Press Conference From The Premier – March 29th
I issued a press release last night giving an update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases there are in Bermuda. That update of 22 confirmed cases is the case at this moment in time. There are no additional cases to report at this moment.
There are 22 confirmed cases in Bermuda. Of these, ten persons of the 22 have fully recovered, two remain hospitalized in stable condition (they are not critical and they are not requiring use of a ventilator) and the others are currently isolating at home with mild symptoms.
Yesterday there were 26 testing samples that were collected and today, a further nine more samples were collected. We are expecting the results of those tests tomorrow.
Bermuda remains without evidence of community transmission. Community transmission is considered to be occurring when a large number of cases cannot be traced to a previously identified positive case.
There have been some questions regarding the two cases listed on the website as under investigation. I would like to provide a little more detail about those two cases. In the interest of confidentiality, I will not disclose information that could identify the individuals.
Both have been under investigation since 26 and 27 March, respectively. For the first case, the onset of symptoms was on 17 March. They were admitted to the hospital on 24 March. They were tested for COVID-19 on 25 March. The results were received by the Epidemiology Unit on 26 March and contact tracing started on 27 March.
The second, they had the onset of symptoms on the 21 March. Attended the Emergency Room on 25 March. On the same day they were tested. The results were received on the 26 March. The Epidemiology Unit started contact tracing on 27 March. Those cases remain under investigation and I hope to provide a further update on those tomorrow.
There are currently 29 people who are in self- quarantine with active monitoring by the Ministry of Health.
1,481 people are in self-quarantine with public health supervision.
886 people are self-monitoring with public health supervision.
A total of 190 tests have been conducted, with 31 results that are pending. This is as of 3pm today.
137 have come back with negative results and only 22 are confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The first night of the curfew will take place tonight from 8pm to 6am tomorrow morning. The Bermuda Police Service has received more than 300 applications for exemption. Those forms are being processed. If you receive an email saying your exemption has been approved, you will be permitted to be on Bermuda’s roads.
However, most of the persons who submitted for exemptions, will likely not receive them because this is a preview of what is to come if the country does not adopt the strict social distancing measures which are needed to ensure that we do not have an outbreak of COVID-19 in Bermuda.
This means that if you are not on the list of exemptions, you must be off the streets of Bermuda. This means you cannot drive around in your car, you cannot go for a walk, you cannot dash to the gas station. This means everyone in Bermuda must be in their homes.
Tomorrow morning, after 6am, you may resume with limited movement, observing the social distancing guidelines which have been previously laid out.
Tomorrow morning you can go outside and exercise, run, walk. You cannot and should not participate in activities with groups larger than ten.
Normal trash collection will resume tomorrow. Please put your trash out on your designated day.
Despite the conversations about possible quarantine activities that are taking place in certain states in the NE of the United States, there is normal cargo operations on our docks which means Bermuda continues to receive food and other supplies. The Minister of National Security checked in earlier today on our shipping to make sure there are no perceived disruptions due to the changing situation which is taking place in New York and New Jersey. As has been reported, there is no perceived difficulties to our supply lines at this time.
I will ask shoppers again, if you are shopping to not buy more than your household needs. There is plenty for everyone and we are not expecting any type of supply disruption.
Moving on to another matter that is particularly important.
The government continues to work to bring Bermudian students who are stranded due to no fault of their own back home. There has been some concern expressed that Bermuda is letting people into the island which means that we may be admitting additional positive cases.
Let me be perfectly clear. Bermuda was closed and the airport was closed to regularly scheduled commercial traffic from last Friday. Scheduled cargo flights, Medevacs (or air ambulances) and private jets are still operable as they are not scheduled commercial flights.
I think it is important to note, I want to say this because I know there has been public criticism that has been leveled at the government for advertise the fact that we are looking to bring stranded Bermudian students back home. I have to state this. I consider it our moral obligation to take care of our persons who are stranded, some of them in very desperate situations.
Imagine being overseas, your dorm being closed. Persons around you being able to travel home back and you are by yourself. Food service for your dormitory is ending. This is the situation some of our students overseas have found themselves in. It is a situation that is being faced by myself and is being faced by a number of other Overseas Territories leaders. We are looking, in conjunction with the other Overseas Territories, to organize an air bridge. Nothing has been confirmed yet. But I want all persons to know, if you are a Bermudian student overseas then the Government is working to make sure that we can bring you back home.
However, it should be noted that the Cabinet on Friday decided that any person who is returning back home, in any future air bridge operation from the United Kingdom will be not allowed to self-quarantine but will be required to stay in a government approved quarantine facility. Which most likely will be a hotel. So Government approved and Government monitored facility. These are the same arrangements that are being made in other Overseas Territories. The fact remains, that the Government wants to bring Bermudians home who are stranded due to no fault of their own.
There has also been a lot of commentary regarding private jets. I want to make it clear that private jets are able to enter the airport. There have only been, since the airport has closed, three private jets that have come in that are bearing passengers. Two arrived on Thursday and that was previously mentioned. That was organized by international companies to bring persons who missed the previously scheduled Delta flight and one arrived earlier today. The flight that arrived earlier today brought home the family of a resident, a doctor from the Bermuda Hospitals Board who was stranded overseas and wasn’t able to get back home and a Bermuda student.
It should be noted that any private plane that requires permission to land has to get permission from myself in order to do so. Permission is being given only if extra seats are made available for Bermudian students who may be stranded to come home. Some people have said this is kind of like Uber jets. If there is extra space, then it makes no sense for those flights to come here when there are Bermudians who need to return home. The Bermudian student who returned home on that flight today is entering a government quarantine facility.
Regarding the UK air bridge, as I indicated earlier, we do not have any final information for that. We are continuing to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Overseas Territories to make this a reality. As soon as we have the information on how much this particular trip will cost, we’ll make sure to provide that at the earliest opportunity. I would ask that persons go ahead and go online to fill out the form, to register your interest, if you are a Bermudian student that is stranded overseas.
A number of students have contacted the London Office. The Government put out a statement on Friday with a website with a link if you are a Bermudian student at home and you can find that link on coronavirus.gov.bm.
Allow me to close by saying this. The decision to put in a curfew was not arrived at lightly. However, we only have to turn on our TVs or look on line to see how the coronavirus has impacted other countries. How the healthcare systems around the world are being overrun, which is leading to misery and death.
We do not want that here in Bermuda and we all have our part to play in flattening the curve and limiting the number of persons who contract this virus at one time.
This will be done by reducing our movements and contacts with each other. We must take responsibility for our actions and we must obey the guidelines that have been given by the Ministry of Health.
There are some who have asked why is the curfew only in the evening and not during the day. The fact is the more restrictions you can put on persons by having the ability to interact the more opportunity you have to slow the spread of the virus. So we are taking all necessary steps that we can do. As I’ve said, it is a delicate balance between making sure we can have some form of operations that continue the country while putting in restrictions to minimize and slow the spread.
Yesterday I know there were a number of Bermudians that were alarmed by the increase in the numbers that we announced yesterday.
I too am not pleased that we have increasing cases. However it was expected. As I’ve said, most of these cases were imported cases or close contacts of imported cases. It is comforting to know that we still have no evidence of community transmission but is it very important that Bermudians observe the advice to stay home. It is something that is important and it is something that will save lives.
Many of us have to learn how to be in our homes for long periods of time and I know this is a stressful time for many. Working from home, helping children to learn from home, finding ways to manage the stress many of us are dealing with.
Please know the government is trying best to make accommodations for all. For instance, we added a limited bus service for employees of the Bermuda Hospitals Board to make sure they can go to work. We will soon be launching a child care service for children of essential workers. That will be coming on line this week to ensure essential workers are not taking off the front line because they have to be at home to attend to their children.
The COVID-19 helpline number is 444 2498. This line is to answer questions and concerns people may have about COVID-19.
In closing, I will say this again.
We all must do our part. Public Health depends on individual responsibility. In Bermuda will write our own COVID-19 story. We are the only people who will say how this story unfolds.
If we adhere to the curfew that is in place. If we adhere to the social distancing guidelines. If we wash our hands and make sure we keep six feet away from others. If you don’t go to visit your friends and relatives, as much as you want to but recognizing that during this period in time we have minimize the possibility for community spread, we will all make a difference. As Bermudians we have the capability. We are strong. We are resilient and I am comforted to know that the vast majority of Bermudians are observing the guidelines and together we will make a difference.
With that, I will say a sincere thank you to all those who are working around the clock. A special thanks to the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security, those persons that are on the front line, the persons as the hospital, all throughout this country who are making sure that we continue to operate in a fashion that works.