Minister of Health Ministerial Statement COVID-19 Update December 4, 2020

Ministerial Statement: Update on COVID-19 Public Health Guidance December 2020

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members,

As the world’s efforts to eradicate the coronavirus focus increasingly on the manufacture and distribution of approved vaccines, all of us in Bermuda need to centre our immediate efforts on containing the pandemic on our shores.

After a summer and fall of relatively few but expected new cases of COVID-19 – I say ‘expected’ because as commercial flights resumed on 1 July, this presented opportunities for importation of the virus, as such, we are now experiencing a distinct increase in positive cases on the island.  This is also expected because of the level of community transmission within countries where the majority of our travelers are coming from.

Mr Speaker, to provide context, and as the Premier indicated recently, the Government made a deliberate decision to welcome the re-start of regularly scheduled commercial flights.

Visitors to the island support hotels, restaurants, bars and taxis. They participate in a variety of experiences and visit the diverse attractions the island has to offer. They rent minicars and mopeds and, in general, provide an invaluable boost to our local economy. In short, visitors support jobs.

Recognizing that it is travellers – both visitors and residents – who, despite their best intentions are likely to import the coronavirus, the Ministry of Health has developed a number of public health protocols to combat and minimize the possibility of infectious spread. These protocols for travellers blend with the protocols put in place as the Government lifted restrictions for residents in the late spring and early summer.

Mr Speaker, as of yesterday’s date, Bermuda had 272 confirmed cases of COVID-19. We now have 278, including two hospitalizations. Although it may seem as if we are currently hitting a new peak, we must be reminded that in the month of April there were 82 cases confirmed. This compares with a total of 62 cases in November.

Mr Speaker, there is no doubt the island is feeling the effects of the pandemic surge occurring elsewhere in the world. Our gateway cities are all suffering an increase in confirmed cases, hospitalisations and, sadly, death. In turn, Bermuda is living through its own disruptive rise in positive cases.

To safeguard the economic progress made – despite enormous and ongoing challenges – the Ministry has reviewed the public health protocols in place to determine what must be done to, once again, ‘flatten the curve’.

Mr Speaker, while our knowledge of the coronavirus – its investigation, care and treatment – is much improved compared with the spring, there is one fact which will challenge our ability to cope as we go through the winter, and that one fact is that: –

  • there is increasing evidence that the virus spreads through airborne transmission of small droplets and particles, which are suspended in the air over longer distances and for more time than the initial large droplet transmission first associated with COVID-19.

Combined with the most likely transmission happening through close contact with an infected person for a period of 15 minutes or more, it is clear that being indoors due to colder temperatures, where the air circulates less and or more slowly, increases the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19.

Indeed, Mr Speaker, the Ministry’s contact tracing investigations strongly suggest that it is social mixing or gatherings of people that are most likely to produce local transmission and positive cases.

As such, the public health protocols developed, and now under review, aim to assist the community on how best to navigate the risks involved. This is a matter of personal responsibility for community benefit, as the Government strives to strike a balance between risk mitigation and the economic impact of taking precautions.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members will be aware that one of the most important steps an individual can take to ‘stop the spread’ is to simply wear a mask.

As recently announced, the Government has moved to introduce fines for persons not wearing a mask in accordance with the existing law. While there is guidance on mask-wearing at coronavirus.gov.bm, please know that if a physical distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained between you and other people, you must wear a mask. This does not apply if you are at home, with members of your household, eating or drinking or doing high exertion exercise. Also, this does not apply to children under the age of two.

However, to be clear, this mask requirement does include:

  • workers at all workplace premises;
  • people using public transport or taxis;
  • any person visiting any establishment, whether indoor or outdoor (for example, a grocery store, shop, bank, office, etc.), unless otherwise allowed by specific guidance such as that which applies to bars, restaurants and gyms; and,
  • in public places (streets or parks) when other persons are present and 6 feet distance cannot be maintained.

Mr Speaker, in addition to highlighting the need to be more rigorous with respect to mask-wearing during this stage of the pandemic, the Ministry is reviewing the guidance provided to travellers arriving in Bermuda.

As I stated at the beginning, air travel is the main way in which the coronavirus reaches our island. It is a situation that is particularly difficult to handle when a person is asymptomatic but infectious – and they don’t know it!

As the incubation period for COVID-19 is between two and 14 days, the Ministry developed ‘mobile quarantine’ as a means by which newly arriving travellers could be ‘free to roam’ if they had both a negative pre-arrival test and a negative test on arrival at the airport. The “Ten Tips for Mobile Quarantine During COVID-19” states, for example, that travellers cannot attend events with large groups of people, they must stay away from crowded places and they need to exercise outside and not in a gym or with a sports team. As part of mobile quarantine, all travellers are required to be tested on Day 4, Day 8 and Day 14 of their stay. If a traveller does not have a negative pre-arrival test, that person has to quarantine until a Day 8 negative test result.

Mr Speaker, there has been considerable confusion regarding the mobile quarantine procedures. There is uncertainty in the community in terms of what is, and is not, allowed.

In revisiting the public health rationale that forms its foundation, the Ministry of Health is taking into account new facts which have come to light since mobile quarantine was put in place.

For the most part, it is the surging pandemic around the world – not just in our gateway cities – that has led to an increase in confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Bermuda. The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) has noted that an increasing number of travellers are testing positive on Day 4 and, to a lesser extent, Day 8 of their stay. Some are symptomatic but others are not. ESU has also noted that an increasing share of the confirmed cases in Bermuda is due to local transmission.

In an effort to minimize the potential to spread COVID-19, the Ministry has developed a new ‘traveller continuum’ that provides more clear direction to visiting and resident travellers during the first 14 days of their stay in, or return to, Bermuda. This takes into consideration the testing data compiled by ESU, as well as the information gleaned from ESU’s contact tracing investigations.

The protocols captured in “The Traveller’s First 14 Days” seek to balance the need to manage the risk of transmission with the requirement to bolster our very fragile economic recovery.

Mr Speaker, for those who have a negative pre-arrival test as well as a negative ‘on arrival’ test at the airport, the new guidance clearly states those persons can take public transport, dine outdoors or dine indoors only at the hotel where they are staying, go shopping, enjoy outdoor activities and work remotely from home. They cannot go to  work and attend in-person meetings, participate in church services, dine indoors at restaurants not located in their hotel, go to a gym, attend a permitted large event or other events such as a house party, birthday party or funeral, or attend indoor events, generally. When those travellers have had a negative Day 4 test result, they can dine indoors, attend permitted outdoor large events, but still cannot go to a gym or play a contact sport.

For those travellers without a pre-arrival test, they are tested on arrival at the airport and must remain in quarantine until receiving a negative Day 8 test result.

After a negative Day 8 test result, all travellers can to go work and attend meetings, go to school and day care, enjoy the movies and attend church services.

A negative Day 14 test result is required before any travellers can use a gym or play a contact sport.

For travellers, the testing regime of ‘on arrival’ and then additional testing through to Day 14 continues to apply.

It is hoped the clarity now provided around what activities a traveller can engage in during the first 14 days of a stay on island is helpful.

The new guidance, “The Traveller’s First 14 Days”, will be available online at coronavirus.gov.bm later today.

Mr Speaker, to assist in the identification of travellers, the Government proposes to implement a ‘traveller wristband’ to be worn by all those arriving on island until they test out on Day 14 with a negative test result.

The Government is aware that not knowing who has travelled recently is causing some anxiety in the community. This can be allayed, to a certain extent, by requiring all travellers to wear the wristband. As each test day comes due, the testing team will check to ensure the traveller wristband has not been removed.

This provides an easy way for businesses, for example, to know that it is a recent traveller who is patronising their establishment.

Mr Speaker, a final change to our activities which the Government will put in place is a reinstatement of earlier closing for bars and nightclubs, from 2.00am back to midnight.

As stated previously, social mixing is being identified, through contact tracing investigations, as a means by which COVID-19 transmission occurs. The purpose in reducing the hours of operation is to reduce the opportunity to engage in social mixing in a setting that can lead to a less robust adherence to public health protocols.

Mr Speaker, this Government recognizes that this is a difficult pill to swallow at this festive time of year. However, we will continue to work with our stakeholders, and will re-evaluate all of these more restrictive public health protocols early in the New Year.

Mr Speaker, in closing, I would like to say this Government is very aware of just how difficult it is to effect an economic recovery whilst still in the midst of a global pandemic. It forces us to put precautionary measures in place that impact us personally in our daily lives. More particularly, we know these measures can be extremely challenging for businesses.

I am reminded, though, Mr Speaker, that at the beginning of this marathon, our main measure of success was that we would not overwhelm our hospital system. At this point, I will say that we have succeeded in this regard. Residents, frontline workers, Ministry staff, the third sector, local businesses, international business – all of us – we have worked hard and worked together in this fight against COVID-19.

The marathon is not over yet, so our continued commitment to robust public health protocols is critical.

I want to thank the entire Bermuda community for its unceasing efforts.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update December 4 2020

COVID-19 Press Release – December 4

There were 678 test results received by the Ministry of Health yesterday (2 December 2020), and six were positive for COVID-19.

One of the new cases is classified as imported with details as follows:

  • 1 resident who arrived on DL 617  from New York on 2 December 2020 and tested positive on their arrival test, having not had a pre-test

Two of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact with details as follows:

  • 2 residents who were under quarantine as close contacts (1 household, 1 workplace) of known cases, one of whom was symptomatic

The remaining 3 new cases are classified as under investigation. These cases are among symptomatic residents with no history of travel or currently identified links to other known cases or clusters

Bermuda now has 278 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

·there are 53 active cases, of which

·51 are under public health monitoring and

·2 are hospitalized with 1 in critical care;

·a total of 216 have recovered, and

·the total deceased remains 9.

 The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 51 years and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 0 to 101 years.

To protect privacy and confidentiality, the average age and age range of the hospitalized cases will not be provided.

The average age of all deceased cases is 74 years and the age range is 57 to 91 years.

The source of all cases is as follows:

·127 are Imported

·118 are Local transmission, with known contact/source

·21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source, and

·12 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is greater than 1  (1.10) and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.

The Ministry of Health can advise that it has opened a new drive-thru testing location at the Star of India in Dockyard. Testing appointments are now available at the Star of India on Friday December 4 (today) from 11am until 5pm.

Additionally, testing on Saturday December 5 will be moved from it’s originally scheduled location of the Modern Mart to the Star of India from 11am to 5pm. All those who have originally booked appointments for the Modern Mart will be notified of this change via email. There will also be testing at the Star of India on December 9 from 11am until 5pm. The Ministry of Health will advise of further changes to the testing schedule at a press update on Tuesday. You can book an appointment to be tested here: https://www.gov.bm/coronavirus-get-tested

The Department of Health will host a walk-in Flu Vaccine Express on Thursday December 17, 2020 from 1:45 pm-4 pm, weather permitting, at the Hamilton Health Center, 67 Victoria Street, Hamilton.

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update December 3 2020

COVID-19 Daily Release: 3 December 2020

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Good Day Members of the Media,

There were 682 test results received by the Ministry of Health yesterday (2 December 2020), and five were positive for COVID-19.

Two of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:

  • 2 residents, both asymptomatic, who arrived on DL 584  from Atlanta on 17 November 2020 and tested positive on their Day 14 test, having been under quarantine as close flight contacts with confirmed cases on the same flight

Two of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact with details as follows:

  • 2 residents who were under quarantine as close contacts of known cases, both asymptomatic

One of the new cases is classified as under investigation. This case is a symptomatic resident with no identified links to travel or other known cases or clusters

Bermuda now has 272 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

·         there are 47 active cases, of which

·         46 are under public health monitoring, and

·         One is hospitalized. None are in critical care;

·         a total of 216 have recovered, and

·         the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 51 years and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 0 to 101 years.

To protect privacy and confidentiality, the age of the hospitalized case will not be provided.

The average age of all deceased cases is 74 years and the age range is 57 to 91 years.

The source of all cases is as follows:

·         126 are Imported

·         116 are Local transmission, with known contact/source

·         21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source, and

·         9 are under investigation

It should be noted that as investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is greater than 1  (1.13) and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.

The Ministry of Health would like to restate that if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 then please contact your doctor; do not self-diagnose.

Bermuda Red Cross keeps Taxi Drivers Safe as New Airport Opens

Red Cross keeps taxi drivers safe with donation of masks

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The Red Cross donates thousands of masks to the BTOA. Pictures from left Randall Woolridge Acting Director Subcommittee Airport Cecil Lewis Director of Hamilton Subcommittee Dukarai Richardson Burgess Red Cross Intern Corrine Riocca Director of Hotel and Restaurants Subcommittee Diane Gordon Disaster Manager at the Red Cross David Frost President of BTOA and Ann Spencer Arscott (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda’s taxi drivers will have a safer Christmas after the Bermuda Red Cross yesterday gave them 5,000 masks to help curb the spread of Covid-19 over the holiday season.

Diane Gordon, disaster manager for the Bermuda Red Cross, said of the donation to the Bermuda Taxi Operators Association: “We are sending a very strong message to those coming to our shores that while we greet them with our usual welcoming arms and appreciate the support they are providing to our economy, we also want to ensure the safety of our island and its people by demanding that guidelines are respected and adhered to throughout their stay.

“Bermuda Red Cross supports the Bermuda Taxi Association and appreciates the risk they put themselves in by providing a frontline service.

“We hope our contribution of masks will ensure that anyone using their service will protect not only themselves but others they come in contact with.”

She added that since March the charity has worked with the Ministry of Health to provide 240,000 masks to frontline workers and essential service workers.

Ms Gordon said: “When the focus turned to the economy, the Bermuda Red Cross took the position that we wanted to support our businesses and economy while still maintaining the safety aspect of a pandemic.”

David Frost, president of the BTOA, said the association was grateful to receive the donation as the masks would not only help protect the drivers, but reduce a potential expense.

Mr Frost said: “We are struggling out there right now. There is not a lot of work so this helps us out quite a bit because the drivers don’t have to buy masks.

“Most of the jobs these days are very small because we don’t have all the hotels, the airport is quiet and there are no cruise ships.”

He said that many taxi drivers have had to manage passengers who did not have masks or did not want to wear them, so the masks were important for the driver’s safety.

Mr Frost added: “The association also appreciates the fine job our drivers do by keeping our resident and tourists safe, by following the Airport Passenger Protocols and the Quarantine Act 2017.”

Ministry of Education Clearwater COVID-19 Update

Ministry of Education Announce COVID-19 Developments at Clearwater

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Bermuda’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Ayoola Oyinloye has today directed that all teachers, students and staff be excluded from school for the rest of this week.

In a letter to the school parents teachers and students, Dr. Oyinloye stated, “Based on an ongoing risk assessment by the Ministry of Health, and in accordance with the Public Health Act 1949 and the Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations 2020, the Chief Medical Officer has directed that all students, teachers and staff of Clearwater Middle School be excluded from school from today until and including Friday, 4th December 2020. This is in response to a potential exposure to COVID-19.”

Dr. Ayoola added, “At present, there are no restrictions on activities outside of the home. However, all household members must follow public health guidelines. This includes mask-wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing inside and outside of the home.”

Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain, JP, MP said, “The Clearwater Middle school family that has been impacted by the school closure are asked to continue following public health guidelines and advised to get tested for COVID-19. The CMO has informed the Clearwater Middle School community that testing of parents and siblings is available but teachers, students and staff are the priority. All students, teachers and staff of Clearwater Middle School should be tested for COVID-19. Testing of students can also be arranged through their physician. Testing of parents and siblings of students is available, however, students, teachers and staff are the priority.  A special testing clinic has been arranged at Southside Testing Clinic by the Ministry of Health on Thursday, December 3rd from 1 to 4 p.m.

Commissioner of Education, Mrs Kalmar Richards said: “Clearwater Middle School will remain closed through Friday, 4th December. As Bermuda has entered a new phase in the COVID-19 pandemic, our school communities are reminded to adhere strictly to public health guidelines. But the general public also has a role to play in minimising disruption to our students learning and keeping us all safe. I am grateful to the Health Department officials for their tireless efforts.”

December COVID-19 Testing Schedule

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update December 2, 2020

COVID-19 Press Release – Dec 2 2020

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Good Day Members of the Media,

There were 498 test results received by the Ministry of Health yesterday (1 December 2020), and five were positive for COVID-19. 
Two of the new cases (both asymptomatic) are classified as imported with details as follows:
  • 1 resident who arrived on AA 308  from Miami on 30 November 2020 and tested positive on their arrival test, having had a negative pre-arrival test
  • 1 resident who arrived on DL 584  from Atlanta on 30 November 2020 and tested positive on their arrival test, having had a negative pre-arrival test
Two of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact with details as follows:
  • 1 symptomatic resident who was under quarantine as a close contact (workplace) of a known case and 
  • 1 symptomatic non-resident household contact
One of the new cases is classified as under investigation with no identified links to travel or other known cases or clusters. This individual is symptomatic. 
Bermuda now has 267 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
·         there are 43 active cases, of which
·         42 are under public health monitoring, and
·         One is hospitalized. None are in critical care;
·         a total of 215 have recovered, and
·         the total deceased remains 9.
 The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 51 years and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 0 to 101 years.
To protect privacy and confidentiality, the age of the hospitalized case will not be provided.
The average age of all deceased cases is 74 years and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
The source of all cases is as follows:
·         124 are Imported
·         114 are Local transmission, with known contact/source
·         21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source, and
·         8 are under investigation
It should be noted that as investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.
The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is greater than 1  (1.18) and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.
The Minister of Health the Hon. Kim Wilson JP MP said: “As I stated in my press conference remarks last night, health regulations have been amended to introduce fines for personsnot wearing a mask in accordance with the law.
A person who now fails to wear a mask when one is required commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to:
a)a fine of $500, in respect of a first offence 
b)a fine of $1,000, for a second or subsequent offence.

“If anyone is confused regarding when to wear a mask, please visit coronavirus.gov.bm and read the guidance regarding mask-wearing. To be clear, if physical distance of 6ft (2 meters) cannot be maintained from others you must wear a mask. Unless:
o    You are at home;
o    You are with members of your household;
o    While eating or drinking;
o    Doing high exertion exercise (see gym guidance); or
o    A child under the age of 2 (see guidance).
This mask requirement includes, but is not limited to:
  1. Workers at all workplace premises – in accordance with workplace guidance
  2. Passengers onboard public transport or in taxis must wear masks
  3. Any person visiting any establishment (indoor or outdoor) (e.g. grocery store, shop, bank, office, etc) unless otherwise allowed by specific guidance (e.g. dining, gyms).
  4. In public places (streets or parks) when other persons are present and 6 feet distance cannot be maintained.”

Bermuda Government Press Conference COVID December 1, 2020

COVID-19 Update – Premier’s Remarks for 1 December 2020

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Good afternoon Bermuda, and welcome to members of the media who have joined us today.

I am joined, at our weekly press conference, by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will be providing an update to the public on the latest from her Ministry including the latest test results and proposed changes to travel requirements. Following that I will give an update on matters related to education, steps we all must take to curtail the spread of the coronavirus and an update on the WeHealth app pilot. First we will go to the Minister of Health. Minister.

Good Afternoon,

I would like to begin today by recognizing World AIDS Day, which is marked annually on December 1st.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for us all to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS, to remember those who have died from an AIDS-related illnesses and to thank those organizations who have provided crucial support services for those living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

It is also a chance to reflect on how far we have come and to focus on raising awareness and understanding of the disease and the importance of knowing one’s status.

HIV has not gone away, and the Department of Health continues to provide public education so that younger generations have an increased awareness of the risks, and are sensitive to the needs of those living with or effected by HIV. As of 30 November 2020, it is estimated that there are 301 persons known to be living with HIV infection in Bermuda

I would like to acknowledge our Communicable Disease Control team, public health nurses and nurse epidemiologist, who provide care and health counselling to persons living with HIV/AIDS. I personally value what you do tremendously, and it brings me great pride to be part of your dedicated and accomplished team.

Let’s continue to work towards an HIV free Bermuda.

Now, I will share the latest COVID-19 results…

There were 1060 test results received by the Ministry of Health yesterday (30 November 2020), and two were positive for COVID-19.

One of the new cases is classified as imported with details as follows:

  • 1 resident who arrived on a private jet from the U.S. on 21 November 2020 and tested positive on their day 8 test, having had a negative pre-test and arrival test

The other new case is classified as local transmission with known contact with details as follows:

  • 1 resident who was under quarantine as a close contact (workplace) of a known case

Bermuda now has 262 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

    • there are 39 active cases, of which
    • 38 are under public health monitoring, and
    • One is hospitalized. None are in critical care;
    • a total of 214 have recovered, and
    • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 51 years and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 0 to 101 years.

To protect privacy and confidentiality, the age of the hospitalized case will not be provided.

The average age of all deceased cases is 74 years and the age range is 57 to 91 years.

The source of all cases is as follows:

    • 122 are Imported
    • 112 are Local transmission, with known contact/source
    • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source, and
    • 7 are under investigation

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is greater than 1 (1.27) and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.

It is important to note that as investigations proceed, transmission categories may change. Also – to clarify something I was asked about at yesterday’s press conference – a case will stay under investigation for a maximum of 28 days and, if a known source is not found during that time, it will then move to “local transmission with an unknown contact”.

And now, a few updates:

We have amended our health regulations so that it is now an offence to not wear a mask in accordance with the guidelines. A person who fails to wear a mask when one is required commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to—

(a)   a fine of $500, in respect of a first offence;

(b)   a fine of $1,000, for a second or subsequent offence.

Also I can advise that as of today, December 1, the COVID-19 call centre will be extending its hours and will be open from 8am until 10pm (rather than 9am until 9pm as it was previously). This is to accommodate any travellers encountering Travel Authorization issues before their late night or early morning flights.

I would like to issue a reminder to travellers or potential travellers that as of this Friday, December 4th, a pre-arrival test must be taken within five days before arriving in Bermuda; not seven, as was previously the case. This will reduce the time period in which a traveler could have a potential exposure before boarding their flight to Bermuda.

As we enter the festive holiday period, the Ministry of Health is reminding all travellers – including returning students – that they are subject to mobile quarantine restrictions on their movements and activities, until they receive a negative Day 14 COVID-19 test result.

Therefore all travellers should:

  • Wear a mask at all times when in the company of others.
  • Avoid mixing in cramped, poorly-ventillated indoor spaces with non-travellers.
  • And not attend large family gatherings.

In particular, returning students should be careful of mixing with local students and family members while on island, prior to their negative Day 14 COVID-19 test result.

Similarly, those travelling for business should take the necessary precautions when returning and interacting with family and friends.

Also, while on the topic of businesses – I would ask that businesses hoping to hold celebratory Christmas lunches please keep your teams separate and your festive gatherings small and limited to work/team bubbles only. This is not the time to be holding big client lunches with those outside of your office. This will help to ensure that we do not get further spread and that your company can stay open.

No matter where you work or which industry you work in, the risk of spreading infections in the workplace is ever-present. It’s important that everyone knows the risks, how to stay safe, and keep themselves and everyone around them healthy. This is why I am encouraging all employees and management to complete the Ministry of Health’s infection control and prevention online training which covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19 and similar type diseases. It can be found at www.gov.bm/infection-prevention-and-control-training.

In terms of general advice which the Ministry of Health is issuing to residents at this time please note the following tips:

  • Ensure your workplace is following COVID-19 protocols.
  • Reduce your bubble sizes – choose only one or two other households to socialise with for the next few weeks.
  • When you meet others, meet outdoors and wear masks and observe physical distancing.
  • If the weather is good, ask your church to host outdoor services or to broadcast services online so you can still participate.
  • Wear your mask properly! Wearing a mask with your nose is exposed is like not wearing a mask at all!
  • Consider postponing events until it’s safer.
  • Avoid indoor spaces, crowded places and close contacts.

Please, everyone, just hang in there; we are so close to getting the vaccine. Please, please don’t let things get out of control at this point in the game. Yes, the holidays will look different this year, but we have to constantly consider what is at risk if we do not buckle down for the next little while.

If people ignore public health measures, we will see more and more cases and head down the path to community transmission.

I would like to remind members of the public to use Bermuda’s self-reporting website Healthiq.bm. HealthIQ helps us, as a community, to track symptoms based on COVID criteria. It also provides users with individualized information and follow-up by professionals based on various risk factors (such as being medically vulnerable), and track trends and gaps so that we can better identify places where partners like donors and the Third Sector can focus resources.  HealthIQ provides the island with more insight into where potential cases of COVID-19 may be and gives us a proactive way to address them, giving us tens of thousands of eyes so that we can all stay safe. We are asking that each household go to healthiq.bm and enter your information and update it often; it only takes a moment and is completely private. Give yourself and your community a better understanding of how we’re all doing.

Before I close, I would like to state that I am aware of a petition currently circulating which asks for an extension to the quarantine time for passengers arriving in Bermuda to eight days.

First of all, I want to say that I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of the parents of children who have had to keep them home from school and quarantine them in response to the latest cases.

However, I can confirm that Government is not looking to quarantine travellers until Day 8. This would be hugely detrimental to our already struggling tourism sector. Who would come to Bermuda if they had to quarantine for 8 days?

We must balance the need to protect public health with the need to keep our economy going.

However, I can say that we will be tightening up certain aspects of traveller protocols; the details of which I will share during my Ministerial Statement on Friday.

In closing, I would like to appeal to members of the public to please not circulate private details about positive cases. I know sometimes this is motivated by a desire to help or a desire to be best informed but please let the contact tracers at the Ministry of Health do their jobs. If you need to quarantine, they will let you know. If you need to stay home from work, they will let you know. Public health is our number one concern and I urge you to please follow their advice and instruction.

Another balance we must strike is the balance between a person’s right to privacy and the media’s need to report and inform.

We MUST protect people’s privacy – just as we do with other communicable disease such as HIV. Privacy is something we value beyond measure at the Ministry of Health…which is why I do not  always answer every detail of every case when I appear at press conferences each week; some details would identify an individual and we will never compromise public trust or individual confidentiality.

I appreciate and understand the need for transparency and relevant information to be provided to members of the public, and I must emphasis the word ‘relevant’. However this must and will be measured first and foremost against the backdrop of a person’s right to privacy.   I will not compromise this for the sake of the media’s insatiable desire to receive personal private details of an individual; details which could reveal their identity.  And I thank members of the press in advance for their understanding of my position.

When positive cases are flagged to the Ministry of Health they are given a number; and that is how they are known during internal case discussions.

Next week I will provide information on further testing opportunities for residents which are currently being finalized by my team.

Thank you.

Thank you, Minister Wilson for your update. I also want to again thank you and to commend your team for your work over the past week as we have dealt with this outbreak.

The Ministry of Health team, led by the Minister of Health, worked countless hours over the weekend, late into the night and they have been going at this for nine or ten months. They deserve all of our gratitude and the best thing we can do for them is to continue the work which we must all do which is to observe the guidance.

There is no need to sugar coat where we are. Having gone weeks without a single confirmed case, and then experiencing sporadic cases, we now have clusters of cases – and seven cases that are still under investigation. This means that people have caught the virus although they, nor anyone in their immediate circle, has any immediate links to travel; they were exposed to someone who was infected here, on-island – and we have not been able to determine the source, as yet.

Good news is through the good work being done by the team at the Ministry of Health, there are less cases under investigation today, than there were yesterday.

Since the pandemic began, our decisions and all of the restrictions that were imposed were put in place based on guidance from the Ministry of Health and best practices from other jurisdictions who were managing the pandemic well, with one goal in mind, to ensure our healthcare system was not overwhelmed and to ensure we do not see a large number of deaths on our shores.

Over the past few weeks there has been a great deal of attention placed on our schools. Decisions about the schools were not taken lightly. The Ministry of Education works closely with and follows the guidance of the Department of Health. Each school, each case, each circumstance is different.

This government will always keep the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff a priority. Going forward, to reduce anxiety and stress, if there is a confirmed positive case within a public school, I have recommended to the Minister of Education that in-person learning, at that school, be suspended immediately. It is important to note that this means a confirmed positive in the school, not a close contact, or not a student, staff or teacher who may be a close contact, which would only require selective quarantine, as we saw in the case of West End, Paget and St. Georges Prep. The Minister of Education has indicated that tomorrow morning he will be convening the inaugural Education Emergency Measures Committee (EEMC) to confirm the new policy which will bring clarity.  While in-person classes are suspended the following will take place:

  1. Students and teachers, in necessary, will be tested;
  2. The school will be deep cleaned; and
  3. The Department of Health will advise when the school is ready for reopening for in person classes following their assessment.

Health and Education will continue to work closely to ensure they provide timely, accurate information to the principals, teachers, staff, parents and students. Likewise ,I encourage all students and staff with the support of parents to follow the Bermuda public schools safety and health protocols.

This Government’s goal is to continue to strike the right balance so that we can continue to enjoy our ability to earn and our children have the ability to learn – while keeping our country safe.

Many have contacted me requesting that I immediately revert the country back into Shelter in Place; or asking the Government to close the airport to scheduled commercial flights; wondering when another curfew will be put in place; and unfortunately due to rumour people have started panic buying again.

Let me be clear…right now, we do not see a need to bring back Shelter in Place or even to revert to curfews; however circumstances can change quickly.

This Government made a choice. A choice to have some form of a tourism season in order to ensure that thousands were able to return back to work. Yes, there are some who feel that we should not have done this – but that is the decision that we took for the collective of the country.

Now is the time we all support our fellow Bermudians in the hospitality and tourism sectors, persons who are not salaried who rely on hourly wages and cannot work remotely. We must support them by all doing our part.

How we move forward will depend on the actions each of us take over the next two weeks. Between now and the middle of December will be critical in determining if we are able to continue to move around freely or go backwards and introduce further restrictions on activities. I know no one wants to go backwards, especially over our Christmas holidays.

Our students are returning from overseas where in many places record infections of the coronavirus are being experienced. It is important that all persons are disciplined and practice increased vigilance to ensure they are not a source of infections for their family or friends.

We are aware that some people are returning from overseas travel and not sticking to the quarantine requirements. As the Minister of Health alluded to, the Cabinet considered new measures today to deal with these challenges, and they will be announced by the Minister of Health in the House of Assembly on Friday morning via a Ministerial Statement. The Minster will consult with our Parliamentary colleagues, business and tourism groups prior to the announcement of these further actions.

Given the unfortunate nature of the situation overseas, it is likely that these may include further restrictions of persons who arrive in Bermuda from overseas. Our testing regime worked well when the situation overseas was more managed, where we were not seeing record infections and in some cases positivity rates exceeding 50%. But the recent spikes mean that we must take more actions to protect our country.

It is important that we all continue to adhere to public health guidance that is designed to keep us safe. I have received calls and messages to my office, detailing people at venues and social events not wearing masks.

As a reminder, if you see activities taking place that are in violation of the laws that are in place to keep up all safe, please call 211 and advise the Bermuda Police Service who will take appropriate measures. If the activity takes place within a local establishment, you are encouraged first to address the issue directly with the appropriate manager.

Some residents have expressed frustration that the 211 number has rung busy when they have called. As of tomorrow, the Bermuda Police Service will add additional resources to manage the volume of calls and to support us all doing our part to make sure that we remain safe.

As I have said repeatedly and as the Minister of Health has said repeatedly, this is not the time to relax. Unfortunately, many of the infections that we have seen over the last few weeks could be due to persons not following the rules and not following the guidance, especially workplace guidance. Quite simply, they were avoidable. These protocols will prevent the spread of the coronavirus and can save lives. As I stated last week, the virus only survives if we let it survive. If we follow the simple measures to mitigate virus spread, Bermuda will be OK.

There are people who have the coronavirus this week, who didn’t have it last week. This is a worrying, stressful, and frightening time for them and for their family members. We must hold them in our thoughts and prayers as they move towards recovery.

Many in our community, including our leaders, are feeling the stress of living in a pandemic era. We are reminded daily to wear a mask, to wash our hands, ensure that we stand six feet away from others. I have heard from many people who have expressed their frustration and are just tired of this. As the Minister of Health said, we do not have that much longer, as there is help that is on the way but we must continue to do what we have been doing better and to continue it to ensure that we can reduce this current outbreak.

We all remember what life was like last year this time. Many recall what we did to prepare for Christmas. Like every holiday and every celebration this year, Christmas will be different. Some families are considering eating outdoors. Those who would have traveled are investigating virtual gatherings. And yes, we all have to be creative. We must do everything we can to ensure that we do not contract the virus or create opportunities where it is spread in social and other settings.

To prevent the spread of the virus we must do the following:

·         Unless it is absolutely necessary, please do not travel over the Christmas and New Year holiday;

·         If you must travel, take extra precautions while abroad;

·         If you have returned from travel and even if you have had negative tests, we ask that you are careful. That means to ensure you do not attend large gatherings; do not use a gym; be sure to protect babies and seniors and persons with chronic conditions. Do not go near to those persons who may be vulnerable.

The key point to remember, in all of this that we are experiencing, is that the decisions that are made by the Government are based on comprehensive, scientific, and data-driven evidence. In turn, you should only make decisions that have been communicated through official Government channels by a Government official or a Public Health official. As the Minister of Health has said, it is not helpful if you are communicating methods directly or person’s information directly to others. The Department of Health has a team, that is expert in doing this, that is expert in managing our privacy and making sure that people’s privacy is protected.

Those of you who create and share voice notes and messages that create panic and increase anxiety are not helping. So, please, if it’s not official, I ask you not to forward it.

That much being said, the Government can and must do a better job with timely communication and in some instances over the last week, the communication has been slower than it needs to be.

I apologize for this, certainly and the anxiety this caused and I certainly pledge to work to do better. I am grateful, however to our dedicated and hardworking communications team here at the Department of Communications that has worked day and night, weekends and late nights to ensure that we can keep the public updated. I want to thank them for their dedicated work and their dedicated efforts.

Moving to the WeHealth app. Since I announced the WeHealth Bermuda pilot during last week’s press conference, over 2,000 persons have downloaded the app. WeHealth Bermuda, is a free smartphone application that provides completely anonymous COVID-19 exposure notifications.

The Bermuda pilot is going well and as planned. If you haven’t already downloaded the app, visit the Apple App store or Google Play and download it today. Just type in WeHealth Bermuda. Visit gov.bm/wehealthpilot for more information.

The Department of Health, in collaboration with IDT Digital Services and WeHealth, are continuing to thoroughly test the app. Recently, simulations designed to recreate real-life dining scenarios were conducted at a local restaurant. These tests went as expected.

Those who have downloaded the app may see a message that says, “This region is currently not fully supported by the app”. That message is intentional, as the pilot region is being utilized for continued tests. Once we fully exit the pilot and launch the app for the Bermuda-wide roll out, that message will be changed.

Thank you to everyone who has provided feedback on their WeHealth Bermuda experience so far. If you would like to provide additional feedback, send an email to covidapps@gov.bm.

Although we are still in the final stages of testing the app, we welcome all Bermudians and visitors to download the app ahead of the full launch from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Once you download and install the app on your smartphone, there is nothing else to do. No registration. No need to enter your phone number, email address, etc. As I said, it is completely anonymous.

Encourage your friends, family and coworkers to download the app ahead of the full launch, too.

As a reminder, WeHealth Bermuda will run on iPhone models 6S and above. Android users can use the app if their phone supports Bluetooth Low Energy and Android Version 6 or above.

And a reminder, the application is completely anonymous.

I will close as I always do with a reminder for those who are experiencing anxiety, stress, depression or other challenges, there is help available. You can get help and you do not have to suffer in silence. Please. If you need to speak to someone, contact the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline. The phone number is 543 1111. I’ll repeat that, 543 1111. It is important that we pay attention to our mental health as well as our physical health. I want to thank the persons who continue to monitor the emotional wellbeing hotline, for the work they’re doing for our community.

That concludes my remarks this evening and I’m happy to take questions from members of the media.

Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education COVID-19 Update November 30

Press Statement School COVID-19 Updates 30 November 2020

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Good Afternoon,

Today I would like to provide a brief update in terms of the processes in place at the Ministry of Health for when there is a potential COVID-19 exposure in a school setting.

First of all though, I would like to thank my team at the Ministry of Health who has been working diligently all weekend, following a well laid out plan to combat any possible outbreak.

The testing teams conducted 527 tests at Dellwood this weekend and 2,419 across all testing sites – an extraordinary effort. And the contact tracers have been no less busy; the way they have responded and kept us safe is well-known, recognized and appreciated.

I have heard many questions asked over the weekend as to why one school is asked quarantine while another is not, even though both schools may have some perceived COVID-19 risk.

To this, I would say that it is important to remember that we have to look at each situation uniquely. Circumstances and risk may be totally different – which can only be discovered through the contact tracing process. Contact tracing is rather like peeling back the layers of an onion…How deep we need to go depends on what we find as we peel back each layer.

The Department of Health continues to follow a thorough, comprehensive, data-driven, and scientific approach for contact tracing and making decisions around who is required to quarantine and who is not.

If there is a positive case involving a school setting, the Department of Health – led by the ESU – will physically go to the school and initiate a risk assessment, such as the one which concluded today at Clearwater Middle School. As part of the assessment, they will meet with school representatives, including the Principal, to determine the positive individual’s movements around the school, any interactions with others, mask wearing compliance, etc. If the individual is a student, they may ask questions about any extracurricular activities they have taken part in, which bathrooms they may have used and if their school bubbles have been kept separate from others. Often times, the Chief Medical Officer will call-in to the meeting so that his additional questions can be answered in real-time.

Following that questioning, we make a decision about the exposure risks and whether certain rooms have to be closed off and cleaned. We then contact the Department of Education’s Facility Manager and share our findings and organize cleaning crews.

Our risk assessment at Clearwater today determined that the whole school should be thoroughly cleaned including walls, floors, chairs, desks, bathrooms etc.

The Ministry of Health will contact anyone needing to be tested or quarantined. Like schools, people are unique too, with varying degrees of risk based on their potential exposures. So while one person may be contacted and told to test once, another person who works in the same place may be told to test four times and quarantine until Day 14 – it all depends on what the contact tracers find and what the perceived level of risk is for each person.

If you have not been contacted by the team, please do not rely on rumor, or social media to determine next steps. If you are in fact a close contact, you will be contacted by Health.

At this time, I would like to urge all students, teachers and parents to follow the recommended health procedures. This is not the time to be lax.

Parents – please remind your children to wear their masks, wash their hands often and practice physical distancing. We really need parents to be onboard for consistency; to reiterate our messaging.

I commend schools who are, for the most part, following public health guidance, even if it means getting creative:   Some schools, for example, under Ministry of Health guidance, have implemented “breathing breaks” for their students which may involve every other row pulling their mask down under their chin for three minutes. Other schools permit what they are calling “brain breaks” which allow children to leave the classroom to go outside without masks to get fresh air, ensuring they are physically distanced. Some schools are even holding some of their classes outdoors, if the weather is fair.

Children and teachers should wear their masks when moving from the classroom to any shared space. Consider a school hallway as you would a grocery store, for example.

Parents and teachers please make sure that children do not bunch together in lines and that they do not touch one another’s faces.

I would like to remind members of the public that they can book an appointment for testing at:  gov.bm/coronavirus-get-tested

I wish to close by saying that I have full confidence in our epidemiology and testing teams to evaluate the extent of any outbreak and ensure that it is contained.

Thank you.

Evening Bermuda,

Before I begin my press statement, I would like to reiterate that the safety and health of all students and staff is a priority for the Ministry and Department of Education.

As we continue navigate the effects of COVID 19, we do so in concert with the Ministry of Health.   Our commitment to our school family is to keep safety and health as a priority; to be transparent; and to keep our school staff, families and the public abreast of any new developments or plans.

These are unsettling times, and we understand the concerns shared by parents, students, teachers and staff.  As a parent with a child at Whitney Institute, rest assured that I also understand how the latest COVID 19 testing results are troubling for our schools and families.

When test results are received, we work in sync with the Ministry of Health to communicate information to school staff and parents and with consistently follow their instructions for the actions that are to be taken. Further, it is the Ministry of Health who assesses the risk of any COVID-19 developments in schools and they determine the best course of action to keep our students, staff and community safe.

Now that I have provided some background information, I will provide you with updates regarding the COVID-19 developments at Clearwater Middle School, Dellwood Middle School, Paget Primary, West End Primary, and St. George’s Preparatory.

Clearwater Middle School

In the case of Clearwater Middle School, the initial report was that one person, a non-teaching staff, had tested positive, but the school could open today; and an assessment would take place.  Last night, I released a press statement and video explaining this information.

The school did open this morning and there were 23 students and 15 staff present.  After students and staff had been on site for over two hours, the Department of Health gave instructions for staff and students to exit the premises so that deep cleaning could take place. The Department of Health has reported that this is the current status of the school.

As shared previously, in the event of potential COVID19 exposure, classrooms and any affected areas are deep cleaned and inspected before students and staff are allowed back into the building. The Department of Education’s Facilities team will coordinate the deep cleaning of the Clearwater facilities. A meeting took place at the school today to discuss the deep cleaning plan; and deep cleaning will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.   This will mean that staff and students will not be able to enter the building on these two days.

The Principal will communicate to parents at a meeting planned for tonight at 8:30pm, the process for distributing learning packets to students.

The Department of Health will determine whether any additional action is to be taken and then we will advise our parents, teachers and staff of the date for Clearwater Middle school to reopen.

Dellwood Middle School

Dellwood Middle School students, parents and staff have been asked to quarantine.

Teachers and students will transition to a remote learning schedule on Wednesday, December 2nd.

Students who do not have mobile devices will receive non-digital learning packets and the process for collecting the packets will be communicated to parents by the school principal.

St George’ Preparatory

Staff and P2 students who were under quarantine returned to school today with high attendance rates for staff and students.  Teachers and students jumped right back into the class and the day started with a class meeting held to review class / school rules and protocols.

West End Primary

Students and teachers at West End Primary’s P5 also returned to school today. Staff and student attendance rates were high and teaching and learning took place as normal. A wellness check in was carried out for the class and the guidance counsellor remained on standby in the event any students were anxious or worried. Overall the teacher and students were reported as doing fine.

Paget Primary ASD Class

The Department of Health also gave clearance for students in the ASD Programme at Paget Primary and the staff to return to work today.  Overall attendance rates were high for students and staff and staff were reported to have mixed emotions about their return.

Travel

As we approach the holiday season, there is a possibility more people travelling, which may lead to increased positive cases across the island. As a reminder, if you or anyone in your household travels (including family members or guests returning from overseas), your child will need to observe the current quarantine requirements.  A student can return to school once the negative Day-8 test results are received by the office.

In addition, if anyone in your household is required to quarantine due to close contact with COVID-19, your child should also quarantine if directed the by the Department of Health. Children who are quarantining at home will receive either electronic or hard copy work packets.

The Ministry of Education appreciates the cooperation of the Department of Health and the teachers throughout our Public School system.

Let me extend my appreciation to the Ministry of Health team who set up the testing at Dellwood Middle School.

In closing, I would like to urge our students, teachers, parents and the general public to understand that the procedures outlined are to be followed in keep our schools safe and healthy.

The critical message that I want to end with is that we need to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands and keep our bubbles small.

We all play a critical role in keeping our island safe.  Let’s all do our part.

Thank you

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update November 30, 2020

Over the weekend there were 1903 test results received by the Ministry of Health from 28-29 November 2020, and nine were positive for COVID-19. 
Two  of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:
  • 2 residents who arrived on B62231 from New York on 28 November 2020 and tested positive on arrival
Five  of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact with details as follows:
  • 5 residents who were under quarantine as close contacts (4 household and 1 workplace) of known cases
Two  of the new cases are classified as under investigation with details as follows:
  • 2 symptomatic residents with no identified links to travel or other known cases or clusters
Bermuda now has 260 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
·         there are 37 active cases, of which
·         36 are under public health monitoring, and
·         One is hospitalized. None are in critical care;
·         a total of 214 have recovered, and
·         the total deceased remains 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 52 years and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 0 to 101 years.
To protect privacy and confidentiality, the age of the hospitalized case will not be provided.
The average age of all deceased cases is 74 years and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
The source of all cases is as follows:
·         121 are Imported
·         110 are Local transmission, with known contact/source
·         21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source, and
·         8 are under investigation
 
It is important to note that as investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.
The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is greater than 1  (1.38) and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.
A reminder that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education will hold a press conference at 5:15pm today regarding COVID-19.