EMO Press Conference September 12, 2020

Bermuda Government EMO Press Conference

Good afternoon all:

Our last weather update indicates that Paulette is a strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 knots and higher gusts, located at 3PM about 440 nautical miles to the east southeast of Bermuda.

Paulette is expected to reach hurricane strength tonight, and continue its movement towards Bermuda.

Currently, predictions have Paulette’s centre moving through the local area on Monday morning. If the forecast holds true, we can anticipate a direct hit by a Category 2 hurricane at that time.  Accordingly, Bermuda is now under a Hurricane Warning.

The public will need to prepare for a long duration of tropical storm force winds beginning late Sunday afternoon and then ramping up to hurricane strength by the early hours of Monday morning.

The hurricane conditions should last up to 9 hours.

The worst conditions are anticipated for the timing of the closest point of approach, which is forecast to be less than 25 miles from the island at 8AM on Monday morning.

A significant surge of potentially greater than 3 feet above normal sea level is likely to have an impact, given that the increase of hurricane winds will be coincident with the rising tide on Monday morning.

This is also because we already have sea levels that are up to about a half a foot / 15 cm higher than normal, due to localized oceanographic conditions.

As those who have experienced hurricanes before can attest, a small change in the track forecast can make a big difference for the expected conditions.

So, BWS will continue to monitor this forecast closely and update the public with increasing frequency until the storm passes.

Now that we are under a Hurricane Warning, official updates from the US National Hurricane Center and the Bermuda Weather Service will be made at least every three (3) hours.

A US Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft has been tasked to conduct reconnaissance on this storm tonight and BWS will continue feeding data to NHC throughout the storm’s passage.

Following today’s EMO Meeting, here are some critical decisions which we wish to advise the public of.

As it relates to Government services, please note the following:

Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday. The Ministry of Education will be sharing updates with parents and teachers regarding any updates.

As a note, on Tuesday all schools will be assessed for any damage or major utility outages and following that assessment a determination will be made regarding the reopening of schools.

The L.F. Wade International Airport will close tomorrow, Sunday evening at 6.00 p.m. and reopen on Tuesday September 15th at 12noon.

The Causeway will close tomorrow, Sunday at 9.00 p.m. and following an assessment once the storm has passed, a determination will be made regarding its reopening.

For those in the East End, the Lamb Foggo Clinic will be operational if persons require medical assistance.

All Government buildings will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

However, where possible, Public Officers should continue working remotely on Tuesday, utilizing the remote working facilities put in place in response to the pandemic, circumstances permitting, of course.

Buses will cease operation at 7.00 p.m. Sunday evening.

Regarding the Ferry Service:

  • The blue route Hamilton to Dockyard will be suspended from 10am Sunday
  • The pink route Hamilton harbor ferry will be suspended from 12 noon Sunday.
  • It is anticipated that ferry service will return on Wednesday, September 16th subject to a full assessment.

The Government Shelter at CedarBridge will be open as 3.00 p.m. tomorrow.

Any individuals who require the shelter can make their way there as of 3pm on Sunday.

Also, regarding trash, the Tynes Bay Public drop will close at 5.00 p.m. Sunday evening. For those whose trash day is Monday – PLEASE do not put your trash out for collection on Monday or Tuesday.

If you need to drop your trash you can do so until 5.00 p.m. tomorrow at Tynes Bay.

As a note, our EMO Operations Group will be located at the Hamilton Fire Station and anyone who needs to report any storm related damages can call 261-4366 or (261-4EMO).

The Police, Regiment, Fire Service, Parks Department and Works & Engineering have mobilized their services and equipment to aid in emergency situations.

The Emergency Broadcast Station – 100.1fm will be operational as of 7.00 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday. It will be sharing key information and updates on the half hour.

Regarding the COVID – 19 testing:

  • Southside will be open on Sunday as per normal.
  • There will be no testing at Perot on Monday.
  • An assessment will be completed Monday to determine when or if it will open on Tuesday.
  • An assessment will be completed on Monday to determine when or if Southside will be open Tuesday.
  • The Call Centre will close on Sunday, 13th September at 3:00pm and be closed on Monday.  An announcement will follow if it will reopen on Tuesday.
  • Those travelers due for testing that will be affected by the closures should not make their own appointments. Appointments will be rescheduled and sent to the travelers by the Ministry of Health after the assessments completed on Monday.

Lastly, regarding Advanced Polling, there will be no Advanced Polls on Monday or Tuesday. Following an assessment of the polling stations, the Parliamentary Registry Office will update when the resumption of Advance Polling will be.

Bermuda, our weather experts indicate that this will be a sustained storm with serious winds, so we are asking people to ensure that their preparations are completed by tonight.

And for public safety reasons we are urging people to be off the roads by 7.00 pm. Sunday evening.

For those individuals who are in low lying coastal areas please note that we are expecting considerable storm surge associated with this storm, so we are urging you to take the necessary safety precautions to protect you and your homes.

To all of our residents, please remember as I have said – we are in the midst of a pandemic. Please remember to exercise caution and common sense. Please remember to engage in the right health and safety activities during this storm.

The EMO will meet again tomorrow and soon after its conclusion, we will provide another public update.

Thank you.

Ministry of National Security Press Conference September 11 2020

Government Press Conference Re Tropical Storm Paulette

 

Earlier today, we convened an Emergency Measures Organisation meeting to get the latest updates regarding Tropical Storm Paulette.

Tropical Storm Paulette is expected to intensify into a hurricane and it poses a threat to Bermuda. As of this afternoon the Bermuda Weather Service indicated that Tropical Storm Paulette is currently over 800 nautical miles away to the east-southeast of Bermuda. It is expected to come within 100 nautical miles within the next 72 hours. The Bermuda Weather Service now expects Paulette’s closest approach on Monday. Over the weekend, Bermuda can expect to experience a progressed intensification of the storm and it is expected to increase to hurricane strength by late Sunday.

In light of this, I want to issue some critical reminders to the community, particularly as it relates to public safety and storm preparedness. As we have all seen, this 2020 Hurricane Season has been particularly active. And now, we’re facing the impact of a severe storm. I am urging the public to take the remainder of today and the weekend to ensure that their storm preparations are complete. An important point to remember is that we are still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to ensure that we take extra precautions.

Yes, residents should make sure they have the basic supplies in their hurricane kits. This includes your typical non-perishable food supplies and water and an extra supplies of key medicines. Also make sure you have fresh batteries and smartphone battery packs, flashlights and any other key items to aid in an emergency. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents should add personal protective equipment or PPE to their hurricane kits. This includes, face masks or face coverings and hand sanitizer. There should be enough PPE to last for at least seven (7) days for each member of your household. This weekend you should be finalizing any routine clean up or repair activities around your homes, as well as ensuring that your marine vessels are secure.

We are anticipating that Paulette will cause some challenges for those living in low lying coastal areas, so we are urging these residents to take the necessary safety precautions.

As we all know, our public schools are set to resume on Monday. However any decisions regarding the closure of schools, suspension of public transport, closure of government offices or the curtailing of other government services due to the storm will be shared following our EMO meeting tomorrow afternoon.

The public will be properly advised of any major decisions that affect them. Additionally the Bermuda Police Service, the Royal Bermuda Regiment, the Parks Department and the Ministry of Public Works are mobilizing their resources in the east, west and central areas of the island to ensure safety and security. Following our EMO meeting tomorrow, we will also be able to provide more information regarding the Government Shelter at CedarBridge.

As an added note, the Ministry of Health will also provide an update regarding its COVID-19 testing should it be affected by the impending storm. Lastly, before I turn it over to the National Disaster Coordinator who will provide you with a general update on the new location for our Hurricane Operations Centre as well as any other operational matters, I wish to stress to the community to please exercise good judgment and common sense regarding this storm.

Please exercise physical distancing when you are shopping for your supplies or if you intend to ride out the storm with others. Please take steps to protect your families. And above all, please check on your neighbors, our seniors, and our vulnerable persons. Bermuda, we have been through serious storms before, and we have weathered them by coming together as a community. So, let’s continue to look out for one another as we weather Paulette. As I indicated we will hold our next briefing late tomorrow afternoon, following our EMO meeting at 1.00 p.m.

We will also provide updates on the Emergency Broadcast Station 100.1 FM which will be broadcasting prior to the onset of the storm with key emergency information on the half hour.

Ministry of Health Press Release September 9th

COVID-19 Update – 9 Sept

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Today there were 823 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 177 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 159 have recovered, and
  • there are 9 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring;
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 66 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status is “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.

Press Conference – Opening of Government Schools September 9 2020

Bermuda Government Press Conference Regarding the Reopening of Schools for 2020-21

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Good Afternoon Bermuda:

We are now just five days from the reopening of Bermuda’s Public Schools and welcoming back just under 5,000 pre, primary, middle and senior students.  I’ve met with parents and students across the island who are excited about safely returning to school and to a normal routine.  I have also heard from and met with parents who are understandably apprehensive about the return to school.  To assist with the transition, we have incorporated new protocols and practices to facilitate the safe return of our students and staff.

Over the past few month teams from the Ministry of Health and Department of Education have been working diligently to put these new protocols and guideline in place.  On behalf of the Government of Bermuda, I wish to thank the teams for their work. These teams, including the Commissioner of Education, have met with teachers, principals, parents and students and staff to create these guidelines. These guidelines have been used by our private schools to welcome students back over the past two weeks and will be used to welcome all public school students back next week. It has been a tremendous task to produce these guidelines, and we are sincerely grateful for their work.

Traditionally over the summer months, the Department of Education and Ministry of Public Works are busy with summer works within the school buildings for the start of the fall semester. This year the facilities team and Public Works have the additional task of getting the building ready following Health guidelines.  Some examples of the types of work that has been carried out to get facilities ready are:

Hand Washing Stations:  Installation of hand washing stations have been completed at all schools that have one hundred thirty (130) students or more.

Work in Classrooms:  Installation of partitions and doors, internal painting, installation of split units, servicing of doors.

At all school, the teams have removed bulk trash, power washed walkways and rafter, and carpets and mats have been removed from all schools.

Plexiglas shields for Admin Assistants: Plexi-glass shields have been successfully completed for the Admin desks.

Posting of signs:  Department of Health and the Department’s facilities team have received internal and external signage work in ongoing and will be completed by 12th September.

Windows and screens for ventilation:  This task falls under the remit of the Public Works Section, local companies were contracted to do repairs and additions as part of the summer works schedule. Clear Choice, Island Glass & Commercial Glass are the contractors for these services.

Chlorination of tanks: This work was completed by local contractor James Water Service was contracted.

Status of having custodians and day cleaners in all schools:  Eight (8) BIU hotel division workers are currently employed to carry out this service at all preschools. The remaining post will be filled following the completed Human Resources procedures.

I wish to thank the teams from Public Works and Department of Education for their efforts to get the schools prepared for September 14th.

In addition to the summer works just mentioned, The Department of Education has secured large stocks of cleaning and hygiene supplies for schools. These items will be replenished on an ongoing basis to ensure that school have adequate supplies each day.

Schools have been provided with thermometers, masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gowns and baby wipes at the preschool level, for staff.

Work carried out by the IT Section of the department has included upgrading servers and firewalls; expanding Wi-Fi access in primary schools; and working to secure student and teacher laptops.  The team ‘s priority at this stage is to ensure classrooms are fully operational for the return of students.

We will now have remarks and information for parents from my colleague, Minister of Transport, the Hon. Neville Tyrrell JP, MP and specific information about the reopening of schools addressed by the Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Kalmar Richards

Statement from Minister of Transport

Good Afternoon,

The team at the Department of Public Transportation (DPT), in conjunction with the Department of Health, have been working hard to ensure that the return to school is as smooth as possible for those students who rely on using the public bus system.

The Department of Health has provided COVID-19 guidance specific to the school bus service, permitting all seats to be occupied, with no persons standing. These buses will carry students only.

The 2020 School Bus Schedule has been updated and is now available on www.gov.bm/bus. 

DPT has extended the use of minibuses to ensure a reliable school bus service for the 2020/21 academic year. DPT buses will also be used to supplement the school bus service where required.

It is only when a DPT (pink and blue) bus is being used to provide the school bus service that all seats may be occupied.

Notwithstanding the above provisions, the capacity of vehicles providing both the public bus service and the school bus service is reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The 25 seat minibuses used for the school bus service will carry approximately half the capacity of a DPT bus, and the public bus service is reduced to a third of its normal capacity due to physical distancing requirements.

DPT will monitor the ridership and provide additional capacity where possible.

Parents and students are encouraged to consider alternate private transportation options where possible.

It should be noted that COVID-19 guidance for the public bus and ferry service remains unchanged, with 3 feet physical distancing.

Students traveling on the public bus and ferry service must adhere to the public transportation guidance for physical distancing.

In addition, DPT has put COVID-19 measures in place to manage crowding at the Central Terminal. This may result in delays at peak commuter times.

As a result, students are encouraged to avoid traveling through the Central Terminal by making full use of the school bus service.

Following these guidelines will help to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all passengers and staff, which remains the top priority for the Department of Public Transportation.

Thank you.

Commissioner of Education

The Department of Education has been working closely with the Department of Health over the past five (5) months to reopen schools responsibly.

Our priority is and will continue to be ensuring safe, healthy school environments for our staff and students.

As parents prepare to send their children to our schools, we want to reassure parents that we have planned carefully, intentionally and responsibly for the reopening of our schools.

We will implement many safety and health measures in our schools to reduce safety and health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We will need the full cooperation of our parents and staff to achieve maximum success.

The Department of Health has developed protocols or procedures that step out what our school staff will do to keep the environment safe, healthy and productive for students and themselves.  The protocols also include what to do if a student or staff becomes unwell during the school day.  These protocols are posted on the Ministry of Education’s Website in the COVID-19 section.

Additionally, the Department of Health has provided school staff with the opportunity for free testing prior to the return of our students.

Next week Monday, September 14th, when our students report to school, they will report in uniform and that uniform has expanded to include wearing a cloth or disposable mask to school each day. Students at the preschool and primary levels will wear face masks to and from school and for certain activities; however, students at the middle and senior levels, like our staff, will wear masks throughout the day with intermittent breaks.

School premises will open at 8:30am from the preschool to middle level; as students and parents arrive, they will participate in a compulsory entry screening which consists of taking temperatures and answering COVID 19 questions before proceeding to their classrooms.

As an additional safety measure, parents and non-essential visitors will not be able to enter school buildings until further notice.

Classrooms have been configured according to 3 feet distancing and students will be organized in “bubbles” which will be maintained throughout each day, including morning, afternoon and lunch breaks.

Students will be required to follow the safety and health procedures when indoors and out of doors, with main measures being physical distancing; frequent hand washing; respiratory etiquette; and disinfecting personal spaces and equipment.

The Department is providing our staff with personal protection equipment and ensuring that all classrooms and work spaces have sanitizing and disinfecting supplies available for staff and students to use throughout the day.

This week all of the Bermuda public school staff are engaging in simulations and training based on the safety and health protocols to help staff gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of the protocols. Staff will also learn how to put on and take of PPE correctly.

During the first week back, Recovery Week, students will learn new routines and expectations, especially as it relates to school safety and health. Schools with balance academics with a focus on student wellness and they will assess student well-being.

Students who are deemed extremely clinically vulnerable and who are unable to come into the school environment will be provided with a laptop and they will be able to join their teacher and students in their class remotely.

Schools which will operate morning programmes will notify parents.  Afterschool programmes will be run mainly by the Department of Youth and Sports.

As parents prepare children for the return to school, it will be important to help students to understand that schools will operate differently and they, the children, need to follow the safety and health protocols which are in place to keep staff, students and ultimately families, safe.

I extend my gratitude to Department of Health and Department of Education technical officers for their tireless efforts to help us open schools responsibly.

Success in reopening our schools responsibly and safely depends on the support of the entire community – including Bermuda’s employers – and collaboration between the direct stakeholders of the Bermuda Public School system, that is our parents, our staff and our students.

September 8th Press Conference COVID-19 Update

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update September 8, 2020

Good evening Bermuda.

During today’s briefing, we will have an update on COVID-19 testing and other matters from the Minister of Health. I will provide an update on the Supplementary Unemployment Benefit, and the grant of 50% Payroll Tax Relief to Taxi Owners and Operators.

But before those announcements, I wish to start with the good news that Minister for the Cabinet Office, Hon. Wayne L. Furbert announced. The Department of Statistics has compiled the 2020 edition of the Employment Briefs, and Minister Furbert released the data earlier today.

The Employment Briefs provides a count of all filled jobs in Bermuda’s Labour Market by selected demographics, occupational groups, other variables, and it allows Readers to examine what is happening in Bermuda’s Workforce.

Among many other comparisons, the Report examines year-on-year changes in employment. I am pleased to report that there were more people working in 2019, than in 2018; and there were more in 2018, than 2017. In other words, Bermuda is moving upward when it comes to job creation; every year there are more people working than the year before.

Specifically, 523 more jobs were created last year than in 2018. In fact, that increase in the number of jobs in 2019 is the highest measured increase in jobs in since 2006 – 13 years ago.

The Report shows that there were 33,855 jobs in 2018 and 34,378 in 2019. If we take the 2 year period between 2017 and 2019, there has been a total increase of 719 positions or a 2.1% rise. This 2 year figure is an increase over the figure that was reported as part of preliminary numbers in February, as the final figures released today showed that job growth in 2019 that was initially measured as 441 was actually 523.

The increase in jobs in the economy, though before the pandemic, is evidence that as a country we have made collective progress in setting a firm foundation for our economy.

It is one thing to have more jobs which obviously means more people worked in 2018 and 2019 than 2017, but are they working for the same, more, or less money?

The report showed that not only are there more jobs, it also shows that average salaries and wages increased more than the rate of inflation. Staying ahead of the cost of living is a priority for every working person, and ensuring salaries exceed inflation indicates these are real jobs.

With respect to employment income, the median gross annual income for Bermudians increased by $1,018 or 1.7% from $59,094 to $60,112; in short more Bermudians are working than in 2017, and we are being paid more. Interestingly, the average gross annual income for non-Bermudians declined by $970 or 1.3% during the same period.

I recommend that anyone who needs a new job, is trying to switch careers, or is trying to determine which retraining is best for them, take a look at the Report, identify the sectors where employers are hiring, and make an appointment with the Department of Workforce Development armed with your desires, your commitment, and relevant, recent data. As the Minster of Labour outlined in his comprehensive re-employment strategy last week, the Government will help to get Bermudians back to work.

I now invite the Minister of Health to provide her update. Minister.

Good Afternoon,

Between Sunday and today there were 2,140 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and two were positive for COVID-19. Both cases were contacts of known cases – one was a resident and one a visitor.

In a first for Bermuda, one of the positive cases was a child who had been quarantining with their parents, so the result was not unexpected. There is no public health risk as both cases were already quarantined before testing positive.

Bermuda has had 177 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 159 have recovered, and
  • there are 9 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 57 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 10 to 101 years.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 66 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.

You will recall that as the country was reopening, we established “Reopening Indicators” that we publish on our website and update regularly. I have to highlight to the public that our performance on these indicators has deteriorated since reopening. In particular, we have been consistently in the “red” for mask-wearing and physical distancing, as reported by the public through HealthIQ.

As schools reopen, we are seeing some better behaviours return to our day to day lives, and I implore you to both follow the physical distancing guidance and report on HealthIQ. Daily reports have declined and we need this important tool to make sure COVID transmission is prevented.

I would now like to issue a reminder to travellers – as of midnight tonight, we will launch an approval process for the Travel Authorization applications.

Travel Authorizations will need to be purchased between 1 to 3 days before travel. This is to allow every single pre-departure test submitted to be reviewed and approved as part of each application. This measure was made necessary because there were instances of positive cases where invalid pre-departure tests were uploaded. The new vetting process will prevent future cases like this.

A valid pre-departure test result must meet the following standards:

  • Display travellers’ full name and date of birth
  • Date of Test must be within 7 days of departure
  • Test result must be negative
  • Test type must be a PCR test
  • Test must be performed by an accredited laboratory
  • Display full name of laboratory and contact information for laboratory

If a traveller’s pre-departure test result is  valid, they will be issued a Travel Authorization.

Visitors who do not submit a valid pre-departure test result will be notified that their test is not valid and will be given the opportunity to submit a valid result. The response will be customized to tell you the reason for rejection (for example, if your result did not show your full name). It gives you the opportunity to correct it or you can contact the COVID-19 Helpline for further advice.

If a visitor cannot submit a valid test result, they will be denied a Travel Authorization and will not be able to travel to Bermuda.

Residents who cannot provide a valid pre-departure test will still automatically be issued a Travel Authorization but will quarantine until they have a negative Day-8 test result or, if they decline all testing, until they have negative Day-14 test.

Travel Authorizations will be vetted between 9am and 8pm. Any traveller needing an emergency Travel Authorization issued the day of travel must contact the COVID Helpline.

Before I close, I want to clarify a point regarding voting by quarantined persons. There is no system for voting online if you are quarantined. People can, however, register online to for advance voting whereby a  presiding officer will attend your home so you can vote in person.

And, finally, with schools reopening this month, I wanted to reinforce the restrictions and guidance around children returning to school following travel.

To be clear, school age children who travel abroad and return home should, ideally, remain at home for 14 days; participating in mobile quarantining and remote learning. However, it is acceptable (but not preferred) for children to return to school following their parent’s Day 8 negative test result.

These guidelines are exactly the same for children who have a household member returning from travel or an overseas visitor staying in their household.

Finally, There have been questions raised recently regarding the medically preferred and accurate method for conducting a temperature check – specifically whether it should be taken on the wrist or on the forehead.

Our advice is to follow the manufacturers’ instructions regarding optimal use for that specific device. This will prevent a false reading. I want to reassure members of the public that there is no science at all behind false claims currently circulating online that temperature checks performed on the forehead using infrared thermometers interfere with the pineal gland (the part of your brain that regulates sleep). That video is not accurate and parents should disregard it.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and thank You.

Thank you Minister.

I would like to advise that earlier this afternoon the Cabinet reviewed and approved the Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Regulations 2020; the Regulations will be officially gazetted from that point.

Members of the public who have already applied for the Benefit and been processed will receive their initial payment in the coming week. If you have not obtained the application forms or completed fully and submitted them, and you require assistance, please obtain the forms from the Department of Financial Assistance at Global House, 43 Church Street Hamilton.

The supplemental benefit was put in place to ensure that persons who may not be eligible for financial assistance, are able to get financial support and health insurance from the Government of Bermuda. I understand that the application process is rigorous, but like every other COVID-19 development, we must ensure our People’s well-being, and balance that obligation with protection of the public purse.

So I repeat, those persons who have been approved for the supplementary benefit will receive their first payments later this week. If you are in need of assistance, please contact the department of Financial Assistance.

The Cabinet Committee on Reopening the Economy did not meet yesterday due to Labour Day. There have been requests from liquor licensed establishments to review the opening hours for these establishments as they must now close at midnight. Additionally the Minster of National Security will be streamlining the process of large group exemptions so that approvals can be returned to the event organisers more quickly.

Any changes will be shared at next weeks’ press conference following the Cabinet Committee meeting on Monday and Tuesday’s meeting of Cabinet.

Among many sectors that were severely impacted by COVID-19 was the Taxi industry. The shelter in place and lack of cruise and air visitors severely reduced earnings in this industry. Though many drivers are back earning funds again, the volumes are not where they were a year ago.

Recognizing the challenges faced by taxi Operators, the Government will provide a 50% Payroll Tax break to assist the Sector. Accordingly, the annual charge of $1,000 that must be paid at Registration will be reduced to $500.

This is good news for our Taxi Operators. Our island is seeing an increase in visitors and with more hotels and flights there will be more people coming to Bermuda to visit and work, creating more business for our taxi drivers and our Economy as a whole.

In closing I want to allay any concerns that people may have about their safety when voting in the General Election next month.

As I have said previously, our main priority is your health and safety; second to that is your economic and social well-being. Accordingly, just like every other development or ‘new normal Process’ that the Government has influenced or created, the solutions for voting have been thought out, based on science, Bermudianised for our needs, and are as user-friendly as possible.

Accordingly, the Parliamentary Registrar will be supplied with whatever she deems necessary to protect public health as voters go to the polls. Ms. Woolridge is due to meet with the Ministry of Health, and together the Registrar and Government will introduce appropriate protocols at every Polling Station.

We will never risk your lives, our public health official’s hard-earned work, or Bermuda’s envious reputation for managing Covid-19, by taking a shortcut or any other chances at Polling Stations.

I will also remind everyone that faced with the greatest public health challenge our island has seen in modern times, Bermuda has fared well due to: collaboration, a sacrosanct commitment to Bermudians, and the leadership that the events required; and the results, some worth repeating, speak for themselves:

  • Bermuda is ranked highest per capita in the Americas in testing per capita
  • With today’s testing results, over 2000 tests, Bermuda will be again be ranked 6th in the World in terms of testing per capita, passing UAE
  • The excellent work of the Department of Health testing teams and the Government Molecular Diagnostic Lab means we produce test results among the fastest countries in the world
  • The protective measures at LF Wade International Airport have received global recognition and praise, confirming that Bermuda has the most extensive border protective measures in the world
  • We created drive-through testing and various pop up testing locations throughout the country is conducted at no cost to residents being tested

I make these points to show that our People-centered approach was the right way to go. In managing this crisis whether Bermudians were overseas trying to get home, or were on-island; whether a person was a homeowner or homeless; and whether quarantined by Government or not infected, Government always put People First and ensured that both Science and our way of life were our guiding principles.

The approach produced results that are the envy of the world and is tangible proof that working together to build broad consensus with strong leadership is the best way to approach a health crisis.

But, as always it is important to not let our guard down. We are seeing resurgences in cases in many countries – and we will continue to keep rules in place that are designed to allow our economy to operate so that Bermudians can provide for their families.

Our Government continues to set an example to the rest of the World. We have successfully managed this pandemic, and we will continue to do so with everyone’s health and safety as our top priority.

Thank you and good night Bermuda.

Ministry of Health September 4 2020 COVID-19 Update Press Release

COVID-19 UPDATE – 4th SEPTEMBER

“Today there were 663 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and one was positive for Covid-19. The latest positive was imported on the Delta flight from Atlanta on 3 September 2020 by a visitor. Contact tracing is underway.

“Bermuda has had 175 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 158 have recovered, and
  • there are 8 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring;
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

“The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 65 are Imported
  • 89 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

“Bermuda’s country status is “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.“

September 3 2020 Press Conference COVID-19 Update

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT SEPTEMBER 3rd PRESS CONFERENCE –  MINISTER OF LABOUR

 

Good day members of the media and the listening public. Thank you for your attendance.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Bermudians remain unemployed with hopes to return to the workforce. As we continue to imagine the future of Bermuda, the Ministry of Labour is pleased to inform the public of Phase One plans to swiftly reintegrate affected persons into the working community.

During this unprecedented time, the Ministry of Labour has committed to providing support to affected Bermudians; firstly through the Unemployment Benefit and further through Financial Assistance and the Supplementary Unemployment Benefit. However, we recognise that these provisions alone are not enough, nor are they a permanent solution to the unemployment challenges we face.

To this end, the Ministry of Labour is committed to putting Bermudians first and has prepared a comprehensive strategy to do so. The overarching objectives of this strategy are threefold: to reduce current unemployment, to prevent future unemployment, and to facilitate the ease of finding employment in Bermuda.

In alignment with these three objectives, the Ministry of Labour will employ the following strategies:

1. Establish Labour Policy that enables additional jobs to be available to Bermudians. These policies may include but are not limited to:

  1. the establishment of formal MOUs with employers;
  2. the institution of a moratorium on work permits for specific occupations categories;
  3. the implementation of tax incentives for employers that employ Bermudians; and
  4. assuring that unemployed and laid-off Bermudians are returned to work in a more equitable manner.
  1. Facilitate Training and Development by providing reskilling and upskilling programmes. These programmes will equip Bermudians with job specific skills and prepare them for future opportunities. This strategy will be executed by the Department of Workforce Development who will:
    1. engage with employers to identify current demand and future opportunity;
    2. identify service providers to ensure the delivery of quality training and development; and
    3. assess unemployed persons to ascertain the training necessary to reintroduce the high volume of unemployed Bermudians back into the workforce.
  2. Build a Solid Partnership with the Bermuda College and encourage Bermudians to make use of specialised career-oriented programmes. Persons may enrol in a variety of trainings offered by the Division of Professional & Career Education, also known as PACE. These trainings cover a wide range of industries, from health and beauty to hospitality and entertainment.

The Department of Workforce Development will utilize the Bermuda College to provide on-demand training that is flexible, allowing it to respond to labour market requirements.

  1. Utilise Professional Agencies to match talented workers to job opportunities in Bermuda. Not all employees require training, some just need access to opportunity. Professional employment agencies have an excellent track-record of connecting qualified Bermudians to hiring employers. We look forward to partnering with these agencies to ensure that Bermudians are able to return to work as quickly as possible.
  2. Industry Sector Stakeholder Engagement will be the primary means to invite the business sector to operate as partners in identified occupations. Stakeholder focus group meetings have already begun with the Restaurant, Horticulture Landscape Gardening and Cleaning industries. Additionally, an industry- driven framework has been developed to collaborate with other industry sectors, with the aim to penetrate further into other occupational categories. The Government’s intent is to work with industry experts to develop “mutual beneficial” training and re- employment opportunities for Bermudians.

The Ministry’s plan for reemployment is inclusive of a Youth Employment Strategy that has been tailored to the identified needs of unemployed persons between the ages of 18 and 26. In addition to the aforementioned strategies, the Youth Employment Strategy features additional resources for youth that may be entering the workforce for the first time. These resources will primarily be offered through the Department of Workforce Development and include career advice, job market guidance, and assistance in identifying available financial resources to offset related costs.

These strategies are only the beginning of Government’s commitment to reducing COVID-19 induced unemployment. As part of Phase One of the Reemployment Strategy targeted industry sectors include, but are not limited to:

  • –  Cleaning (Industrial, Residential, and Commercial);
  • –  Horticulture and Landscape Gardening;
  • –  Restaurants; and
  • –  Construction

To date, there are approximately 1,000 positions in these sectors that are held by permit holders which we hope to return to Bermudians that are currently unemployed.

Speaking to Financial Assistance and the Supplementary Unemployment Benefit, it is important to note that all persons seeking or receiving the Benefit, or Assistance, are encouraged to continually utilise the career counselling services at the Department of Workforce Development. Trained counsellors will:

  • –  meet with individuals one-on-one;
  • –  review the applicant’s eligibility for various services;
  • –  provide the applicant with labour market information;
  • –  develop a personalised reemployment plan; and
  • –  provide additional services such as resume review and job application submission assistance.

Please be reminded that these services are not only available to persons seeking or receiving Financial Assistance or the Supplementary Unemployment Benefit. The Ministry strongly encourages all persons seeking work to visit the Department of Workforce Development and utilize their services.

The Ministry of Labour is committed to putting Bermudians first and looks forward to working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the timely return of affected Bermudians to the workforce.

September 2 2020 Press Conference COVID-19 Update

Bermuda Government September 2nd Press Conference –  Minister of Finance

 

 

Good afternoon.

Thank you for being here.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bermuda, the Government has taken extraordinary measures to manage this crisis appropriately. We focused on the health of our community, we were guided by science, we listened to our local experts, and we have taken vital steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on our Island.

This approach was essential not only to our health and safety but also for our economy. From a health perspective, our efforts have stood us well – we have among the lowest number of cases in the world, and the Minister of Health mentioned in her remarks yesterday – as a result of our stringent testing, Bermuda ranks 6th in the world for tests per capita and is the highest in the American continent.

We have also taken decisive measures to support the economy and our citizens during this period. Although COVID-19 will cause a severe economic shock in all directly affected economies including ours, the economic policy actions that we have taken during the crisis will assist with the pace of our economic recovery.

During this period we have supported the functioning of essential sectors, provided resources for people hit by the crisis, and taken steps to limit excessive economic disruption by providing support to businesses, and we have quickly and safely reopened our tourism sector putting over 1,000 Bermudians back to work.

Today, I am happy to provide an update on some of the actions being taken as part of the Ministry of Finance COVID-19 Pandemic – Fiscal Plan as we move to the economic recovery stage.

They are as follows:

In the last legislative session we amended the Government Loans Act 1978 to increase the legal limit on government debt from $2.75 billion to $3.5 billion. The decision to increase the debt ceiling was taken to assist the Government as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. This action allowed the Government to raise $1.35 billion at historically low rates to help with funding of the Government and its economic recovery over the next two to three years. This debt strategy was supported by the independent Fiscal Responsibility Panel, the Financial Policy Council, and endorsed by Bermuda First.

COVID-19 will have an adverse impact on the Government’s 2020/2021 budget. The combination of lower fiscal revenues and higher public spending is expected to result in an increase of the projected budget deficit.

The Ministry of Finance’s preliminary estimates are that revenue for the 2020/2021 fiscal year could contract by $200 million. After factoring in the impact of lost revenue and additional expenses relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s responses, the revised deficit for the 2020/2021 fiscal year was estimated to be in the range of $275 million to $315 million, assuming no cost-saving measures were taken to reduce spending.

However, giving effect to cost-saving measures implemented by the Government, the Ministry of Finance was targeting a deficit level for the 2020/2021 fiscal year of as much as $225 million.

Such cost-saving measures include, freezing the funding of vacant Government posts that are not required to address COVID-19-related matters or to protect Bermuda’s national interests, banning non-essential government travel and reducing all discretionary spending, including training, materials and supplies, clothing and uniforms.

Additionally to reduce the deficit further, other temporary payroll or government employee overhead savings are being considered and the Government has been in negotiations with the Unions on this matter. I can advise that the 3 largest unions representing over 80% of public sector employees have agreed to the Government’s cost saving measures. I would like to thank those public sector workers, and those in government funded organisations who have agreed to actions which will contribute to reducing the deficit.

Although our COVID–19 Pandemic – Fiscal Plan originally called for a delay in some capital projects that have not commenced, we have revised our approach to not only support essential capital projects that must continue, but to support additional projects. Therefore, some of the funding from our recent debt raise will be used to bring forward some aspects of the Government’s long term capital plan. These capital projects will support our economic recovery, provide employment for Bermudians, and improve our quality of life. Additionally, we will fund new projects, such as investments in renewable energy that will reduce the Government’s electricity bill in the long run while providing jobs for Bermudians. These stimulus measures ensure that there is a degree of sustained economic activity in the Bermuda economy until the expected return on cruise visitors next April.

Some of the projects that will be funded or have been moved up:

  • Department of Public Transportation (DPT) Bus Depot Improvement for staff bathroom and changing facilities in St George’s and the Devonshire Bus Depots.
  • Improvements to Marine and Ports East Broadway
  • Interior fit out for Child and Family Service 131 Front St Offices
  • Botanical Gardens Visitors Centre Improvements
  • Sessions House [Parliament Building] Exterior and Interior Refurbishment.
  • Westgate improvements for new boilers system, HVAC and water supply system. New steel doors and windows.
  • Solar installations on 6 Government Buildings
  • Shoreside Facility for Local Fishing Cooperative
  • Halfway House for the Department of Child and Family Services
  • Refurbishment of Parish Clinics
  • Reconstruction and repairing of Retaining Walls
  • Upgrades to Pembroke Canal

In addition to bringing forward a number of capital projects, recognizing the importance of empowering and providing financial support for our community clubs additional Capital Grant funding will be provided for community club development.

We are continually evaluating our Fiscal Plan, and we will make appropriate amendments in line with changing circumstances. However the overall targets remain, bringing our budget back into balance in 3 years, when we expect full economic and tourism recovery to take effect in 2022.

Before I move onto the work of the Economic Advisory Committee, I want to speak to those who preach nothing but doom and gloom about the Bermuda economy, both before the pandemic and now.

Here are the facts.

Independent International observers have praised this Government handling of the country’s finances before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and after the pandemic. Regarding our economic performance.

  • Reduced the Bermudian unemployment rate from 8.2% in May 2016 to 4.4% in November 2019 according to the Labour Force survey;
  • The 2019 Employment Report showed that between 2017 and 2019 719 jobs were created in Bermuda;
  • In 2017 the PLP inherited a Budget Deficit of $134 million in 2017, and we have reduced that deficit to $20 million in the last fiscal year, the lowest deficit in 18 years!

The numbers speak for themselves. We have soundly managed the country’s finances, and the confidence of international markets, reflect that assessment.

Additionally, the Ministry of Finance has recognized an uptick in development and construction projects presented to the Department of Planning.  This is an encouraging indicator of economy activity.

During May and June 2020, a total of 53 planning applications were received and 81 were approved (for non-residential, residential and solar projects) – resulting in a total estimated construction value of $46 million; while a total of 154 building permit applications were received and 114 building permits were issued (for non-residential, residential and solar projects) – resulting in a total estimated construction value of $68 million.

To further assist key stakeholders in the industry the Government has also made efforts to better streamline the application process reducing the approval period from 10 weeks to 4-5 weeks.

This Government will continue to search and identify to improve efficiency and put the necessary measures in place to ensure we assist Bermudians in getting back to work.

Earlier today, I was astounded to hear the Opposition Leader call Morgan’s Point an example of the success that the former Government had in attracting investment to Bermuda.  Anyone can issue a guarantee to a failed project, and have the taxpayers pick up the bill, like we have had to do. But that is not success, it is a bad deal that all taxpayers are paying for. Persons in the opposition have said they would do the same thing if they had to do it again, is that really who you want in charge of the country’s Finances?

This Government has taken a different approach; working with industry and the regulators to ensure our International Business sector remains strong and is growing. We have worked to diversify our economy and our Fintech Industry which is less than 2 years old has created 60 jobs in Bermuda. We continue to attract investment with companies relocating to Bermuda under our economic substance regime. So I am confident that our focus on building on what we have, diversifying the economy, making the government more efficient, and reducing red tape will ensure that our economy recovers and grows, as it did before the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee (EAC) continues to play a vital role in our economic recovery. The Committee has been meeting regularly, and they have prioritized ideas for the retention of existing business, growing existing sectors, and attracting new industries. As noted in previous updates, the Phase 1 focus was on “quick wins” to assist persons and entities in surviving through the early stages of the pandemic and taking actions to mitigate the impact of the economic and financial challenges.

There have been over 50 short-term ideas, prioritized by industry, and their focus areas included taxes, jobs, immigration, tourism, technology, and new-sector growth. All ideas have been submitted to the Government for evaluation and a number of them have already been successfully addressed. Some of the short-term ideas from the EAC which the Government has already executed on include the following:

  • Prepare checklists and protocols for business traveler approval, such as pre-testing, antibody testing, travel and visit protocols, to reopen the economy;
  • Amend long-stay business traveler regulations;
  • Amend the Employment Act in reference to redundancies;
  • Expedite the buyer process for foreign real estate purchases;
  • Extend the unemployment benefits program;
  • Establish a sustainability fund for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
  • Continue payroll and duty deferments at least through year end;
  • Support entrepreneurs on the island through programs like Ignite;
  • Further economic substance strategy with the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) and the Registrar of Companies;
  • Enhance the infrastructure to collect back-taxes; and
  • Provide Government digitization projects for small and medium-sized enterprise tech companies

The Committee is currently developing medium–term strategies which can be implemented over the next one-to-three years in order to stabilize and grow our economy. The strategies are being refined and assessed for impact before final submission to the Government.

Before I complete my remarks, I want to take this opportunity to again thank the members of the Economic Advisory Committee for their hard work as we look to expand upon some of their ideas in the near future.

I would further note that at our COVID-19 Update press conference in June, I announced the start of a sub-committee of the Economic Advisory Committee where young people would be invited to present their ideas for stimulating economic growth, job growth, and increasing government efficiency

Yesterday, after six weeks of work, the Junior Economic Advisory Committee presented their recommendations to the Cabinet. Their recommendations covered suggestions on banking, reducing mortgage interest rates, ideas on better supporting entrepreneurs, and their view on turning Bermuda College into a four-year institution of higher learning; everyone was thoroughly impressed.

I remain confident that Bermuda and her people will emerge from this crisis stronger. Together we have already successfully navigated through a wide range of challenges brought on by this pandemic, we appropriately addressed them, and so far, as a country, we’ve done a remarkable job.

We must continue to follow the rules and do our part to stay safe. We must ensure that our COVID-19 numbers do not rise. This pandemic is not over.

I urge everyone to continue to be vigilant and maintain a healthy routine.  It is important that we do our part and help and support one another and our country to weather this health and economic challenge.

As I have said previously, our progress is due to the hard work and dedication of our many frontline workers, other persons in the community as well as many earnest and hardworking public officers. I would like to thank them all. As well, I would like to thank the team at the Ministry of Finance, and our industry partners and stakeholders for their tremendous assistance and support as we continue strengthening our economy.

Thank you.

September 1 2020 Press Conference COVID-19 Update

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update September 1 2020

 

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 734 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 172 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 157 have recovered, and
  • there are 6 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 57 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

Overall, 50% of cases were Black, 40% White and 10% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 64 are Imported
  • 87 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.

Bermuda has now performed nearly 46,000 tests, ranking us 7th in the world for tests per capita and highest in the American continent. The intensity of our testing regime is enabling us to keep out borders open and our economy recovering – and to do so safely.

We know that we cannot keep COVID out 100% as long as there is a global pandemic, but our public health border controls and surveillance measures mean that we can promptly identify and isolate new cases to contain spread in the community. I’m immensely grateful to the exhausted Ministry of Health teams – and our partner Government agencies including Tourism, Transport, Customs and National Security – for their part in this critical undertaking.

Regarding testing matters, I am pleased to announce today that we are currently building capacity in our care homes for them to do their own COVID-19 testing. This should significantly speed-up and simplify the testing process for our most vulnerable population and also free up internal testing resources at the Ministry of Health.

As it stands currently, residents are already tested in their respective care home but staff must attend pop-up testing sites; we are looking to do all testing in-house in the very near future.

Regarding travel updates, I can inform you that, starting September 9, we will launch an approval process for the Travel Authorization applications.

Travel Authorizations will need to be purchased between 1 to 3 days before travel. This is to allow the pre-departure test uploaded to be reviewed and approved as part of their application.

A valid pre-departure test result must meet the following standards:

  • Display travellers’ full name and date of birth
  • Date of Test must be within 7 days of departure
  • Test result must be negative
  • Test type must be a PCR test
  • Test must be performed by an accredited laboratory
  • Display full name of laboratory and contact information for laboratory

If a traveller’s pre-departure test result is deemed valid, they will be issued a Travel Authorization.

Visitors who do not submit a valid pre-departure test result will be notified that their test is not valid and will be given the opportunity to submit a valid result. If a visitor cannot submit a valid test result, they will be denied a Travel Authorization and will not be able to travel to Bermuda.

Residents who cannot provide a valid pre-departure test will be issued a Travel Authorization and will quarantine as required.

Travel Authorizations will be vetted between 9am and 8pm. Any traveller needing an emergency Travel Authorization issued the day of travel must contact the COVID hotline.

Also, from next week, the Travel Authorization fee for travellers without a pre-departure test will increase to $105 to cover the cost of the quarantine bracelets required to ensure persons adhere to the required quarantine until they receive a negative Day-8 test result.

Moving on from travel, our movements in Bermuda must continue to follow physical distancing guidelines. I fear that in private settings, in particular, many people are forgetting the basic rules we established when the world’s fight against coronavirus started: no handshakes, no hugs, no kisses.

We Bermudians are a warm, affectionate people, so I realize this is hard for us. But please resist the urge to touch anyone outside your household or small contact bubble.

Keep your distance, bump elbows or feet to greet, bow elegantly with a gentle “Namaste” if you are so inclined. But please avoid greetings and activities that involve touching.
Further, the Ministry of Health is reminding residents that all restaurant patrons must wear a mask at all times when not seated at their table. This includes entering the premises and exiting, as well as when using the restroom. The wearing of masks in these instances is compulsory and dining establishments are required to enforce these rules.

I would like to remind members of the public to please provide your contact details at the businesses you visit such as bars, restaurants, gyms, salons, theatres and recreational charter boats in case the Ministry of Health needs to contact you about a possible COVID-19 exposure. For more information about contact tracing or anything related to COVID-19 please go to coronavirus.gov.bm

I end by reminding us all to avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings. And wear your masks, always.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and thank You.

Ministry of Health August 30th COVID-19 Press Release

COVID-19 Updates

Between Sunday and today there were 1,393 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and three were positive for COVID-19.

Two cases were imported by visitors. One on the Delta flight from Boston on 25th August who was detected on their Day-4 test; and the second on a private flight from the USA that arrived on 30th August. The third positive case is a resident who was a contact of a known case. All cases have been isolated and contact tracing has begun.

Bermuda has had 172 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 155 have recovered, and
  • there are 8 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring;
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 57 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 64 are Imported
  • 87 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status is “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.“