Press Conference from the Premier – March 31, 2020
Good afternoon, members of the media.
I’m joined today by the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security. I will give an update on the latest regarding Bermuda and COVID-19, after I’ve just finished chairing a meeting of Bermuda’s Cabinet.
The government did receive additional test results today. Out of the six test results received today, five cases were positive and one case was negative, meaning that the confirmed positive cases in Bermuda now stands at 32.
Three of the confirmed cases were imported, one had close contact with a confirmed case and is considered limited local transmission. The fifth case is under investigation.
Two of the confirmed cases arrived in Bermuda on the British Airways flight BA2233 on 18 March 2020. Another arrived on American Airlines flight AA308 on 14 March, 2020.
If you were on the British Airways flight on 18 March, your self-quarantine period ends tomorrow – 1 April, 2020.
If you arrived on the AA flight on 14 March your monitoring period ended on 28 March 2020.
If you are feeling fine and have no symptoms, continue to either practice social distancing, remain in your house and observe the self-quarantine guidelines.
If you have any respiratory symptoms, such as a persistent cough or even a mild fever, please contact your doctor.
Explain that you were on one of the mentioned flights and that you would like medical guidance. Do not go to your doctor’s office or the hospital. Please call ahead.
I know that there has been some confusion in the public about definitions. Let me take a few minutes to explain the different terms.
Again we have 32 confirmed cases in Bermuda.
Imported means cases that were acquired outside of Bermuda and, as of today, out of the 32 confirmed cases, 20 of those cases are confirmed as imported cases, which means that the virus was likely contracted outside of Bermuda and brought into the country by travellers.
As of today, there are nine cases of local transmission. Local transmission is when a person has had close contact with a person with COVID-19. Close contact is defined as either at work or at home.
Under investigation: This type of transmission has not yet been determined. These cases are not imported and are likely the result of local transmission. Investigation continues on these cases to determine the source of the transmission. There are three cases under investigation.
Recovered is defined as a person who has had no fever for at least 72 hours without the use of fever reducing medication, and their other symptoms have improved, and at least 14 days have passed since they started to have symptoms. It is important to note, again, the ten persons out of the 32 have fully recovered.
Bermuda’s COVID-19 country status is considered local transmission.
Currently, there is no evidence of community transmission. Community transmission is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases for a large number of cases.
What is clear, however, is the number of cases in Bermuda is increasing and unfortunately today, there are now three persons who are hospitalized with COVID-19, in King Edward Memorial Hospital. The Cabinet has met, we have discussed the current situation, and as noted, if there is an escalation of the situation we will look to possibly take additional measures.
The Cabinet however has decided that the curfew that went into effect on Sunday, and is scheduled to expire tonight, will be extended for a further three days from Wednesday 1 April, to Friday, the 3 April, from 8pm until 6am the following day. It is important that we continue to work together to ensure that we reduce the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve so we do not overwhelm our healthcare system.
Officers from the Ministry of Health, and others authorized to do so, have been in the community inspecting, advising and ensuring the observation of social distancing guidelines, within businesses that are still allowed to operate.
This activity is being undertaken to help ensure vital businesses remain open and that social distancing measures needed to reduce the spread of this virus are contained.
Regarding last night’s curfew. The Bermuda Police Service has reported that there were no curfew breaches last night. This is excellent news because this indicates that as a country, we are taking this matter seriously.
The Bermuda Police Service had officers positioned around the island together with nine members of the Royal Bermuda Regiment on patrol. I am pleased that we did not have any curfew violations and I encourage everyone to do the same again tonight.
On the matter of allowing employees to work from home. As I’ve mentioned previously this government has moved swiftly to implement regulations that make it mandatory for companies to allow employees who can work from home to work from home. I have stood here on more than one occasion and asked companies to make a way for their employees to work from home.
Yet, I am still inundated on a daily basis with complaints from employees who fear that their workers are threatening their jobs with making sure that they come into work, even though they are perfectly capable of working from home and have worked from home before. I did state that we will be passing laws and the Cabinet meeting which just concluded, did bless the implementation of regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the regulations will come into effect tonight Which means that persons who are able to work from home, must be allowed to do so, and their employer will be in violation of the law if they do not allow them.
What is important is that the staff, that do believe that their employers are possibly violating the spirit and letter of the law, have the ability to report such a violation. To ensure that Bermuda’s employers work for the health and well-being of their employees the government has created a labor complaint form.
Employees can complete the form and submit it to the Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports, where the Labour Department will process and investigate each complaint. The employment violations tip-line, can be found at the following website address www.bermudajobboard.bm/evtl, which stands for employment violations tip line, and we will put a link to that particular website, on the website coronavirus.gov.bm, so everyone can find it.
I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports and the Minister of Health for working to put these regulations into effect quickly, as it is important.
Just some brief updates on other matters. Regarding the Hamilton docks. In an effort to maintain safety, efficiency, and relieve congestion on the Hamilton port, all local importers are urged to pick up their containers, as soon as possible.
The Hamilton docks are starting to get congested, and would like to move some containers in and out of the port, and to maintain the shipping schedules. Therefore, if you have a container on the dock. Please make arrangements to move them as quickly as possible to ensure Bermuda continues to receive necessary food, medicine, and other supplies.
To ensure healthcare workers can get to and from work, in the absence of the Department of Public Transportation service, as workers at the Department of Public Transportation have withdrawn their labor, mini buses will be invited to bid to provide the service at a reasonable fee for service. I am extremely disappointed with this development from the staff at the Department of Public Transportation, and this afternoon, I sent a letter to Public Officers reminding them that they must move beyond the barriers their job, in order to provide service to the people of Bermuda, as they are Public Officers.
We will each be call on and asked to work in a different capacity to keep the country running, and it is only together that we are able to come through this unprecedented global pandemic stronger.
I’ve also made sure that it is made clear from the Cabinet, and the Cabinet has full support, that public officers that do not wish to report to work will not be paid for the time in which they’re absent, and that money will be used to fund, the minibus service.
Tomorrow, the Minister of Finance in conjunction with the Minister of Labour Community Affairs and Sport, will host a press conference to give an update on the unemployment benefits. However, at the Cabinet today, it was confirmed that the payouts for the unemployment benefit will be made this Thursday and Friday. So persons can look forward to receiving those particular benefits.
On Thursday, the Minister of Finance will also hold a press conference to discuss Bermuda’s current economic position, and what the Government will be doing to help support the economy, after we come out of this particular crisis.
The final note that I have today as an update, is that under the work of the Minister of National Security, there was a shelter for vulnerable people, which was set up at The Barclay Institute gymnasium. That shelter has been open for the last two nights, and will again be open tonight. The shelter, which opens at 6:30pm, provides a hot meal, and a place to sleep for those who are otherwise without shelter.
That concludes my remarks. What I’d like to say is that the additional cases, and additional under investigations, does mark, different stage in our affairs. That is the reason why we have extended the curfew. We’re going to continue to have a conversation with the epidemiologist and I’m doing to seek advice from the Chief Medical Officer to see whether or not she believes that additional measures should be taken.
Every day in closing, I thank the staff that are working on the front lines. I thank the public officers that are doing their particular work to make sure they’re being flexible so that we can continue to provide services for the people in this country, and I will continue to thank them, as we all work together during this incredibly difficult time.