with support of even more people too numerous to mention here:
- Bank of Bermuda Foundation
- Bermuda Community Foundation
- Bermuda Health Council
- Inter-Agency Committee for Children and Families
- Age Concern Bermuda
- And dedicated individuals who aren’t affiliated with any organizations but stepped forward to give of their time to make a difference for Bermuda.
We ask that you please keep contributing to the Emergency Fund at www.bcf.bm to help ensure Bermuda’s most vulnerable people are safe, secure and continue to be provided for.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the Government of Bermuda has created a WhatsApp update group where individuals can send a message to subscribe for information, news, and official updates. To sign up, WhatsApp “hi” to 504-6045 and add the number to your contacts list.
Since this communications channel was launched, some 2,600 people have subscribed with more joining daily. The reason why it’s important is because again today there were a number of unsubstantiated rumours circulating regarding multiple flights that were coming in to Bermuda, with a volume of 600 returning residents.
It is irresponsible to forward messages. If you want to make sure you receive accurate, timely and up to date information, from the Government of Bermuda, please go ahead and sign up so you can receive that information directly to your phone so you do not have to worry about whether the information which you may be received is true or not.
To many of us, Holy Week represents resurrection. It represents hope. Life at this point in time, may not be what we want it to be. Yet we must remain together and unified and hopeful as a country that we can emerge from this pandemic, a stronger, better, more unified country.
Tonight, I want to end by again, giving my condolences on behalf of the government and the people of Bermuda to the families tonight who are mourning their loss. I sincerely hope that all of Bermuda will pray for their families and recognize that if we do not follow our instructions, if we do not observe the guidelines that have been laid out, there will be more persons who sadly will succumb to this illness. It is important for us to do our part so we keep that number as low as possible.