Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update January 21st

COVID-19 Daily Update January 21, 2021

 

There were 540 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and two were positive for COVID-19. One of the new cases is classified as imported by a resident who arrived on S46226 from Azores on 11 January 2021 and tested positive on their day eight test. The second new case is classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with a known case.

Additionally, since the last update, nine cases have recovered.

There are currently 54 active cases, of which;

  • 50 are under public health monitoring and
  • Four are in hospital with none in critical care;

 

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 686 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 620 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 49 years (median: 47 years), and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 69 years (median: 76 years), and the ages range from less than 50 years (age group: 40-49 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

  • 196 are imported
  • 476 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 394 are local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 82 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 14 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 1 case moving from under investigation to local transmission with known contact/source and 2 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 0.31 and Bermuda’s current country status has been upgraded from “Clusters of Cases” to “Sporadic Cases”.

Regarding Bermuda’s current country status, Minister of Health, Kim Wilson said: “This is good news for Bermuda and represents the progress we have made in decreasing our number of positive cases.”

“The Pan Atlantic Health Organization (PAHO) is now listing Bermuda’s status as Sporadic Cases, Countries/territories/areas with one or more cases, imported or locally detected, and has made the change on their website: https://ais.paho.org/phip/viz/COVID19Table.asp. This change will also be reflected in the next World Health Organization (WHO) update as well.”

“I do want to remind everyone that while we are doing better, we must not let our guard down, keep following the guidelines,” said Minister Wilson.

“Continue physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and avoid ‘the 3 Cs’, closed spaces, crowded places and close contact settings,

“If you haven’t already, download WeHealth Bermuda today to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Bermuda. The download for iPhone: https://apple.co/39RiQU2. The download for Android:https://bit.ly/3o5HHs4. The WeHealth FAQ page is here: https://gov.bm/wehealth-faq, or email covidapps@gov.bm.”

The Ministry of Health is currently accepting registrations of interest to be vaccinated from those residents in Priority Group 1(A) or 1(B). To register, please go to https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine

Group 1(A) are individuals who are 80 years or older, care home residents, frontline health care and frontline essential workers. Group 1[B] includes people who are 65 years or older and people who are extremely vulnerable, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or with severe asthma or COPD.”

Filling out this form should take approximately two minutes, and it is important to note that the information you enter will be kept private with the Government of Bermuda. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto-generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file, and you will be contacted as appointments become available. Every submission will be replied to, and there is no need for you to re-submit. We do ask that people who registered be patient as we work through all submissions and allocate the appointments.””

For more information on the priority allocation, please visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update January 20th

COVID-19 Daily Release 20 January 2021

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

 

 

There were 875 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Additionally, since the last update, eight cases have recovered.

There are currently 61 active cases, of which;

  • 56 are under public health monitoring and
  • Five are in hospital with none in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 684 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 611 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than one year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 47 years (median: 47 years), and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 69 years (median: 76 years), and the ages range from less than 50 years (age group: 40-49 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

  • 195 are imported
  • 472 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 392 are local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 80 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 17 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years), and the ages range from less than one year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real-time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.33) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

The Minister of Health is encouraged by the number of people interested in taking the COVID vaccine. The Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson said: “Almost 8,000 people have registered their interest to be vaccinated. I want to thank those who have already registered and remind people that you do not need to register yet if you are not in Priority Group 1(A) or 1(B). All submissions must be reviewed manually by the medical team, and then appointments are scheduled based on age and those who are extremely clinically vulnerable. As well, people who are registering online must use their legal name to do so. Not your nickname, not your middle name or an initial. Please, for the sake of accuracy, use your legal given name.”

“As we receive more doses of the vaccine, we will be moving to the next phase in the allocation strategy which can be found on www.gov.bm/vacines, and this will be widely communicated to the public.”

“Our goal is for 19,000 residents to be administered both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of March which equates to 36% of the population who are eligible to be administered the vaccine at this time (16 & over). This is an aggressive goal, but with your help, one we know we can meet.”

The Minister of Health is also reminding the public to get tested for the coronavirus.

The Minister said, “Testing, along with rigorous contact tracing, is essential in protecting our community against the novel coronavirus.

“I am quite pleased that the daily positive cases are reducing and we do not have community spread, but we must continue testing. There are persons out there who may have mild or no symptoms of the coronavirus, and they could be infected and spreading the virus.”

“Testing is free, and there are plenty of testing slots available. If you haven’t already, get tested so that you can know your status,” said Minister of Health, the Hon Kim N. Wilson.

“We have convenient COVID-19 pop-up testing at various locations around the island. You can book online at https://www.gov.bm/coronavirus-get-tested  or call the COVID-19 hotline at 444-2498 between 9 am – 9 pm.”

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Press Conference January 19th

Bermuda Government Press Conference – COVID-19 Update January 19 2021

January 19, 2021

Good Evening Bermuda,

Last week the Government was pleased to announce the beginning of our vaccination programme, with the Ministry of Health beginning distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, January 11 th to elderly residents 80 years and over, the clinically vulnerable, frontline healthcare workers and essential workers such as police officers, teachers, and others.

From my perspective, the first week has been extremely successful, and this success is thanks to the dedicated Department of Health staff’s efforts. I thank Dr Heather Armstrong, the Government’s Senior Medical Officer, and her team for all their hard work in getting Bermuda’s Vaccination Centre established and running safely and efficiently.

Tonight, I am joined by The Minister of Health, the Hon Kim Wilson, who will give details of the vaccination programme, including the number of residents vaccinated so far and details on our changes to our travellers’ regime.

Following that, I will provide updates on additional vaccine shipments, changes to the current restrictions that will come into effect on Thursday morning, and the economic measures the Government is employing to stimulate the economy. First, we will begin with the Minister of Health.

Good afternoon.

There were 657 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and 1 was positive for COVID-19.

The new case is classified as imported with details as follows:

  • 1 resident who arrived on AA 308 from Miami on 17 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

There have also been 5 recoveries.

Bermuda now has 684 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows.

There are 69 active cases, of which

  • 63 are under public health monitoring and
  • 6 are in hospital with none in critical care;
  • a total of 603 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains at 12.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years) and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 47 years (median: 47 years) and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 61 years (median: 69 years) and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years) and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

  • 195 are Imported
  • 472 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 392 are Local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 80 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 17 are Under Investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 1 case moving from under investigation to local transmission with known contact/source.

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years) and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.35) and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.

I will now provide an update on the COVID-19 vaccination programme. As the Premier mentioned, the ministry started the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday 11 January. For the week of 11 January – 16 January, there have been a total of 1,665 vaccines administered.

738 of these vaccines were administered by the Bermuda Hospitals Board during their first vaccination clinic held at the King Edward Memorial Hospital. The individuals vaccinated were part of Phase 1(A) priority group as outlined in the ministry’s Vaccine Allocation Strategy and included both frontline healthcare workers and residents in the Hospital’s long term care facility.

Of the remaining 927 vaccines, 40 were administered to the elderly, extremely clinically vulnerable, and clinically vulnerable at nursing care facilities and 887 were given to the elderly and frontline healthcare and essential service workers at the Vaccination Centre at the Police Recreation Club.

More particularly, of the vaccines administered so far, the breakdown is as follows:

  • 58% female, and,
  • 42% male, and of this
  • 32% were essential service workers,
  • 27% were health workers,
  • 22% were not categorized by occupation (elderly)
  • 19% were ‘Other’, as in retired, unemployed or caregivers.

As has been reported, when we initially opened the Vaccination Hotline, we were overwhelmed with the number of residents calling to express their interest to be vaccinated. As a result, we increased the number of staff to answer the calls and revamped the infrastructure for these staff.

We also implemented an online form which allows residents to register their interest easily, efficiently and conveniently. I am happy to report that the number of residents who have registered their interest to date is 7,729. The ministry would like to thank those residents who have already registered and remind residents that registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment, as all submissions will be prioritised based on an assessment by our medical personnel.

The breakdown of those registering their interest is as follows:

  • 51% female
  • 49% male, further broken down as
  • 63% White
  • 14% Black
  • 9% Mixed/Other
  • 14% Race not stated (as the initial online form did not have the field)

For those residents who haven’t registered as of yet but would like to, we recommend using the online registration form which can be found at https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccineAs I have said before, when you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto-generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file, and you will be contacted as appointments become available. Every submission will be replied to, and there is no need for you to re-submit. We ask that people who registered, whether via the online form or by email, to please be patient as we work through all submissions and allocate the appointments.

The process for the medical risk assessment is a manual one done by the medical team – and this takes time. At present, eligibility is a combination of age, medical history and occupation. We are focused on those who are in Priority Groups 1(A) and 1(B) but recognize that people can be in multiple categories and have medical vulnerabilities which are not evident to the naked eye.

Following our initial allocation strategy, Group 1(A) includes people who are 80 years or older, care home residents, frontline health care and frontline essential workers. Group 1(B) includes people who are 65 years or older and people who are extremely vulnerable, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or with severe asthma or COPD.

During the first week, there were many healthcare workers and frontline essential service workers who received the vaccine at the Vaccination Centre. These were workers who were largely registered as a ‘bloc’ through their place of employment – for example, the police, firefighters and ports of entry staff. As we tackle the backlog of registrations received online or those emails which remain, we are moving our focus this week to increase the number of high risk and elderly persons receiving the vaccine.

As the vaccine has strict quality control standards and must be administered within a specific time period, we must closely monitor the doses administered throughout the day. So that you know, once it is thawed, a vaccine batch must be used within five days; and a vial, which holds five doses, must be fully used once opened and mixed. Our mandate is to ensure we do not waste a single dose

On the question of some persons receiving the vaccine before others, as I said before, this decision is based on a risk assessment done by the medical team and in accordance with the information provided by the resident.

Bermuda does not yet have a registry that provides information on the persons with medical conditions that would help validate all of the information received. This means that we have to rely on self-reporting in cases where there is no doctor’s note.

As we get to the end of each day’s vaccination session, we only have a limited time to administer the remaining doses. That is when we contact persons who are eligible for vaccination in Phase 1 and who can attend the Vaccination Centre in a few minutes. That is how we avoid wastage.

In the coming days and weeks, the ministry will continue to distribute vaccine doses to the rest homes and long term care facilities. We will continue administering vaccines at the Vaccination Centre to those who match Group 1(A) and Group 1(B) profiles who have registered their interest.

We are also in the process of identifying added opportunities to administer more vaccinations before the arrival of the next batch of vaccines. This will involve additional locations and or additional shifts.

In short, we are seeking to dramatically increase the number of vaccines we can administer daily and provide residents with more options to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. This increase in our capacity will also see us moving into Phase 2 (persons 50 and older, vulnerable people, essential travellers and specific groups such as unsheltered persons) and, eventually, Phase 3, when we can offer the vaccine to everyone.

The aim is to ensure anyone who wants a vaccine can get one.

I also have an update for travellers…

Starting on the 25th of January, travellers in different traveller continuum stages will be changing their wristbands’ colours. So every traveller arriving will receive a red wristband upon arrival. On day four testing, the red wristband will be changed to orange, and on day eight testing the orange wristband will be changed to a yellow. These changes in colour are related to activities that persons should or should not do as they advance through their testing regime and incubation period.

Travellers are reminded that there are very specific things they cannot do until they are further into their testing regime.  For example, no one should be visiting a bar or playing a contact sport until after their day eight negative test.

Examples of the different activities are provided on the “Travellers’ First 14 Days in Bermuda – Guidance for Residents and Visitors” document at https://www.gov.bm/coronavirus-travellers.

We hope the series of coloured wristbands will help travellers know what they can and cannot do during their first 14 days in Bermuda.

Finally… We are at the beginning of our vaccine journey, and it is a journey… so continue to stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Thank you Minister…

On behalf of the people of Bermuda, I thank you and your team for all of the hard work that you continue to put in on the front line of this pandemic.

In the first six days of vaccination (last week Monday to Saturday), 1,665 doses of the vaccines were administered, in addition to the 197 doses that were administered yesterday at the vaccinate centre. Over 7,700 people have registered their interest in taking the vaccine. I am thankful to all of those who have expressed their interest and have taken the necessary steps to protect themselves and our community. Please do not submit your registration for the vaccine if you are not in group 1.

As a country, we have a very ambitious goal. Our goal in Bermuda is to have 19,000 residents administered two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of March which equates to 36% of the population who are eligible to be administered the vaccine at this time (16 & over). That means that we will work to deliver 36,000 doses in the next 70 days. It is a massive undertaking, but I know without question that as a country, we can do it.

You may ask how we are able to make such bold claims and set such aggressive targets? That is because last week the UK Government informed the Government that additional 29,250 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be made available to Bermuda with 19,500 doses expected to arrive on Island next week.

Earlier today the Minister of Health briefed the Cabinet on the plans to expand the Vaccination programme to meet this very aggressive target. I am confident that we will meet this target and look forward to working with all sectors to make this a reality.

I will now provide you with an update on the restrictions currently in place and what changes we will implement going forward:

Today, in line with the Ministry of Health recommendations, and with the support of the COVID Cabinet Committee, the Cabinet has also agreed to the following changes to restrictions:

  • Group gatherings of persons in a private or public setting will increase from a maximum of 10 to a maximum of 25 people – this will also apply to outdoor funerals.
  • Indoor bars and nightclubs can re-open but will only be permitted to operate as table service only, with a maximum of 6 at a table. No bar service will be permitted.
  • The curfew will remain in place between the hours of midnight – 5 am, with businesses closing at 11 pm.

These changes will come into effect on Thursday, January 21st, at 6 am. And as per usual, the restrictions will be reviewed every two weeks.

There will be no Large Group exemptions approved at this time. However, exemptions may be submitted to the Minister of National Security, for events taking place after February 1st.

It is through our collective efforts as a community and country that we can relax some of these restrictions. However, it is essential that we continue to remain vigilant. Please observe the guidance, get tested and obey the laws intended to keep us all safe, keep our economy flowing and the vaccine programme efficient and effective.

I know that the extension of curfew may not be welcomed news to many, and without question, it was a difficult decision. However, we must keep our long-term goals in mind as a country. To expand our vaccination programme we must continue to protect our healthcare system, not only the hospital but also the Ministry of Health team who 3 manage outbreaks and vaccination, and ensure that they are not overwhelmed by minimising the risk of future outbreaks. This will allow healthcare workers to continue to assist the Government in getting the vaccine to those who wish to receive it.

Bermuda, we have shown that we can work together to successfully manage this Covid outbreak. However, we must not let our defences down and become complacent (again). This includes wearing masks. I remind everyone that masks are still mandatory when in public, so please wear your mask. A further outbreak due to complacency would delay vaccination efforts and could lead to health and economic challenges for our country.

As I have stated in the past, we will use technology to help us stop the spread of the virus. If you haven’t already done so, please download the WeHealth Bermuda app today. Right now. It is easy. Go to the app store or Google Play, in the search field type in WeHealth Bermuda, and you can download the app.

Last week I was asked several questions about the WeHealth Bermuda app.

The app was officially launched on December 11, 2020.

The first code was issued on December 22, 2020. I was asked by Ms Palacio of Media Maya at last week’s press conference how many codes have been given out compared to the number of people who tested positive.

There have been 29 codes given to individuals who were confirmed positive since the first codes were administered. In that time, there have been 84 confirmed cases which were not imported cases. This means that 34.5% of confirmed positive cases were able to have a code issued since December 22nd.

Additionally, Mr Lindsay of TNN asked how many people have received notification that they had been near someone who tested positive.

We cannot get that data from the WeHealth app developers as the app is designed to provide notifications about a positive case anonymously.

When asked for the number of people who received exposure notifications, the app developers stated there is no way to know who gets notified of exposures. This is intentional and is a key part of how the privacy model works. When an individual receives an Exposure Notification, they are the only person in the world who knows they got notified.

The app is free, and once you download and install it on your smartphone, there’s nothing else you need to do. The app will run in the background and alert you to any exposure risks.

If you already have the app, encourage your friends, family and coworkers to download the app, too.

If you have questions, visit www.gov.bm/wehealth.

I will now discuss the Government’s economic measures to help us continue stimulating Bermuda’s economy.

On November 16th, following the Throne Speech, the Minister of Public Works, the Hon Lt Col. David Burch announced a short-term economic stimulus programme in partnership with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC). The aim of this programme is to provide jobs for Bermudian owned businesses and to also provide for much-needed upgrades and improvements to the island’s infrastructure.

This is in keeping with the Government’s commitment to support small to medium-sized businesses through these challenging financial times, and our commitment to invest in capital development projects.

The Economic Stimulus Programme will initially consist of over 40 projects, where the Government intends to use as many local businesses, tradespersons, and contractors as possible. The Ministry of Public Works will ensure the allocation of funding and opportunity for work is spread across the various businesses within the programme. We strongly encourage Bermudian owned businesses to apply, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises.

The Government understands that there will be small local businesses who are not familiar with these processes. We want these businesses to have the opportunity to participate and not be deterred by the process and documentation required. The BEDC will provide assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises to ensure that they can confidently submit their application, and be involved in the stimulus programme.

This is not about large construction companies. We are looking for local businesses that provide various services related to the construction industry, from large projects to water heater repair, plumbers, AC installation plumbing, painting, dock maintenance, tiling installers, painting (just to name a few).

If you or a friend have a business such as bathroom remodelling, roof & tank cleaning, or even landscaping, we want you to apply and be involved.

The deadline to sign up is February 15th, 2021. Go to the BEDC website www.bedc.bm to learn more and register for the virtual info sessions.

In closing, we are taking another step forward in our fight against COVID-19 with the expansion of our vaccination programme, and the second batch of vaccines on the way.

Public schools are open, and we are implementing a programme to help boost our economy, get Bermudians back to work, and begin to rebuild for the future.

There is much work underway, and much more work to be done. But, I am hopeful that if we continue to work together, make responsible decisions, adhere to the guidance, and get vaccinated when possible, we will continue to progress as a country.

Bermuda with the rest of the world has been living with the coronavirus for almost a year now. This has brought unusually high levels of stress for many. Some have lost loved ones; some have supported family members and friends who were confirmed positive for the virus. Many have lost their jobs, due to no fault of their own.

We know that many in our community may need extra support emotionally. If you need someone to talk with, the Bermuda Psychology Association continue to support the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline. The phone number is 543-1111. I’ll repeat it … 543 1111. The line will be operated every Monday to Saturday, from 5 pm – 9 pm.

This help is available if you need someone to talk with, whether you are:

  • feeling anxious;
  • caregivers caring and coping with family members with Dementia;
  • seniors who may feel isolated;
  • or if you are not feeling yourself.

The phone number again is 543-1111.

To get accurate, reliable information sign up for the Government’s WhatsApp service. Add the phone number 504 6045 to your contacts and send us a simple message saying ‘hi’, and you will receive Whatsapp updates from the government.

Before I take questions from the media, I am asking the members of the media to be patient. The Government’s #1 priority is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. I have asked the health team to focus on the work needed to accelerate this effort rather than parsing the various statistics requests which are being received. In the coming weeks, we will establish a website where all statistics will be able to be seen, but until then, they will be reported once weekly at this weekly press conference. I am now happy to take questions from the media.

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update January 18th

COVID-19 Daily Release 18 January 2021

Good day,

There were 2380 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and thirteen were positive for COVID-19. Ten of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:

  • Two residents who arrived on AA 308 from Miami on 2 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 14 test,
  • Three residents who arrived on AC 1818 from Toronto on 8 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 8 test,

§  Two non-residents who arrived on BA 2233 from London on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 4 test (These travelers were quarantined until Day 4 results as they arrived from the UK),

  • One resident who arrived on AA 308 from Miami on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 4 test,
  • One resident who arrived on DL 617 from New York on 11 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 4 test,
  • One resident who arrived on S46227 from Portugal on 16 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test.

Two of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases. The remaining new case is classified as under investigation. This case is a resident with no currently identified link to other known cases or history of travel in the past 14 days.

Additionally, since the last update, 15 cases have recovered.

There are currently 73 active cases, of which;

·         67 are under public health monitoring and

·         Six are in hospital with none in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 683 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 598 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 46 years (median: 46 years), and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalised cases is 60 years (median: 69 years), and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

·         194 are imported

·         471 are classified as local transmission of which:

·         391 are local transmission with known contact/source and

·         80 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source

·         18 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 9 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.38) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

The Minister of Health, the Hon Kim N Wilson, is pleased with how the vaccination programme is progressing. Minister Wilson said: “We are delighted with the vaccine registrations to date and the number of residents interested in getting the vaccine. However, I would remind the public that we are not taking walk-ins; the COVID vaccination is by appointment only. When you submit your on-line registration form, you will receive an auto-generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file, and you will be contacted as appointments become available. I appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through the thousands of registrations and prioritise our Phase 1A vaccine recipients.”

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update January 15 2021

COVID-19 Update Daily Release 15 January 2021

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Good day,

There were 643 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and three were positive for COVID-19. One of the new cases is classified as imported by a resident who arrived on AA 308 from Miami on 9 January 2021 and tested positive on their day four test. The second new case is classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.

The remaining new case is classified as under investigation. This cases is a resident with no currently identified link to other known cases or history of travel in the past 14 days.

Additionally, since the last update, 12 cases have recovered.

There are currently 75 active cases, of which;

  • 69 are under public health monitoring and
  • 6 are in hospital with none in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 670 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 583 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 45 years (median: 46 years) , and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 57 years (median: 58 years) , and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

  • 184 are imported
  • 460 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 389 are local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 71 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 26 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 1 case moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real-time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.54) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

In response to questions about the COVID vaccine, the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson said:  “It has come to my attention that many residents have posted questions online and called the Hotline regarding one of my comments yesterday. Specifically, yesterday’s comment was: Please note, the Ministry of Health cannot vaccinate people who are already infected with COVID-19 or quarantined as a close contact.”

“I would like to provide some additional clarity on this statement. If you have recently returned from overseas, you cannot be vaccinated until you receive a negative Day 14 test. If you are in quarantine for any reason, you cannot be vaccinated until you receive a negative Day 14 test.”

“If you have tested positive at any time previously, and are not currently in quarantine, you can get the vaccine.”

“With respect to the over 5000 residents who have already registered to take the COVID-19 vaccination, we thank you for taking steps to protect yourself and the community. Please note however, that registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment at this time. Supplies of the initial delivery of vaccine are limited and all submissions will be prioritised based on an assessment by our medical personnel. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto-generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file, and you will be contacted as appointments become available. Every submission will be replied to, and there is no need for you to re-submit. We do ask that people who registered be patient as we work through all submissions and allocate the appointments.

The Minister of Health is again today reminding people to get tested for the coronavirus.

The Minister said, “Testing, along with rigorous contact tracing, is vital in our fight against the novel coronavirus.

“And while we are pleased that the daily positive cases have reduced, we do not want people to become complacent and let their guard down. People could be out there with mild or no symptoms of the coronavirus, and they could be infected and spreading the virus to friends, colleagues and family.”

“I encourage everyone to please take advantage of the free COVID-19 testing that is offered by the Ministry of Health. If you haven’t already, get tested so that you can know your status,” said Minister of Health, the Hon Kim N. Wilson.

“As I said yesterday, there are testing slots available. Please note, the Ministry of Health cannot vaccinate people who are already infected with COVID-19 or quarantined as a close contact. If you or your family falls into one of the priority categories for early vaccination, we encourage you to get tested.

“We have convenient COVID-19 pop-up testing at various locations around the island. You can book online at https://www.gov.bm/coronavirus-get-tested  or call the COVID-19 hotline at 444-2498 between 9 am – 9 pm.”

“If you are experiencing symptoms, and wish to be tested, please contact your doctor first. Your doctor will schedule you or direct you to the COVID-19 helpline at 444-2498 for to book an appointment reserved for those who have symptoms.”

The Ministry of Health has made available numerous locations across the island, offering COVID-19 testing to the community. All testing is by appointment only.

Tomorrow evening, Saturday 16 January, the Ministry of Health will host ‘Vaccine Awareness – Join the Conversation’ on the Government’s Facebook page, YouTube and CITV, live, at 6 pm. If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine specifically, and vaccines in general, tune in for reliable information. This programme will allow viewers to post their questions online to have them answered by medical professionals. This week, our panellists are Dr. Ayoola Oyinloye, Bermuda’s, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael Ashton, Bermuda Hospital Board’s Chief of Medicine, and Dr Carika Weldon, Government of Bermuda’s, Science Advisor.

As the incidence of positive cases decreases, the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 reporting schedule will only be Monday to Friday. The next report updating the COVID-19 stats will be on Monday, 18 January.

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update January 14th

COVID-19 Update Daily Release – 14 January 2021

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Good day,

There were 769 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and three were positive for COVID-19. One of the new cases is classified as imported by a resident who arrived on AC 1818 from Toronto on 8 January 2021 and tested positive on their day four test. The remaining new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.

Additionally, since the last update, five cases have recovered.

There are currently 84 active cases, of which;

• 77 are under public health monitoring and

• 7 are in hospital with 1 in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 667 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 571 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 45 years (median: 46 years), and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 57 years (median: 54 years), and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

•        183 are Imported

•        458 are classified as local transmission of which:

•        38 are local transmission with known contact/source and

•        70 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source

•        26 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 1 case moving from under investigation to local transmission with known contact/source and 3 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median:  42 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.58) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

The Ministry of Health is reminding the public that there are numerous locations across the island, offering COVID-19 testing to the community. All testing is by appointment only. 

“I encourage everyone to please take advantage of the free COVID-19 testing that is offered by the Ministry of Health. If you haven’t already, get tested,” said Minister of Health, the Hon Kim N. Wilson.

“We have testing slots available, so sign up and make sure you know your status. Please note, the Ministry of Health cannot vaccinate people who are already infected with COVID-19 or quarantined as a close contact. If you or your family falls into one of the priority categories for early vaccination, we encourage you to get tested.”

“We have convenient COVID-19 pop-up testing at various locations around the island. You can book online at http://coronavirus.gov.bm or call the COVID-19 hotline at 444-2498 between 9 am – 9 pm.”

If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your doctor. Your doctor will schedule you or direct you to the COVID-19 helpline at 444-2498 for symptomatic testing appointment slots.”

“As well, If you are interested in registering for the vaccine, fill out the convenient online form at https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and the priority scheduling for the first batch of the vaccine, please visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.”

The Minister of Health encourages everyone to join the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s free, open-to-all webinar on Friday, 15 January, from 3:30 pm to 4:45 pm. This webinar will help Bermuda residents access COVID-19 testing before they return home from the United States. It will also explain Bermuda’s testing provisions for visitors and residents leaving the island for the US, UK and Canada under new protocols announced by those nations this week. This webinar will make travelling safely and responsibly a little easier. To register for the webinar, go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6920402463779442701

 

Dr. Carika Weldon will be on the panel. She will speak to the issue of Bermuda’s outbound passengers who will require negative pre-travel tests to return to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

March Training Schedule Now Available

WEBINAR: COVID-19 testing for Bermuda inbound, outbound travel

 

WEBINAR: COVID-19 testing for Bermuda inbound, outbound travel

Hamilton, Bermuda, January 14, 2021—The Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) will host a free webinar tomorrow afternoon to help Bermuda residents access COVID-19 testing before they return home from the United States.

The 75-minute session, scheduled 3:30–4:45 pm Friday, January 15, will also address new testing provisions in Bermuda for visitors and residents departing the island for the US, UK or Canada under new protocols announced recently by those nations.

“Our aim is to make it easier to travel safely and responsibly—both for our visitors and Bermuda residents,” said BTA Interim CEO Glenn Jones. “We’re pleased to be joined on the webinar by expert colleagues from Bermuda’s Ministry of Health as well as our overseas associates.”

Featured panellists at the webinar, along with Jones, include: Kirk McMurray, Co-Founder & CEO, OpenClear, LLC; Dr Cheryl Lee Eberting, Founder & CEO, AZOVA, Inc; and Dr Carika Weldon, Science Advisor to the Bermuda Government and Laboratory Director, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory (MDL). Following individual presentations, journalist Don Burgess will moderate a panel discussion and Q&A with participants.

Under new restrictions announced in the past week, travel to the US, UK and Canada will require a negative COVID-19 test to be taken within 72 hours of departure before arriving in those jurisdictions.

“We invite members of the public, Bermuda residents overseas, and anyone planning a visit to our island to join us for this informative session.”

To register for the webinar, go to: https://bit.ly/healthtestingwebinar

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update January 13th

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

There were 966 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update, and three were positive for COVID-19. All three of the new cases are classified as imported. One of the new imported cases is a resident who arrived on AA308 from Miami on 7 January 2021 and tested positive on their day four test. The second imported case is a resident who arrived on BA 2233 from London on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test. The third new imported case is a resident who arrived on S46227 from the Azores on 11 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test.

Additionally, since the last update, eight cases have recovered.

There are currently 86 active cases, of which;

• 79 are under public health monitoring and

• 7 are in hospital with 1 in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 664 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 566 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 45 years (median: 45 years), and the ages range from less than 20 years (age group: 10-19 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 57 years (median: 54 years), and the ages range from less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the ages range from less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80 – 100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

•        182 are imported

•        452 are classified as local transmission of which:

•        385 are local transmission with known contact/source, and

•        67 are local transmission with an unknown contact/source

•        30 are under investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change. Today’s update has seven cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

Of the over 150,000 test results reported, the mean age of all persons tested is 43 years (median: 42 years), and the ages range from less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.61) and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

The Ministry of Health has been informed that there are social media posts currently circulating with misinformation about the Vaccination Centre accepting walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Minister of Health, the Hon Kim N. Wilson, refuted this saying: “This is absolutely not true. Vaccinations are being given in accordance with the ministry’s Vaccine Allocation Strategy, which has been shared with the media, and posted on-line.”

“Vaccinations are only given to residents who have a confirmed appointment, and the Vaccination Centre is NOT OPEN to walk-in traffic.”

“If you are interested in registering for the vaccine, fill out the convenient on-line form at https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and the priority scheduling for the first batch of the vaccine, please visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.”

Additionally, the Minister has been asked by the media to provide detailed data on the vaccination process and priority groups. Minister Wilson stated: “The primary focus of the Vaccination Centre team is to ensure everyone, who has an appointment, receives a vaccination. After two days in operation, the Ministry of Health can provide limited statistics, which have already been given. In the coming days, and as processes become more routine, additional statistics will be provided. While getting information to the public is always a priority, we ask for patience as we gather the data that has been requested.”

The Minister of Health is also encouraging everyone to join the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s free, open-to-all webinar on Friday, 15 January from 3:30pm to 4:45pm. This webinar will help Bermuda residents access COVID-19 testing before they return home from the United States, and will make travelling safely and responsibly a little easier. Dr. Carika Weldon will be on the panel and will speak to the issue of Bermuda’s outbound passengers who will require negative pre-travel tests in order to return to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update January 12th

Bermuda Government Weekly COVID-19 Update Press Conference

Good Evening Bermuda,

Apologies for the late start this evening. Yesterday, our island reached a significant milestone in our fight against the Coronavirus with the vaccination programme getting underway here in Bermuda.

The Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Opposition Leader Mr. Cole Simons, the Government’s Science Advisor Dr. Carika Weldon, seniors, essential workers and I received our first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Our decision to take the vaccine was to lead by example, and to build public trust. I am confident that this vaccine is safe, effective, and it is vital in our fight against the Coronavirus. I want to thank the professional and friendly team at the Vaccination Centre for making the experience as comfortable as possible, and congratulate the Team at the Ministry of Health for working to put together a smooth process.

Thanks must also go to Government House, who has supplied Vaccines and equipment. This was worked on by the former Governor, Deputy Governor and our current Governor – Her Excellency Rena Lalgie.

Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will provide you with an update from her Ministry; Dr. Carika Weldon is also here and will speak about the science and development of the vaccine and how it works in the body and discuss genetic sequencing of the virus.

Minister….

Good Afternoon,

There were 813 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and five were positive for COVID-19. All of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:

  • 1 resident who arrived on Delta 584 from Atlanta on 6 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 4 test
  • 2 residents who arrived on Jet Blue 62231 from New York on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test
  • 2 residents who arrived on American Airlines 308 from Miami on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

Additionally, since the last update, four cases have recovered.

There are 91 active cases, of which;

•        84 are under public health monitoring and

•        7 are in hospital with 1 in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 661 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 558 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years (median: 40 years), and the age range is less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.

The mean age of all currently active cases is 43 years (median: 44 years), and the age range is less than 10 years (age group: 5-9 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 57 years (median: 54 years), and the age range is less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years (median: 77 years), and the age range is less than 60 years (age group: 50-59 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The source of all cases is as follows:

  •  179 are Imported
  • 445 are classified as local transmission of which:
    • 385 are Local transmission with known contact/source and
    • 60 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source
    • 37 are Under Investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 2 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 (0.62), and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.

And now on to the exciting news of our COVID-19 vaccine.

I’m thrilled to have seen the very first COVID-19 vaccines provided yesterday by our Ministry of Health team. The vaccine is the hope that we’ve all been looking for in the midst of this pandemic that has cost lives to loved ones, family gatherings, our activities, schooling of our children, and so many other sacrifices.

As we begin the rollout of the vaccine, I know many in our community have been registering their interest. Thank you Thank you Thank you. It is so good to see much interest in getting the vaccine. Our vaccine strategy has been developed based on international best practices, and it has prioritized groups who are most at risk from getting sick from COVID-19.

Our first phase, Phase 1A, is the staff and residents of our long term care facilities such as residence of the Extended Care Unit of the Hospital. For nursing homes and assisted living centres, we are training their nurses to administer the vaccine to those who volunteer to be vaccinated.

This group has had to sacrifice, even more than most during the pandemic. Our elders have struggled with extreme restrictions on their activities, visits from their families, and social activities we take for granted. The staff has also made tremendous sacrifices for their jobs, and we wish to ensure that the vaccinations are given to this group who truly can benefit so much from the protection that the vaccine can provide.

We will also prioritize our frontline healthcare and frontline essential workers. In this context, healthcare workers include all employees of the Bermuda Hospitals Board along with frontline workers from the Department of Health and those employed in the private healthcare industry. Frontline essential workers are those who provide services which prevent social disruption and allow society to function, and who are at risk for higher levels of exposure to COVID-19. These include firemen, police, corrections officers, personnel at the ports of entry, and teachers. People who are 80 years or older are also encouraged to be vaccinated in this first group as well.

Phase 1B: the second group will comprise those over the age of 65, but priority will continue to be given to those who are over the age of 80. This group will focus on those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and the clinically extremely vulnerable people who have:

  • a suppressed immune system such as during and after chemotherapy or after an organ transplant,
  • lupus,
  • severe asthma,
  • Severe COPD.

Phase 2: The third group will be those over the age of 50, again prioritised by those who are clinically vulnerable. Clinically vulnerable are those who suffer with:

  • heart disease,
  • chronic kidney disease,
  • liver disease, and,
  • diabetes.

Following that, the vaccine will be available to everyone over the age of 18 (or over 16 with parental consent) in Phase 3.

If you have questions about whether you are clinically vulnerable, I encourage you to talk directly with your primary care physician for advice.

If you have questions about the vaccination process or if you would like to register your interest in getting vaccinated, please call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 444-2498, selecting option #2, or fill out the convenient on-line form at https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine. If you have any questions about the vaccine itself, I invite you to visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

As has been reported, the vaccine hotline was overwhelmed with calls yesterday from residents who wish to register their interest in being vaccinated. We had some 700 calls of persons wishing to register to be vaccinated.

This did create a bottleneck in the registration process, and the online form will allow residents to register their interest easily, efficiently, and far more conveniently.

The vaccine registration form asks basic information such as your name, date of birth, address, occupation, and whether you have any pre-existing conditions. Filling out the form should take approximately two minutes, and it is important to note that the information that you enter will be kept private with the Government of Bermuda.

It is also important to emphasize that registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment at this time. Supplies of the initial delivery of vaccine are limited and must be allocated based on medical need. All submissions will be reviewed by our medical personnel and prioritized based on their assessments. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file and you will be contacted as appointments become available. Every submission will be sorted and there is no need for you to re-submit. We do ask that people who registered be patient as we work through all submissions and allocate the appointments.

As of 4:30pm today, the vaccine teams had received 1885 online registration forms and more than 800 email registrations. This does not include vaccine registrations being facilitated by key contact persons representing the fire, the police, corrections offices, ports of entry staff and teachers.

Please do not register your interest if you:

  •  have had any other vaccinations within the last month, as you will need to wait for 30 days;
  • have recently traveled and do not yet have your negative 14 day travel test results;
  • if you are receiving a therapy for any medical conditions as you must consult with your doctor prior to registering your interest; and
  • are in quarantine as you of course must complete your quarantine first.
  • If you have any questions about the vaccine itself – how it works, what side effects there might be, or how it came to be developed quickly and safely, I invite you to visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

There has been speculation and commentary on various social media platforms about how long the first batch of vaccines will last and when the next delivery is expected. Please understand that we cannot give an exact timeline as there are many variables, such as the uptake within the various groups, and the percentage of individuals in these groups who get their second dose when they have been scheduled to do so. As it stands now, we expect the first batch to be fully deployed by the end of March.

With regards to when the next delivery is expected. The ministry is working diligently with GAVI through the Covax facility to determine the arrival date. We are in qualifying discussions now because the facility may be in a position to initiate a small scale ‘first wave’ of deliveries using the Pfizer vaccine in March, if Bermuda meets the stringent criteria outlined for this initial small scale ‘first wave’.

I want to remind everyone that vaccines save millions of lives globally every year, and have done so for over a century. In Bermuda, there has been a robust vaccination programme in place for decades, and as a result we have seen dramatic decreases in the prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases.

I got vaccinated yesterday, as did the Premier, Dr. Carika Weldon and many others – more than 550 in these first two days! We trust the science, and we are confident that this vaccine is safe. So far, I am encouraged by the outpouring of people registering for the vaccine. It was overwhelming at the call centre at first, but we have since increased our resources to handle the demand, and as I mentioned earlier, we have set up a convenient on-line form to register for the vaccine – https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine.

I want to congratulate Dr. Heather Armstrong and the entire vaccination rollout team who put together the plan for Bermuda’s COVID-19 vaccination program.  A tremendous amount of work has been done to get here, and we want to vaccinate as many people as possible so that we can help protect them, their loved ones, and also, help the Island to achieve herd immunity. According to most experts, if we are able to vaccinate 60 – 70% of the population, we can halt the transmission and spread of the virus. That is our goal.

Finally, I want to also remind everyone that the Ministry of Health is hosting ‘Vaccine Awareness – Join the Conversation’ on the Government’s Facebook page, YouTube, and CITV, live, Saturday, 16 January 2021, at 6 pm. This is an excellent opportunity for those who may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine specifically, and vaccines in general. This programme will allow viewers to post their questions online to have them answered by medical professionals.

Until we achieve herd immunity, though, don’t forget we must continue to avoid the 3Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

Thank you Minister, and thanks again to your team for their hard work.

I would also like to extend my condolences to the family who, since our last press conference, so tragically lost their loved one in the latest covid-related death. We as a country must continue our collective efforts so that less families have to say goodbye to their loved ones before their time.

The Government’s science advisor, Dr. Carika Weldon, will now speak about the science  and development of the vaccine and how retractable needles work, and also the results from our first round of genetic sequencing, Dr Walden.

Dr. Weldon…

Good Evening Bermuda, I am pleased to share with you about how the COVID-19 vaccine works, how it was fast-tracked, and the first viral genome sequencing data.

As we all know, Bermuda’s COVID-19 vaccination program started yesterday, after vaccines arrived on island last Friday.

How the mRNA vaccine works

A vaccine typically uses a dead or weakened version of the virus to trigger the body’s immune system to create the antibodies against it. Antibodies are the body’s line of defence against any foreign intruder. Overall, they lead the body to trigger an immune response resulting in the destruction of the 2 disease-causing agent. If a vaccinated person gets infected with the disease, their body is equipped to fight it off fast and prevent sickness. Although most people do not get sick, some still do as the weakened virus can still cause disease. This method has been used since 1796.

To address this issue of vaccination causing the disease, mRNA vaccine have been pursued since the year I was born, in 1990. Using this method prevents someone getting the disease as it gives your body the instructions needed to create a small piece of the virus. This small part that your body will trigger the immune system but cannot give you the disease.

mRNA is a type of RNA, or ribonucleic acid, that is naturally occurring in our bodies. The m in mRNA stands for messenger and plays a central role in how our body operates.

We have all heard of DNA. DNA is the code of life. It is kept safe in each cell in the nucleus to prevent harm or damage. DNA holds the instructions on how to make every part of our body in the form of protein. In order for DNA to make protein 3 the message needs to be carried from the nucleus to the protein making part of the cell; this message is carried by mRNA. This whole process is called the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology.

I will use a cooking analogy to explain this further. We all have our treasured family recipes that have been passed down generation to generation. This cookbook is kept extremely safe as we want to pass it down further to future generations. This cookbook is like our DNA. I know in my family, farine pie is our secret family recipe. Although as nice as the recipe is on its own, we cannot eat the recipe book with the instructions. We have no make the farine pie in order to eat it.

Bearing in mind that we do not want to put the safety of the cookbook at risk, what we do is copy, or write, or transcribe, the same instruction onto an index card. This way we can get the recipe but do not have to worry about destroying the treasured cookbook. We can also even make multiple copies of this recipe on the many index cards and share with the whole famiy. The index card copy of the recipe is like our mRNA.

Now again, having these mobile versions of the recipe is safer, but we cannot eat it. We must still translate the instructionsinto a tangible form of the farine pie we so love. This involves adding step by step what is needed and ultimately we have the finished product. The farine pie is like all proteins in our body, which are the final products our DNA is holding the instructions for.

This process happens for each and everything made in our body. It is happening right now as I speak. mRNA is the key to it all happening as otherwise the key DNA instruction would not make it to the place where the protein can be made.

A vaccine’s aim is to provide active acquired immunity. It is active, as opposed to passive, because your body has to do some work to make you immune. It is acquired as its specific to infectious diseases your body has fought before, as opposed to innate which is a more general to anything that is foreign in your body. The vaccine Bermuda is currently using for its vaccination program is the Pfizer mRNA vaccine. It provides the instructions to make the outer spike (or S) protein of COVID-19 virus. This spike protein coats the outside of the 5 virus and is how it latches to the respiratory tract of those with COVID-19.

By providing the instructions for making part of the virus, our bodies can make the Spike protein ourselves, and then trigger the immune system to create antibodies for any potential future infections.

As you may know, I along with the leaders of our country, received the vaccine on live TV. I am feeling fine, and only suffer from a sore arm where the needle entered my arm. Our healthcare professionals have a very thoughtful safe process which utilizes best practice. This includes a retractable needle.

During my PhD days I had to routinely use a syringe and needle for some of my experiments. These were not retractable and unfortunately a few times I stuck myself with the open needle. It was painful, happened quicky and ultimately stopped my experiments for the day. I commend the Ministry of Health for making the decision to avoid this potential harm.

How the mRNA vaccine was fast-tracked

Only a year ago, the world was what we call normal, and we had only just heard about a new virus that was affecting China. Today we have a vaccine that can fight against this virus and this is a true feat of many decades of science. There are concerns on how these vaccines could approved so quickly and the following points will address this.

  1. Academic research on coronaviruses and mRNA vaccines has been ongoing for decades. As stated before, mRNA vaccines have been studied since 1990. Coronaviruses like SARS and MERS have been studied for decades as well. Once the new SARS-CoV-2 sequence was published in January, the work could for this specific vaccine could be started. This is also why COVID-19 PCR testing was available a few days after the sequence was shared. Another factor that usually stalls research is the lack of funding. Due to the pandemic status, this barrier was practically non-existent.
  2. Safety and efficacy trials which usually happen subsequently, happened concurrently. Other phase 1 and preclinical studies that showed mRNA vaccine platforms were safe was used to approve this approach. Just like every other scientific and medical advancement, Pfizer’s large study had to undergo external peer review and another external review to be published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. The goal of each of these independent review teams is to scrutinize the data inside and out to identify problems before giving approval. It is highly unlikely that all of them overlooked a problem related to safety and efficacy.
  3. Manufacturing and distribution planning happened concurrently with the trials. With much anticipation that the vaccine would be approved at some point, these steps were already discussed to ensure quick turnaround from approval to distribution.
  4. Emergency approval given due to urgency – same as all COVID-19 test kits. Approval not given if unsafe or risks outweigh benefits. Two independent mRNA vaccines 8 produced by competing companies both showing safe data also strengthened the approval process.

Viral genome sequencing

There are three types of testing WHO recommend: RT-qPCR test, which we currently used to diagnose infection, serological or antibody testing, which is currently used to aid epidemiological investigations, and viral genome sequencing.

I am excited to inform that Bermuda has its first viral genome sequencing data and that I will share some key findings thus far.

Just as we can identify each person with their unique fingerprint, each person’s DNA is also unique and can identify them. Viruses don’t have fingers of course, but they do have DNA or RNA that is unique to each one. By doing viral genome sequencing, we can tell strains apart and know how the virus has spread in our community and across the globe.

On October 27th Bermuda had British Airways flight which eventually ended up having 10 positive cases. To investigate this mini-outbreak samples sent to Public Health England for viral sequencing. This includes samples from the flight, along with 12 other samples from around the same time. A total of 21 samples were sent, ranging from cases identified between October 27 – November 18.

Initial analysis of the results show that 8 strains were present on island during this time, with all being imported. 5 of the strains have been imported from the US:

  • B.1.2
  • B.1.234
  • B.1.243
  • B.1.361
  • B.1.369

2 from the UK:

  • B.1.160
  • B.1.177

and 1 from the Asia:

  • •B.1.36

None of the two UK strains are the new variant strain (B.1.1.7) that has caused the new lockdowns in the UK. Both strains identified at the time are both common strains circulating in the UK since March 2020.

Oxford nanopore sequencing will be performed on a portion of the positive samples from mid-November to December, when Bermuda experienced an outbreak in social settings. We will also look to routinely sequencing positive cases to understand how if any further mutations have occurred on island, and aid epidemiological investigations. In addition, samples each month will be sent to CARPHA for sequencing verification, in a similar manner that regular COVID testing is cross verified at CARPHA.

As we continue on with this marathon fight against COVID-19, now having more tools in our toolkit, let us all do our part by following the guidelines that have gotten us all this far, together.

Thank you.

Thank you Dr. Weldon and thank you to your team at the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory for all of your commitment and hard work throughout this pandemic, especially during the period of time before Christmas when I’m sure you were testing more samples a day than you ever imagined possible.

Before I begin my remarks, I wish to extend my condolences, on behalf of the Government of Bermuda, to the families who have recently lost loved ones in two tragic incidents on Bermuda’s roads.

Following the vaccination effort that started yesterday, there have been some who have questioned our decision to lead by example and demonstrate our willingness to take the vaccine, due to concerns about our safety.

In response, I would like to address this with two points:

Firstly, we were by no means the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To date more than 10 million people worldwide have taken this vaccine, including over 8 million in the U.S, 2 million in the U.K and millions more across Canada, the E.U and Asia.

Secondly, we as leaders must be willing to lead by example. Our aim was and continues to be to help instil confidence and trust, and to help combat vaccine hesitancy, especially within the black community here in Bermuda.

I appreciate the concern, but there is no need to be worried. We trust the science and we trust our advisors like Dr Weldon, and we can say with confidence that we made the right decision to take this vaccine.

Last week the Government announced an extension of the restrictions already in place.  These restrictions are still in place and will be reviewed by Cabinet next week. However, at this time, there is no expectation that across the board closures will need to be extended.

The Government is also aware of hardships that businesses and individuals are experiencing due to the restrictions that are necessary to control this outbreak.  I reiterate the Government’s commitment to continue to support persons and businesses affected.

The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has provided grants to support businesses. These grants are to support rent, utilities, employers’ overheads (social insurance & health insurance) to assist businesses affected by closures instituted to control the pandemic. The grant amounts will now be increased due to the extension of the closures announced last week.

In addition, individuals who work in establishments that are required to remain closed, and who were approved for unemployment benefits will have received additional payments from the Ministry of Finance last week following the extension of restrictions.

There is no expectation of a further extension of across the board closures. The Government will continue to work with businesses to share information in advance regarding the precautions required for a safe reopening of businesses.

Yesterday, a story was printed in the Royal Gazette with an inaccurate headline and story regarding taxes on rental income. This story caused concern and alarm with members of the public. The Royal Gazette has since corrected the online version of the story and issued a printed correction in today’s edition of the newspaper.

(Let me be clear) There have not been any discussions regarding the imposition of a tax related to rental income, let alone any decisions made in that effect. It is important that the public know that the headline was not accurate.

What I said was that I expect that the Tax Reform Commission, when appointed, would be able to complete their work so any recommendations that are made, to make our tax system fairer, would be made in time to commence implementation in the next budget cycle 2022/2023. I also provided an example of the fact that there are some persons/families that own dozens of property and pay no taxes on that income, wherein a struggling parent is taxed on income from 3 of their jobs via existing payroll tax.

We are committed to the values of ensuring that our system of taxation is fairer and works better for our workers, and provides even more relief to those persons who need it most by reducing payroll taxes.

As I bring my comments to a close, I wish to express a note of cautious optimism and hope as I did last week…

We now have another vital tool in our arsenal to help to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The vaccine is here, and the vaccine programme is underway. We will use it firstly to protect our seniors and those at high-risk by giving them the opportunity to register, and receive the vaccine if they have chosen to do so.

When we receive additional doses, they will be available to more residents. It is important to note, the vaccine will only be fully effective if a majority of residents choose to take it.

As the Government has stated many times, no one will be forced to take this vaccine, it is not mandatory for anyone. However, I encourage all Bermudians to learn the facts, speak to your doctor – and make responsible, informed decisions. Do not be deceived by misinformation and conspiracy theories.

I hope that seeing me, and my colleagues receiving our first dose has instilled confidence and trust in the effectiveness of the vaccine. But, if seeing us wasn’t enough, I think we can all take confidence from the strength Mr. Horace Rollins showed, who not only took the vaccine for himself, but to protect his wife as well.

Dr. Robert Gibbons, as a medical professional, understands the importance of vaccinations and was more than willing to get the shot along with his wife.  These gestures are the theme that has and must continue to emanate throughout the island as we continue the fight. That the decisions we make are not just about us, but they are about protecting those we care most about and our community.

This week we have taken a big step forward in our battle against the coronavirus, and though we still see some positive cases – today marks the first time in a few weeks that we are able to report no additional cases of local transmission.

Though we have successfully managed the recent outbreak, it is important to remember that since it started we have lost 3 Bermudians, and 8 Bermudians are in the Hospital battling this virus. Our collective decisions impact our fellow families.

We must not become complacent. Please continue to wear your masks, physical distance, adhere to the guidelines and restrictions that are in place, and if you have not yet done so, download the WeHealth Bermuda App which is another tool that will assist our battle.

As always, before I close, I must remind you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, if you’re a senior who feels isolated, or if you’re caring for loved ones and need someone to talk to the Emotional Well-being Hotline is there for you. The phone number is 543 1111, and the line is operated Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 9pm. Again, that number is 543 1111.

Thanks and I will now take questions from the media….