Press Conference by Deputy Premier Walter Roban

April 7th Press Conference

(Click on image below to listen to press conference)

 

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media.

The Premier has asked me to lead today’s press conference.

We will start with an update from the Minister of Health, and I will discuss how landlords and tenants can give help to each other during this difficult financial period. I will also present an overview of a new price gouging form we have put into place. The Minister of National Security will provide an update from today’s EMO meeting.

Minister Wilson … 

Good Evening,

I would like to begin by offering my sincerest condolences to the families of the two individuals who tragically became Bermuda’s first COVID-19 fatalities this week.

All of us at the Ministry of Health were truly affected by the news and can’t imagine the grief you must be feeling.

In this context, it is especially relieving to be able to report that although today there were no additional test results, the good news is that the number of recovered individuals is now 21.

As of today, the number of confirmed positive cases in Bermuda remains 39, with six hospitalized and 10 active cases under public health monitoring.

The average age of the confirmed positive cases is 47 years, the median age is 47 and the age range is 18 – 83 years. The average age of those hospitalized is 71 years old and, of the 39 cases, 23 are males and 16 females.

Overall, of the 306 tests that have been conducted, 39 were positive, 241 were negative and 26 are pending results which we will receive shortly.

As of today, there are 123 persons in quarantine at the Government facility, and 58 persons who are under self-quarantine with public health supervision.

I think by now pretty much all of us appreciate that the threat of COVID-19 MUST be taken seriously …

…Which is why Bermuda is testing as much as it can and ramping up to test more widely… so we can detect cases early, isolate them and then follow up with their close contacts as quickly as possible.

Our testing criteria has changed and is more wide-reaching. The WHO guidance, which we follow, has relaxed slightly… so that the case definition no longer specifies the travel aspect for individuals who are suspect for COVID-19. Also, we are now testing persons with respiratory symptoms of any kind.

However, it is important to note that in order to be tested an individual must first be assessed by their physician who will then refer patients for testing via the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

We have received queries from the public over recent days, asking if Government plans to source any “rapid tests”, and to that I will say that we are exploring all avenues when it comes to the procurement of valid testing kits, from all over the world.

However, it should be noted that test results are already available within 24 to 48 hours. This turnaround time depends, among other factors, on the number of tests done at any given time. The lab tries, whenever possible, to do ‘batch testing’ so that our testing materials can process more tests at a time. Batching allows the best use of testing capacity, and it is the reason why some results come through after 48 hours, rather than 24 hours.

What I can assure completely is that we are testing all symptomatic persons and conducting contact tracing fully to ensure we leave no stone unturned in identifying and isolating any suspect cases immediately. This stops the spread in its tracks.

Another question the Ministry has been asked is how much do testing kits cost and will under/uninsured people have to pay for them…

As the Premier has already stated previously, the cost of test kits will be covered. Nobody will be asked to pay out of pocket for clinically referred testing.

The cost itself varies, depending on the type of test performed or/and if batch testing is done. It is not possible to provide a set figure at this time as there are many factors involved but it has been agreed that $300 would be covered by insurers.

In closing, I want to thank my staff for the tremendous effort and hard work they are putting into fighting this virus. It is easy to remember the front line workers we traditionally think of – the doctors and nurses. But there are many more people involved in this effort.

The staff at the Covid Helpline receive over 200 calls a day on all matter of issues 12 hours a day and they do a stellar job at providing information and reassurances to the public.

The Epidemiology Team works long hours translating the testing and contact tracing data into the numbers we can share with you daily.

Testing is a massive coordinated effort involving long hours, exposing oneself to potential risks. And there are many other staff, from administrators to accounts folks and communicators who are developing guidance documents, keeping the website up to date and paying bills for the materials being purchased.

Covid containment is a tremendous public health effort and I’m grateful to my team at the Ministry of Health whose work is often invisible but has to be applauded for helping to keep Bermuda safe and well.

Thank you Minister.

The reality is that Bermuda, and indeed the world, is experiencing an unprecedented event. This means, we are facing situations that we have never encountered, therefore it requires new solutions, solutions that aren’t necessarily ideal but we must also at this time show compassion towards each other.

With Bermuda currently under a State of Emergency, any landlord tenant disputes will not be processed by the judicial system at this time.

Therefore, I am encouraging landlords to assist tenants experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

I am asking landlord to consider:

  • realistically assessing their own financial situation and obligations as to how they can assist your tenant.
  • talk with each tenant individually (if renting to more than one tenant) and assessing each tenant’s situation on a case by case basis.
  • taking into account the current ability of your tenant to pay and the history of that tenant’s record.

Landlords are also asked to have compassion for tenants who:

  • do not have family support on the island.
  • are not eligible for Financial Assistance, but may be able to claim unemployment benefits.

However, it should be noted that tenants who have the ability to pay their rent should do so, in accordance with their current rental agreement.

Any 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.

Working in collaboration with the Real Estate Division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, COVID-19 landlord / tenant addendum agreement guidelines as well as a COVID-19 rental relief form have been developed to support discussions around adjusting rent payment during these uncertain times and can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm.

As we adapt to the effects of COVID-19 in Bermuda, we are mindful of the numerous economic factors which impact the ability of the public to navigate these unprecedented times. The cost of goods is a major concern of Bermuda residents especially at this time. In response to numerous emails and phone calls relating to price irregularities in the Bermuda marketplace, I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Home Affairs in conjunction with the Cost of Living Commission have developed an online reporting tool. With the support of the Cost of Living Chairman, Mr. Derrick Burgess, this online tool will allow residents to submit information regarding allegations of price gouging in Bermuda.

Price gouging is defined as “a seller increasing the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent. Usually this event occurs after a demand or supply shock. Common examples include price increases of basic necessities after hurricanes and other natural disasters; and in this case, what we are facing now, a pandemic.”

The easy to complete online form is anonymous and will be used to inform the Chairman of the Cost of Living Commission of any price irregularities in the Bermuda marketplace, for further investigation under his authority. It is not within the Commission’s remit for refunds to be issued – rather, it is for business practices to be regulated so that the consumer is protected from unethical pricing methods.

To report price irregularities for review by the Cost of Living Commission, please visit:  https://forms.gov.bm/covid-19/ReportAPrice.

I will now ask Minister Caines to give an update from the EMO.

(To be added)

Thank you Minister.

In closing, I would like to echo the statement of everyone at this table, and made today by the Minister of Health, the condolences to the families who have lost loved ones, as a result of this virus.

That was obviously a blow for everyone on the island yesterday. The Premier certainly reflected the feelings that we as a government, and I’m sure the public had as a result of hearing that yesterday, but it needs to be emphasized that this virus can kill.

And unfortunately, we have two families in Bermuda, who have now experienced that pain that we’ve seen over hundreds of thousands of people around the world have experienced.

It is also important that people understand that what is being done is to reduce the spread of the virus. We all have a role to play in this important process as the Minister of National Security, and the Minister of Health, and the Premier said repeatedly.

If you don’t have to go out for essential groceries or medication, stay at home.

Shelter in place is the order of the day, and a measure that started this past Saturday, and must be maintained to protect everyone in this country.

If you do have to go out for groceries, or gas, or the pharmacy, wear a homemade mask. There are many videos online, providing details for making a mask, and you can also go to our own government website, coronavirus.gov.bm, for instructions how to make your own mask, if you need to.

In addition, I would like to add, as has been echoed by everyone at this table, thank all the persons who have been on the frontline for many, many weeks, fighting this virus. Our healthcare workers, people who are providing services to the most vulnerable, people who are providing the grocery assistance at the grocery stores and delivering groceries, to those who cannot get access to food. Those who have been organized support people who don’t have homes. The other people in the medical community who are doing other services, and even people who are just doing little things to help some of our citizens get through this period. I’d like to echo, a thank you to them once again.

They are helping us to get through this and we must always remember them as we do these presentations. And as we get out in our community.

I’d also like to add another note of thanks and express the Bermuda Government’s sincere thanks to the principles of Wellbottom Plumbing Supplies Limited and Burrows Plumbing Services for the generosity of donating 2,000 surgical masks and another 1,000 disposable folding masks. The surgical masks will be added to the Ministry of Health’s inventory, and the folding masks will be provided to our sanitation workers who are out there, collecting the waste around the island on the regular schedule which continues to operate. We need to provide protections for everybody who’s out there on the front line, trying to make sure this country stays together. So thank you to those who are donating in these ways and there are many others, I’m sure that we will mention over the time that have already been mentioned, who are actually doing a lot of work behind the scenes, providing resources.