June 2nd Press Release

COVID-19 UPDATE – Ministry of Health – 2 June

2 June, 2020

Today there were 143 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 141 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

§  there are 19 active cases, of which

§  11 persons are under active public health monitoring, and

§  8 persons are hospitalized.

§  None are in critical care;

§  a total of 113 have now recovered, and

§  the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of hospitalized cases is 78 and the age range is 66 to 91 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

§  41 are Imported

§  81 are Local transmission, with known contact

§  10 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and

§  7 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”. The real time reproduction number seven-day average is 0.57.

“I take this opportunity to remind the public, but especially workers who routinely interact with the public, to avail themselves of the free testing at Southside,” said the Minister of Health the Hon. Kim Wilson JP MP. “In particular hairdressers, barbers, hospitality workers, waiters and persons working in retail would benefit tremendously from knowing their status.”

The Ministry of Health reminds the public that testing spots are available at the Southside COVID-19 drive-through on Thursday between 10am and 7pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 1pm, in the car park of the former White’s grocery store. Drop-ins are welcome when spots are available but to ensure access persons should book online at https://bdagovcovid.resqwest.com

June 1st Press Conference

COVID-19 Press Conference Update

Good evening Bermuda. I hope that all persons had a safe and happy Bermuda Day holiday.  Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health, The Minister of National Security and the Minister of Tourism and Transport.

I know this press conference is focused on our continuing work related to COVID-19, but please permit me to offer these words about the news that has dominated global headlines over the past few days and has taken the coronavirus from the headlines.

In the midst of the global fight against COVID-19, the world has been reminded of an enemy that seems harder to defeat and a battle that has been waged over centuries. Systemic and institutionalized racism is a stain on modern society. We profess greatness as a generation when we celebrate conquering space or seeing leaders of colour in positions of authority. Both, however, ring hollow when neither accomplishment has succeeded in tearing down the system that makes what happened in Minneapolis a week ago possible in 2020.

A black man was murdered by a police officer in the United States. Far from being a surprise, it is the imagery that has provoked international outrage.

George Floyd lost his life to this system and his is only one name that we know. There are countless others in that country and many others who suffer similar fates daily. Black and brown people are under siege every day by a system designed to ensure that they start with a presumption of guilt and spend the rest of their lives trying, often in vain, to be respected.

Here at home, our unity has kept us focused and in an excellent position to be an example to the world of how to deal with COVID-19 and yet there remains an undercurrent of racial tension that comes to the fore the moment we assert the rights of our people in their own land.

How can we pretend to be outraged by systemic racism everywhere else except here at home? Our future depends on our ability to confront and deal with our past.

We must never forget or diminish the people who live amongst us who have experienced firsthand discriminatory laws, policies and practices stating where they should go, where they could live, what they could own, or what they could do and what they could aspire to achieve.

Too often Bermudians have been told in their own country, ‘we can’t address race right now, our clients don’t feel comfortable talking about it.’ ‘We can’t mandate our membership dismantle racism in their organizations. We can only guide them.’

Then we hear statements like, ‘Oh, we can’t address racism right now, we have to leave that for our children so they can fix it in twenty or thirty years.’

Addressing the issue of systemic and institutionalized racism is holding us back from reaching our full potential. It is causing capable, qualified Bermudians to be excluded from opportunities in their own country.  Time and time again, research shows that when you have a diverse workforce, profits and profitability increases.

As a father of two young children, I always think about how this is going to impact them. And the conversations in my household this week, with a wife who is American, reminded us of the dangers of which persons of colour continue to face. From Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Sarah Reed to D-Andre Campbell and yes, George Floyd.

I think, in 10, 20, or 30 years, that could be my child. They could be doing nothing wrong and yet they could still die by state-sponsored murder.

My Bermudian family, it is important to remember this is not just an American issue. This is a global issue. And, that’s why you’re seeing protests all around the world.

We must also not forget our recent history. 2 December 2016, still weighs heavily on my heart and my soul. I need not remind people of the story, because the images are forever imprinted in our collective consciousness as a people.

As many of you know, but some might not – by order of our Constitution, the Government of Bermuda does not have operational control over the Bermuda Police Service. That power is vested in the Governor as Bermuda still is a colony of the United Kingdom. However, this government has taken several steps to build a more equitable society. Bermuda’s Attorney-General, the Hon. Kathy-Lynn Simmons will be doing a Facebook live discussion this weekend to expound on some of those initiatives which have already been approved by the Cabinet, and also to give her thoughts on legal reform in Bermuda.

It is ironic that on a weekend when the world has been forced to confront these complex and challenging issues, we lost one of Bermuda’s greatest advocates for confronting racism; Dr. Eva Hodgson.  She believed and taught that Bermuda’s cultural affinity towards sweeping the issue of race under the carpet was unhealthy and creating a festering cancer, rotting away at the core of our island.

She believed that if we did not confront the issue of race, we would never be able to overcome the inherent destructiveness of racism and discrimination and she fought tirelessly to get us all to understand that racism doesn’t go away if you just don’t talk about it.  She pushed and challenged all of us to do better on race in spite of the abuse, discrimination and disrespect she was subjected to over the years.

Dr. Hodgson reminded us that most people don’t want to talk about race, but, that we must talk about race. We must know our history and know that there is pain and hurt in that history and there was a struggle that got us to where we are today.

Dr. Eva Hodgson is the very embodiment of a freedom fighter, and as we mourn her passing, we must commit to seeing her work continue. No more second-class citizens; only first class men and women.

Now I will ask the Minister of Health to give an update to the country on the latest with the novel coronavirus – and the new health indicators that the Government of Bermuda will be publishing today. Minister.

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

Between Sunday and today there were 335 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and one was positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 141 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are now 20 active cases, of which
  • 12 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 8 persons are hospitalized
  • There are currently no COVID-19 cases in critical care
  • a total of 112 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of persons hospitalized is 78 and their age ranges from 66 to 91 years.

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

In terms of the race breakdown: 57% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 4% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 84 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 11 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 5 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is 0.60.

Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of our reopening indicators. These indicators will inform the public and the Government on how we are doing as a country towards our gradual reopening, and whether it is safe to move to the next phase.

The indicators include both outcome measures such as the number of daily cases and hospitalizations, but also, importantly and in alignment with WHO standards, they include preventive behaviours by the public and health system capacity to manage an outbreak. They will be reported with an easy to read traffic-light system to inform the community how we are doing.

The indicators comprise 11 individual measures which are grouped into 4 categories, as follows:

  • Preventive behaviours are about wearing a face mask, practicing good physical distancing and the adoption of technology. We are using HealthIQ to inform these behavioural metrics.
  • Capacity is about the country’s testing capacity and critical PPE supplies. This is critical to assess our readiness to manage COVID.
  • Transmission is about our WHO country classification, the proportion of cases linked to known clusters, our reproduction rate and the number of daily new cases; and lastly
  • Hospitalization reports on the number of hospitalized cases and those in critical care.

The reopening indicators will be updated once or twice a week and the enable all of us to participate in our state of readiness for the next phase.

The holiday weekend resulted in more socializing and congregation than we have had in months, and I’m pleased that overall Bermuda was on her best behavior.  Of course, there were some incidents that attracted complaints and enforcement was appropriately deployed. The situations were dealt with swiftly by Police and Regiment. But overall, most people are following the rules and simply seeking more clarity about what can and can’t be done.

I have to reiterate that the importance of physical distancing and wearing a mask are fundamental. This is the new normal. Life will not be the same for quite a long time, so let’s embrace it and help each other stay accountable.

Bermuda can take great pride in the way the majority of residents have embraced responsible actions that make us safer as a community and have kept COVID-19 spread down. These actions have saved lives.

Remember to avoid the three ‘Cs’:

  • Closed places with poor ventilation
  • Crowded places with many people nearby, and
  • Close-contact settings such as close range conversations

Try to stay six feet apart from others. And if you must be within a six-feet range, always wear a mask and avoid getting any closer than three feet

Your mask should be worn in any closed space, like a store, a bus or taxi. And it should cover your nose and mouth fully. Evidence around the world has shown that countries where mask-wearing is consistent, have fared better with COVID-19.

Remember that it only takes one infected person to cause an outbreak… and an outbreak can put vulnerable persons at greatest risk.

Wearing a face mask in public places, and keeping six feet apart from others will keep us all safe, but most of all, the persons in our community who are most vulnerable.

I also want to remind the public about the current directives for the retail industry regarding deliveries…

A person making a delivery should telephone ahead to ensure that the delivery can be received.

A person making a delivery to a private residence should leave the goods outside the customer’s door and telephone or otherwise inform the customer that the delivery has been made.

Where it’s necessary for a delivery person to enter a private residence, this can only occur if there is not ongoing isolation or quarantine there. In those cases no entry is allowed.

When entry is permissible, strict precautions are to be followed. These include questioning the residents to ensure that no one on the property is showing any symptoms of COVID-19 and strict physical distancing and mask-wearing by residents and delivery persons.

A person making a delivery shall not require a customer to sign for receipt of a delivery and every effort should be taken to reduce the time spent within the residence.

A person making a delivery must comply with all further directions of the Minister of Health regarding cleaning, sanitization, use of personal protective equipment and other precautions to be taken before, during and after deliveries, as published on the website coronavirus.gov.bm.

If a person making deliveries does not comply with these requirements, the Minister of National Security may order that person to stop making deliveries.

More generally, I would like to remind the public that there is abundant guidance on the website, which is extremely helpful. We get a lot of queries about what can and cannot be done; what is open and what isn’t. I invite everyone to refer to the Closures Schedule online, which details exactly what is open, what the general rules are for each setting, and the things we can’t do yet. Go to coronavirus.gov.bm on the “Resources” tab under ‘Guidance’.

COVID-Closures-Schedule-Phase-2V8_1

I also want to remind everyone of the importance of testing, particularly for front-line persons who have a lot of interaction with the public such as beauticians, hospitality and retail. Please take advantage of the testing opportunities. There are openings to book at the Southside drive-through on Thursday 10am to 7pm; and on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1pm. Ge tested.

Finally, I want to add a quick closing note regarding the use of masks by children. I have heard of situations recently where some well-meaning parents have put masks on very young babies. Please don’t do this; it is dangerous. Children under 2 should not wear masks.

Children aged 2 to 10 should only wear masks for brief periods of time; such as when at the grocery store or other retail stores. Masks are not to be used by children aged 2 to 10 for prolonged periods of time, such as in daycare or school settings. Children in this age group are prone to fiddling with their masks and not removing or wearing them correctly; which can actually unwittingly spread the virus.

Nevertheless, for older children and adults, we all need to get accustomed to the new normal and wear our face masks any time we are out in public, particularly in places where congregation occurs and in enclosed spaces. It’s a simple rule: if you are interacting with anyone who is not in your household and you are within six feet of each other, wear your mask.

Thank You, Bermuda, and stay safe.

Thank you Minister.

Bermuda has emerged from a three day holiday weekend starting with an online Bermuda Day virtual parade and the showing of past parades on CITV, a celebration of our heritage, our culture and all things Bermudian.

I am truly grateful to the Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports for all they did to ensure that this important holiday was celebrated in spite of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet as many of us celebrated Bermuda Day, safely and calmly, unfortunately there were others who did not.  The Minister of National Security will provide an update on the incidents over the weekend and on the work being conducted by the Ministry of National Security as they continue to make sure that the rules are enforced during this pandemic.

Minister Caines.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

I wish to start by extending congratulations on behalf of the Ministry of National Security to Major Ben Beasley, who was officially appointed as Lt. Col. and Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment today.

Due to the current circumstances and our risk mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Change of Command ceremony was marked slightly differently at a special ceremony at Government House late this afternoon.

As Minister, I’ve been extremely impressed with Major Beasley’s guidance of our young men and women in the RBR. Under his leadership, particularly throughout this pandemic, Major Beasley has demonstrated the utmost integrity and professionalism. This should come as no surprise to those who know him and to those who serve alongside him. Major Beasley’s history  of service has led him from the Scouts, to Outward Bound, to the Bermuda Police Reserves.

He served admirably in the Royal Air Force, and returned to Bermuda to take up his post in the Royal Bermuda Regiment, where he has served for much of the last decade – first as Adjutant, and then as Training Officer and then as Second-in-Command.

During the last year, through hurricanes and other events of national importance, including this pandemic, Major Beasley has commanded the RBR with focused determination.

And our country and our Government thanks him for his service. The RBR continues to prove its extreme value to Bermuda, demonstrating that it is prepared and ready for any eventuality on both land and sea. All of Bermuda should be proud of our soldiers and the service they provide.

Turning to the activities over the holiday weekend, the combined resources of the Bermuda Police Service and the RBR ensured a visible presence island-wide.

Their enforcement activities included managing vehicle checkpoints and overseeing a busy weekend of recreational beach, boating and park activity.

Although the community has been generally compliant with the guidelines and regulations during Phase 2, regrettably, we did see some instances of anti-social behaviour over the holiday weekend. While the Coast Guard maintained a robust presence on the water, yesterday proved to be the busiest day with raft-ups and physical distancing still being a huge problem.

Twelve (12) citations were issued for maritime traffic violations and 16 summons were issued for breaching the COVID-19 regulations. Regarding the curfew period, which continues to be in effect, 1,077 stops were made over the weekend.

There were over 200 visits made to public spaces over the weekend. Clearwater Beach and Coopers Island were the busiest areas – with close to 500 people at these locations during the peak period. Horseshoe Bay followed by Warwick Long Bay were also quite active.

We also had serious instances of anti-social behavior at a couple of locations, which needed Police intervention. The Parks Department’s Rangers were also on duty over the weekend and alerted the RBR and Police to a party that took place late into the evening hours at Daniel’s Head Beach Park.

Switching to the Shelter in Place accommodation at CedarBridge Academy – the Shelter is open from 7:30 pm until 8:30 am. This will continue to be a safe place for vulnerable residents as long as there is a curfew in place. We are thankful to the many volunteers who have given of themselves over the last few months.

We understand that as the island slowly reopens, most of the current volunteers will be returning to their regular jobs. Therefore, at this time we are reaching out for volunteers to assist with all aspects of the Shelter which operates overnight and 24-hours on days with inclement weather. The number to call if you are interested in volunteering is 705-9013.

Thank you.

Thank you Minister of National Security. Thank you to you and your ministry for their continued work, energy and effort.

There was one correction to the statement from the Minister of Health that she’s asked me to clarify for every person. Inside of her remarks she had indicated that 89 persons had recovered. Today, actually the number is 112 persons to date have recovered so that number is not 89. That number is 112 out of the 141 cases have fully recovered.

As we move through this phased reopening of Bermuda and as more and more of our people are able to safely return to work, the need for safe, reliable public transportation becomes more critical.

I am grateful to the Ministry of Tourism and Transport and the workers at the Department of Public Transportation for helping to get us to a place where our buses and ferries are operating while using physical distancing and providing our people with the means to get to and from work.  Now we will have an update from the Minister of Tourism & Transport on public transportation and other matters.

MINISTER OF TOURISM AND TRANSPORT STATEMENT

(To Be Added)

Thank you Minister DeSilva.

Despite all we have faced, Bermuda is moving steadily and safely towards enabling more and more of our people to get back to work safely so that they can provide for their families.

We continue to test extensively, monitor our progress against any type of community spread and continue to be vigilant, prepared for the worst, while working hard to ensure the worst does not happen.

As I said in the House of Assembly the last that we met, I as Premier, am not willing to write off this year’s tourism season like many persons have. My aim is that Bermuda will carefully reopen its borders and welcome tourists to our shores this summer. We are increasing our testing capacity, we have invested in technology, and we will have the means to safely reopen the airport and allow visitors to come to our shores, secure in the knowledge that we can manage this virus and continue to protect our community. This is essential as there are many in Bermuda who depend on tourism for their livelihoods.

When we do reopen, Bermuda will be a changed place, our economy will be weaker, some jobs in tourism will be lost, perhaps forever, and some more businesses will close their doors. As businesses close, others will open to meet the demands of the new and transformed economy. Each of us will have to be adaptable and ready to cooperate and compete in the new economic environment.

As reported by Minister Caines last week, a number of work permit holders will be returning home.  This is an opportunity for Bermudians to step forward and fill those jobs, even if it means changing careers, or using that job as a stepping stone to getting back into your field of choice to provide for your families.  The more Bermudians we have working, the more Bermudians we have providing for their families, the better it will be for the entire country.

As has been said, we are all in this together and collectively we will only survive, recover and return to prosperity, if the community remains flexible, nimble and perhaps most importantly, compassionate towards each other.

Right now we are collectively building a new future and each of us has a role to play in shaping that future together.

I have been overjoyed with the amount of persons who continue to send in the ideas on forum.gov.bm. I remain pleased that people will share their ideas with us. And please know that when I say that the government is rebuilding together, the ideas are coming from all the people in this country, and there is no idea that we will not consider. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media, may have.

We are in this together and we will only survive, recover and return to prosperity if we remain flexible, nimble and perhaps most importantly, compassionate towards each other.  Right now we are collectively building a new future – and each of us has a role to play in shaping that future – together.

Thank you.

Bermuda Broadcasting Company Questions

Question: Last week Government proposed mandatory waiving of social Insurance and pension contributions to June 2021 and said persons could make voluntary contributions if they wished. When is this supposed to start and how will voluntary contributions be handled? Ie Will the employee have to contact Social insurance department and/or their insurance company to make payments, or will the employer be able to make the deductions and forward them on behalf of the employee?

Answer: To provide further support to employers and employees during this unprecedented period it is proposed to amend the Contributory Pension Act 1970 to allow for a suspension of employee and employer contributions into the Contributory Pension Fund, for period from 1July, 2020 to 30 June, 2021.

This is a temporary measure that will provide temporary relief to employers and provide additional income to employees. Additional income to employees provides stimulus for our economy. This measure is voluntary and employers and employees can still contribute to their funds if they wish.

May 27th Press Release

COVID-19 UPDATE – May 27

27 May, 2020

Today there were 53 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 139 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 39 active cases, of which
  • 30 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 9 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 91 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of persons hospitalized is 76 and their age ranges from 66 to 91 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 81 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 10 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 7 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

The Minister of Health the Hon. Kim Wilson JP MP said, “I’d like to remind the public that persons who are uninsured and have health concerns or need to speak to a GP, can access the Argus-sponsored Telenurse service through the COVID-19 Helpline. This is a pilot programme and we encourage eligible persons to reach out to seek assistance.”

Updated Phase 2 Beach and Park Guidlines

Bermuda Government has updated the Phase 2 Beach and Park Guidelines

 

May 26th Press Release

Ministry of Health May 26th Press Release

COVID-19 UPDATE

26 May, 2020

Today there were 170 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 6 were positive for COVID-19.

“I’m sure everyone will agree how very concerning it is to see 6 positive results today”. “I can advise that four of the cases were found through BHB’s routine testing programme, in particular testing of admissions, and two were found through physician referrals. 3 are local transmission and 3 are under investigation. Despite this recent uptick in cases, our real time reproduction number is 0.91. However, as we have entered Phase 2 of the Island’s reopening, these new cases must serve as a reminder of the importance of preventive measures: hand hygiene, physical distancing and mask wearing.”

Bermuda now has 139 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 39 active cases, of which
  • 30 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 9 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 91 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 61 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of hospitalized cases is 76 and the age range is 66 to 91 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 81 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 10 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 7 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

There has been much public interest in testing capability and the Ministry of Health would like to remind the public that only pre-approved entities can import COVID-19 test kits.

Pre-approved entities complete an online form to procure test kits for which various National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) have authorized for Emergency Use.

The link to the form is here: forms.gov.bm/covid-19/testkitapproval

Submissions are reviewed to ensure proposed items have been authorized by an NRA.

“As the public may be aware, there is an abundance of falsified COVID-19 test kits that exist for sale in the global market,” explained Minister Wilson. “This online form has been created to ensure that only test kits that have been authorized by a National Regulatory Authority reach our shores.

“This process will also assist pre-approved entities in verifying that an NRA has deemed the performance of these test kits as satisfactory, prior to their procurement.”

The WHO website provides links to several NRA Emergency Use lists.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health wishes to remind the public that, currently, only Day Care Centres can apply to the Ministry of Health to reopen. At present the Day Care Providers have all received the guidance and are putting things in place in preparation for Phase 3.

COVID19 Update – May 25th Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

 

 

Good afternoon Bermuda!

While Phase two is progressing, it is important that each of us are doing our part, following the rules and holding each other accountable. I am troubled to see people not wearing masks while they are not engaging in physical distancing, and businesses not adhering to the necessary protocols.

Getting used to what can and cannot be done during Phase 2 will take some getting used to, and mistakes will be made – but quite simply there is no excuse for some of the reckless behavior I have seen. There are examples of countries that began to give their people the opportunity to return to work, people stopped acting responsibly and Covid-19 cases increased.

Bermuda will NOT be one of those countries. To that end, I have directed the Minster of National Security & the Minister of Health that we will be adopting a zero tolerance approach with regards to enforcement of the rules for phase 2. Businesses that are not following the guidelines, will be closed. It’s that simple!

Most of us are doing the right thing. Most of us are following the rules and most of us are doing their part towards moving us closer to a day when more of our people can safely return to work and provide for their families.

But we can do better, as it only takes 1 asymptomatic super-spreader to set us back. That person could by your friend who had a party where it was too hot to wear a mask. But you were signing and having a good time and now you are at risk. Our collective job is to minimize transmission – and that means that we must all have our guard up!

Before we continue with updates from the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security, I would like to address a matter that has arisen over the weekend on social media and across the community. The reopening of the airport and our borders to travelers.

Let me be particularly clear on this matter. The airport reopening is one that we are watching very carefully and preparing for very carefully. The return of regularly scheduled commercial traffic is currently listed in Phase Four of our plan to safely bring our country to a place where people can return to work and provide for their families.

While we are exploring measures involving a combination of quarantine, testing, contact tracing technology and enforcement that will enable us to develop a plan around what traveling to Bermuda will look like, we are not there yet. We will not be opening the airport to regular scheduled air travel until we are absolutely certain that we not only have means to protect our community, but that we are absolutely safe to do so.

Now, I will ask the Minister of Health to provide an update on COVID-19 and the work of the Ministry of Health

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Between Sunday and today there were 241 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 133 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 35 active cases, of which
  • 28 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 7 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 89 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of persons hospitalized is 79 and their age ranges from 70 to 91 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 78 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 10 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 4 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy, which is particularly important during a pandemic like COVID-19. Under Phase 2 of Bermuda’s reopening, people can now visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and vitamin D, stay active, and safely connect with others.

But, as we prepare to head into the holiday weekend, I want to give some guidance regarding how to safelyenjoy our beaches and parks this weekend.

The Ministry of Health recommends that you visit parks and beaches that are close to your home. This diminishes the risk of lots of people making their way to the same beach or park. And, as we know, the more people, the higher the risk for COVID-19 spread.

Play it safe by keeping space (at least six feet) between yourself and others. So don’t visit crowded beaches or parks where you cannot stay at least six feet away from others at all times.

And it situations where you have to be in closer proximity to others, wear a mask and stay three feet apart from people who are not members of your household. This will make it safe for all concerned.

Practice everyday steps such as washing hands often and covering coughs and sneezes. Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to use if soap and water are not available.

Prepare before you visit by, for example, ensuring restrooms are accessible.

Avoid gathering with others beyond your household, if you can…or keep you ‘social bubbles’ small and limited to only a few individuals.

Don’t share private hot tubs with persons other than your household; and don’t use water playgrounds as they are often crowded and could easily exceed recommended guidance for gatherings.

Don’t participate in contact sports; remember that groups of 10 or more are prohibited. These typically require people who are not from the same household or living unit to be in close proximity, increasing their potential for exposure to COVID-19.

The use of playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment in our public parks is permitted. However, anyone using this equipment should sanitize it prior to public use.

And, finally, don’t visit parks or beaches if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19.

This guidance can be found on the Government website at coronavirus.gov.bm.

In sum, I would like to encourage everyone to please use common sense in the coming days and weeks. As the weather heats up, the temptation might be there to socialize with others in larger groups. But please…don’t.

Think before you commit to a social plan. Think: Is this safe? Am I being responsible? Is this plan putting me or anyone else at risk? If you hesitate for even a moment in answering these questions, then please, don’t do it.

Remember – the more interactions you have with others and the more you are out and about, the more at risk you put yourself and those in your household.

I know it can feel awkward to refrain from greeting someone with a hug or a handshake…but, it is in fact a sign that you respect that person’s health by not entering into their personal space and putting them and their loved ones at risk. We can still be our friendly Bermudian selves.

Remember, people who share an environment with someone who’s infected are at some risk for infection themselves. And an example of a shared environment is an office or even a restaurant, if you’re close enough to the person.

That is why we have to stay masked if we are going to be within three to six feet of other persons for more than 15 minutes. Six feet is the closest you can be without a mask. Three feet is safe if you are wearing a mask. And only get closer than three feet if you are both masked and it is absolutely necessary.

And, finally, I want to repeat my call to those with family members in the hospital who are medically fit for discharge to please work with the hospital to arrange a more appropriate care setting for your loved ones. Every hospital bed is needed for this national crisis right now. Do not put your family at risk by prolonging a hospital stay unnecessarily. Bermuda and our healthcare workers will thank you for doing the right thing.

Thank you Minister.

Obeying the rules and enforcing those rules are key to us moving forward and out of Phase 2. The Ministry of National Security, the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment were on our streets and out in the community this weekend doing their part to enforce the law and protect our community. The Minister of National Security will now provide an update on the work of his team over the weekend.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT (Abridged)

“Over the coming holiday weekend the Coast Guard will be actively enforcing the Covid-19 Regulations.  “This past weekend, the Coast Guard engaged with 339 vessels, issued 32 warnings, 27 of which were for the curfew violations.

“Some of the boating public are blurring the definition of “rafting up” – physical distancing between boats and people in the water has definitely been lacking.

“Again we are urging recreational boaters to please observe the health guidelines in place to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

“The RBR have been making visits to restaurants and retail areas. Over the coming holiday weekend the Coast Guard will be actively enforcing the Covid-19 Regulations.”

Thank you Minister

As the world is changing, we will have to change as well. Beyond physical distancing and wearing masks, business models will change, and the approach to providing goods and services to people will have to change as well. On top of that, each of us will need to invest in ourselves, developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge to enhance our ability to compete for jobs and opportunities.

The world saw a steady and relentless move away from brick and mortar businesses before COVID-19 and a steady march away from unskilled and low skilled labour towards technology. This pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to be responsive, customer driven and innovative and accelerated the need for each of us to personally and professionally evolve.

Those who are slow to change, those who are fearful of change, those too arrogant to accept that they need to change, will find the coming months and years challenging.

Change can be scary.

Change can mean being forced out of your comfort zone.

But change can also mean new opportunities.

Opportunities for new businesses to start. Opportunities for individuals to create services that may never have existed before.

Opportunities to reinvent yourself and enter new careers or advance in your current one.

Take for example Mr. Nicko Albouy, operator of Advanced Air, who today announced a new dry-steam cleaning service – to aid businesses disinfecting their establishments.

Or Mr. Quincy Jones of Quality Air, who is installing ultraviolet light filters for air conditioning systems that will kill pathogens in the air.

This is what Bermuda needs more of, entrepreneurs who will assist the country in ensuring that we safely navigate the future.

If you have a business idea and need help getting it started please contact the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation. This Government and its agencies will support your idea if it is a good one.

As a government, we know that we are not exempt from change. Whether it is our MPs and Ministers leading from the front by taking a pay cut or innovating government making it more responsive, more effective and more efficient.

We know we have to change. We know we have to evolve and with the help of our public officers we have become more responsive, more effective and more efficient in the delivery of services to our community.

As we recognise that we cannot and should not shape reform and change alone, we have reached out to you for ideas and feedback and you have responded.

We have seen the suggestions pouring in via the online government forum…ideas that are inclusive….ideas that change the status quo for the better, and ideas that will grow and evolve Bermuda for the better are beginning to capture the imagination of our people. You still have time to submit your idea – please visit forum.gov.bm and share your thoughts.

As we have effectively managed the health crisis caused by COVID-19 we must be equally as effective in managing the economic crisis facing our community. Alongside the Economic Advisory Committee established by the Finance Minister, my focus as leader of our country has shifted towards the reinvention of our economy.

As we have broken down obstacles to small businesses obtaining capital and we have opened up Government contracts so that more businesses owned by black Bermudians, women and others who have traditionally been excluded, we will continue the work to create new opportunities for Bermudian entrepreneurs and business owners.

As we have given more Bermudians access to higher education through increased investment in educational grants and scholarships – will we give more Bermudians more opportunities to obtain the skills, certification or degrees needed to not only become more competitive in our economy but to be leaders in our economy.

This new spirit that we are seeing in our country; optimism, creativity and innovation has been matched by a new spirit of camaraderie, a new spirit of national unity, and behaviour that embodies the old adage of being our brother and sisters’ keeper. Bermuda we have done well and we have done well together.

Let us continue to support each other, encourage each other, lean on each other and uplift each other as one people with shared goals; keeping our community safe, getting our community safely back to work and dealing with each other kindly, compassionately and generously.

Ministry of Health Press Release

COVID-19 UPDATE – Ministry of Health – 23 May

23 May, 2020

Today there were 229 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 5 were positive for COVID-19.

Of the 5 new cases:

-2 are imported (individuals already in quarantine) 

-1 is local transmission with a known source

-2 are under investigation

Bermuda has 133 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 43 active cases, of which
  • 36 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 7 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 81 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased is 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of hospitalized cases is 79 and the age range is 70 to 91 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 78 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 10 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 4 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

May 20th Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

 

Good afternoon Bermuda.

Thank you for once again letting us into your homes for today’s update on COVID-19 in Bermuda and the work being done to safely reopen our economy and get people back to work so they can provide for their families.

This evening we will hear from the Ministers of Health, Finance and Education. We also have Dr. Michael Ashton, Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Infectious Disease Specialist and we are joined also by the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne Caines and also the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball, in case there are any questions.

Tomorrow we officially begin Phase 2, with expansion of services. As a reminder, this phase of safely getting back to work includes:

  • Retail stores will be open for in-store customers and will follow the same alphabetical shopping days in place for grocery stores;
  • Beauty salons and barbers will be open under strict Public Health requirements;
  • Restaurants will be open for outdoor dining only;
  • Restaurants, and licensed bars with outdoor facilities will only be permitted to open with the approval of the Ministry of Health and the Environmental Health team;
  • Outdoor weddings and funerals will be permitted, with a maximum of 20 persons in attendance, subject to the proper wearing of masks and appropriate physical distancing. These two services are the only times where more than ten persons can be gathered. Apart from that, the restrictions for gatherings of ten in public and private remains.
  • Requirements for those boating to be from the same household have been removed. But still only a maximum of 10 people will be allowed on any vessel, subject to appropriate physical distancing. Additionally, we have determined that the same provisions will be applied to allow commercial or charter boat operations. A maximum of 10 persons, including crew, subject to appropriate physical distance. Tying to another boat is still prohibited, and boats are still required to be off the water by 7pm.
  • Playgrounds will be open, and licensed daycare centers can apply to the Minister of Health to, again, open their doors for childcare.
  • The use of outdoor gym equipment in our public parks, is now to be permitted with the public reminded to sanitize the equipment, prior to use.
  • Remote working and working from home is still required, where reasonably practical.
  • Buses have begun operating on a limited schedule, and all businesses are still required or permitted to operate between 7am and 9pm, as the 10pm to 6am curfew will remain in effect.

Now, the Minister of Health will provide the latest update on COVID-19 and Dr Ashton will provide an update on the convalescent plasma at the Bermuda Hospital’s Board, and also answer any related hospital questions.

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Today there were 14 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19. This is not the high numbers we have become accustomed to hearing but it is only because the testing teams have been deployed to critical areas including institutional and senior populations.

Bermuda has 125 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 36 active cases, of which
  • 33 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 3 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 80 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased is 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 59 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 39 are Imported
  • 74 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 10 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 2 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

I can also advise you this evening that a staff member in KEMH’s Gordon Ward tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Consequently, the Gordon Ward has been put on quarantine, although all patients were tested this week and were negative. They will be tested again by the end of the weekend just in case any were pre-symptomatic when initially tested.

BHB has had mandatory testing for many weeks for staff who have had an exposure to COVID-19 or exhibited symptoms. There has also been voluntary testing for staff through the Southside facility for some weeks. With increased testing capacity now available, BHB is developing a programme of regularly testing staff, prioritizing front facing patient care services.

This proactive mass testing started with long term care services staff, which includes all patients and about 120 staff, followed by dialysis and long term care services at MWI, and a phased programme based on risk to patients and staff.

In addition, since 1 April, BHB has had protocols in place for testing all patient admissions and in-hospital transfers.
While testing will help identify infections, we know that only a strategy that combines strict adherence to hygiene, physical distancing, and mask wearing can successfully contain COVID. The use of daily PPE and physical distancing, along with hand washing, not touching the eyes, nose or mouth and respiratory etiquette remain critical in containing spread and potential outbreaks in the hospital. It is the strategy we have to apply in all settings where people interact.

As I mentioned at Monday’s press conference, as we move into Phase 2, the Ministry of Health will be creating guidance instructing what permitted businesses must do during this phase and what it means for certain sectors. This guidance will be posted on the Government website.

One further guidance document which has been created is one for outdoor dining under Phase 2.

Under the requirements of the EMERGENCY POWERS REGULATIONS 2020, restaurants can offer outdoor dining and bars can use outdoor areas during Phase 2.

However, I must stress that the only businesses which are permitted to open and provide these services are those which have previously offered outdoor dining and outdoor bar facilities. Any businesses wishing to offer such services for the first time must contact the Environmental Health Service for approval before opening.

All restaurants and bars providing outdoor services must comply with the requirements of this guidance document. These include the following:

  • All staff must wear masks at all times.
  • Patrons must wear face masks whilst waiting to be seated and at all other times when not eating or drinking.
  • Bookings will be highly recommended; walk-in’s will be recorded and regulated.
  • Physical distancing of at least 6 feet must be maintained during any waiting or queuing.
  • Guests must use hand sanitizers provided before entering the establishment.
  • Patrons will be greeted at the point of entry by a dedicated staff member and only granted access if safe to do so while adhering to physical distancing.
  • Clear signage must be provided at the entrance to the establishment and within the premises in relation to physical distancing, hand hygiene and the use of masks.
  • Only one person will be allowed to use the restroom facilities at any given time.
  • There will be a maximum of 10 persons per table. No handshaking, fist bumps, high fives or hugging will be allowed.
  • The maximum number of people allowed in the outdoor dining / bar area will be dictated by compliance with physical distancing.
  • There will be accessible and visible sanitizing products for guests and staff, with hand sanitizers placed at each entrance, each table and at waiter stations.
  • Managers will ensure that staff regularly wash their hands and use hand sanitizers provided.
  • All surfaces will be regularly sanitized. Once guests have left, the entire table will be cleared and sanitized.
  • Single-use, washable or digital menus will be provided.
  • There must be logging of cleaning schedules, sanitizing and disinfecting of all shared surfaces and bathrooms.
  • Kitchens and kitchen equipment must be deep cleaned prior to opening.
  • Kitchens must be deep cleaned at least once per day.
  • Packaged cutlery and single use condiments to be provided upon request.
  • There will be no direct service at bars.
  • There will be no self-serve salad or buffet bars.

In case of sudden inclement weather, and only where suitable covering is not provided outdoors, the restaurant may be used as temporary shelter for guests. However, in such instances guests will not be permitted to move freely throughout the establishment. Dedicated spaces must be assigned to allow for adherence to physical distancing and masks must be worn.

Contact Tracing is an essential part of combatting any outbreak of communicable disease. As we are still managing COVID-19 on island, it’s essential that we have procedures in place to assist contact tracing.  Therefore the following procedures shall be followed at restaurants offering outdoor dining:

  • Tables will be numbered
  • The party name and server name will be recorded.
  • Servers will wear name badges.
  • There will be one server per table.
  • The diner(s) contact details will be recorded.

There will be a mandatory space of 6 feet between tables or physical barriers when 6 feet is not reasonably practicable. Such physical barriers, if required, must be so designed as to adequately separate tables; they will need to be at least 6 and a half feet high.

There is also an extensive list of additional requirements which should be considered by establishments which can be found in the guidance on the government website coronavirus.gov.bm.

I end by reminding us all that if we do not adhere to public health requirements we will see increased cases of COVID, increased hospitalizations and increased deaths. The new normal is all about hand-hygiene, physical distancing and mask-wearing for all of us. We must integrate this into our daily lives to ensure safe passage through Phase 2.

Even though the guidelines say not to meet in groups larger than 10, that does not mean, for example, that it’s okay to go over to someone’s house where there are, say, 10 people…only to go to someone else’s house right afterwards where there is a gathering of a further 10 individuals. Now is not the time to house-hop! Anyone who you are within six feet of for more than 15 minutes becomes a ‘close contact’…so consider how many ‘close contacts’ you could potentially create by visiting multiple households.

Also, all groups of ten are not created equal. What do I mean by that?…I mean, if you are in a group of ten people who are only from one or two households that is far more preferable to being in a group of ten where you are all from different households. The intermingling of individuals from different households is probably the biggest threat to stopping COVID-19 spread and I urge you all to be mindful of this and to limit your interactions with others as much as possible.

As human beings, we are social creatures, but consider creating ‘social bubbles’ whereby you socialize with the same groups of individuals…rather than meeting up with many different groups of friends or family throughout the week.

Remember – you could be a “super-spreader” and not even know it. The more interactions you have with others and the more you are out and about in the world, the more at risk you put yourself and those in your household.

You can stay up to date and informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 by visiting coronavirus.gov.bm.

Thank you Dr. Ashton and thank you Minister of Health.

There are many who are worried about the future of what the economy may hold. The Minister of Finance has been working diligently to ensure that we’ll be able to navigate the difficult economic waters ahead. I will now ask the Minister of Finance to update Bermuda on his continued efforts.

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE STATEMENT

My remarks today will cover three items: unemployment benefits update; the Economic Advisory Committee and further emergency measures that will be undertaken by the Government.

Unemployment Benefits 

Last week I made a commitment that “…if you have been unemployed at the introduction of this program up through when you get re-employed, you will receive your benefit.”

Some folks may have interpreted that as meaning everyone would be paid by last week. That was our goal; we have made great progress on that front and continue to work to pay those persons who have not yet been paid.

The intended message was that:

  • Everyone eligible will get paid, and
  • You will be paid for the period for which you are eligible to be paid.

This means that, if you were unemployed for 6 weeks, you will get paid for those 6 weeks – even if you have yet to receive your benefit and are currently back to work.

That brings me to an important point. As we have stated previously, you are required to notify us when you go back to work. Some who believe they have not yet been paid their share may be tempted to withhold such information in order to “correct” what you think you are owed.

However, doing so would be in violation of the law and could result in you being overpaid. What is important is that we know the beginning and ending dates of your eligibility.

During last Wednesday’s press conference, I mentioned you could email us with details of your return to work. However, there is now an online form that should be used to confirm your eligibility period more expeditiously. Please visit www.bermudajobboard.com, follow the link at the top for COVID-19 Unemployment Application, then the link at the top for the Back to Work form.

Last week I advised that over 500 people had notified the Department of Workforce Development of their planned return to work.

This number has grown, and we expect that it will continue to grow as Bermuda enters Phase Two of its reopening. While economic recovery may be a long road ahead, over 1,400 individuals have now returned to work.

As mentioned earlier, we continue to make progress to resolve problem applications, and last week we paid 1,241 applicants for the first time and tomorrow we will be processing a mid-cycle payment to get funds to approximately 250 more.

We will now have paid benefits to over 9,000 for a total cost of approximately $23 million. We expect further payments to continue on a bi-weekly schedule, which means another payment next Friday.

Additionally, anyone having received a payment over the last week will receive an email tomorrow (provided you gave us an email address) informing them of some critical information on payment calculations. We encourage everyone to look out for this, review it carefully, and contact us if there are corrections necessary.

The COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee 

Last Wednesday, I advised that to appropriately navigate this crisis, I would seek the input and advice from all stakeholders in the community, and to assist I have established a COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee.

This evening I am pleased to announce the members of the new COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee.

I will chair of the Committee, and I have appointed the following 11 people to serve as members:

  • Ms. Teresa Chatfield, Owner/Director, MEF Bermuda;
  •  Mr. Dennis Fagundo, Co-Managing Director, D&J Construction and President, Chamber of Commerce;
  • Mr. Chris Furbert, President, Bermuda Industrial Union;
  • The Honorable Patricia J. Gordon-Pamplin, JP, MP, Shadow Minister of Finance & Health;
  • Mr. Marc Grandisson, President & Chief Executive Officer, Arch Capital Group Ltd and Deputy Chair, Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR);
  • Ms. Cheryl-Ann Lister, Chair, Bermuda National Anti-Money Laundering Committee;
  • Mr. Michael Neff, Managing Director, Bermuda & International Wealth, Butterfield Group;
  • Ms. Sylvia Oliveira, Chief Executive Officer, Wilton Re Bermuda and Chairman, Bermuda International Long Term Insurers & Reinsurers;
  • Mr. Denis Pitcher, Chief Fintech Advisor, Government of Bermuda;
  • Mr. Patrick Tannock, Managing Director, AXA XL and Chair, Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC); and
  • Mr. Stephen Weinstein, Chief Legal Officer, RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd and Deputy Chair, Bermuda Business Development Agency.

At today’s meeting, the Committee discussed a range of organizational matters including the Committee’s Terms of Reference.

This Committee will provide insight and expert advice on how to protect jobs and stimulate economic activity during the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I look forward to working with this team to identify and eventually implement a series of measures to enable sustainable economic growth and mitigate the social impacts of the pandemic.

Further Emergency Measures 

I am pleased to report that the Government has implemented further emergency measures to assist businesses that have a pressing need for financial relief as a result of this pandemic.

Payroll tax – Restaurant and bar sectors 

The restaurant and bar sectors have been particularly hard hit by a significant decline in sales volume and job losses since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Accordingly, Government will immediately institute short-term relief from payroll tax to assist these sectors that have a pressing need for financial relief.

Therefore, during this quarter ending 30th June 2020, payroll tax will be set at a zero rate for the restaurant and bar sectors. Restaurants and bars will also cease deducting payroll tax from employees during this period.

This relief is intended to ease the pressure on Bermuda’s economy, and especially the pain being experienced by many Bermudians who work in this sector. We realise that this relief will result in a reduction of Government revenues.

Streamlined customs import duty deferment for business goods 

I would like to take this opportunity to announce new streamlined import duty deferment for business goods.

Many viewers may recall that in the Budget Statement delivered earlier this year, I pledged that “… the Customs Department will ease the financial burden on retailers by making the customs duty deferral process more user-friendly. This will assist retailers with their cash flow as customs duty will not be paid upfront, but rather after they have sold at least a portion of their goods.”

In keeping with that commitment, the Customs Department will, with immediate effect, allow retailers and other commercial importers to apply for duty deferment for up to six months on imported business goods subject to a minimal surcharge.

Whereas import duty is normally payable at the time each import declaration is made to Customs; by deferring duty payment, the time of payment is delayed for up to six months.

Upfront duty payment can place a strain on a business’ cash flow.

This strain can be exacerbated by also having to pay overseas suppliers upfront or on limited credit terms, and with associated bank charges on each transaction. This additional cost and the administrative handling of each payment increases the cost of trading. Duty deferment will allow customs traders, in particular retailers and Customs Clearing Agents, to increase the efficiency of payment handling, increase cash flow and reduce costs.

Long term duty payment deferral (more than six months) is also available in certain circumstances.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic contraction of the global economy and has been particularly devastating to small island economies, hitting the retail industry in Bermuda particularly hard. With the Shelter in Place Order and the mandatory shutting of most retail shops during Phase One, many retailers have been forced to make difficult choices, including employee furloughs or layoffs. The retail sector is anxious to find cost-cutting measures to help keep them afloat during this crisis.

Although duty deferment was not originally intended to address the COVID-19 crisis, by reducing import duty-related merchandise carrying costs, it is hoped that this Government measure might assist some businesses to cope with the economic effects of the pandemic.

Detailed guidance on customs duty deferment will be published on the Government Portal shortly. In the interim, all questions regarding Customs duty deferment may be sent by email to customs@gov.bm

Pension Suspension: 

Last week, the Senate passed the legislation amending the National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 to permit a person under the age of 65 who participates in a private, defined contribution pension plan or local retirement product, to voluntarily withdraw up to $12,000, from the period that the Act was brought into force until 30th June, 2021.

To provide further support to employers and employees during this unprecedented period it is proposed to amend the National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 to allow for a mandatory suspension of employee and employer contributions for a period ending on 30th June, 2021.

By providing such relief for employees and employers, participating employees will see their take-home pay increase by 5%, and participating employers will also benefit from reduced operational expenses (5% of payroll).

This is a temporary measure that will provide temporary relief to employers and provide additional income to employees.

If the suspension of contributions is taken up across the private sector, it will provide both relief and stimulus to families and businesses. The stimulus to the economy will be generated if some of the saving is converted to consumer spending in the local economy and business investment in infrastructure and improvements.

This is mandatory; however, employers and employees can make voluntary contributions should they wish.

The Government is mindful of the long-term implications on a plan member’s retirement income in permitting such suspensions. However, this must be balanced against the immediate and urgent needs in our community that has resulted from this unexpected crisis.

Finally the Cabinet has recently approved a suspension on Social Insurance Contributions for employees and employers. This proposal will provide further relief to assist businesses and employees that have a pressing need for financial relief.

Similar to the NPS suspension of contributions, this is also mandatory, and employers and employees can still contribute to the Contributory Pension Fund if they wish.

These proposal are sensible and intend to ease financial burdens on employers and employees as we navigate this pandemic.

Finally I can confirm that later this week, to supplement reduced revenues and additional COVID-19 related expenditures, I will execute the $150 million facility previously negotiated with local financial institutions. This will supplement an already executed $20 million credit facility with a local financial institution.

This borrowing capacity, together with current cash reserves and on-going tax receipts will assist the Government in taking the appropriate actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the short-term.

Thank you, Minister Dickinson.

Many have questions about the future of the school year, and the impact this virus has had on Public Education. The Minister of Education will now provide an update on what Phase 2, means for Education, Minister.

THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION STATEMENT

(To be added)

Thank you Minister of Education.

For each of the Ministers here, I extend a sincere thank you, to you and your respective teams of hard working Public Officers in your individual Ministries.

On Friday, the House of Assembly will be conducting a virtual meeting, enabling the people’s business to continue in spite of COVID-19, and in accordance with physical distancing regulations. As promised, we will be tabling a resolution to require a one year reduction in Ministers and Member’s salaries. This Government is leading by example, and we’re determined to do our part to reduce the cost of Government, so that we can deliver on our mandate of providing programmes that support our people. I’m grateful to the support of my parliamentary colleagues and the Progressive Labour Party, and also I’ve consulted, as I said on Monday, with the Opposition.

This is especially important in these times, and in the principle of those who have more being asked to do more starts with us in leadership. Therefore, at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting Ministers of the Government elected to take a 15% reduction on their ministerial salaries. The Government has been clear throughout that we will not ask Public Officers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.

This Friday the House will debate:

The Development and Planning (Draft Bermuda Plan 2018 Extension) Act 2020, which will enable consultation on the Bermuda Plan to be extended in response to the disruption caused to the original process by the pandemic; and

Extension to Regulations for Phase 2 to 30th June. To be clear, there is no hard or fast date for the end of Phase 2. However this extension allows the government the flexibility to respond effectively to any changes related to COVID-19. This timeline will also correspond to the end of the State of Emergency on 30 June.

Also on Friday, there’ll be a number of bills tabled in the House of Assembly. The Summary Offences Amendment Act, to provide changes to curfew regulations. The Emergency Powers Amendment Act and Amendments to the Statutory Instruments Act, which will ensure that in future declarations of a State of Emergency, any particular item of Emergency Regulations will be tabled in the House of Assembly for Parliamentary scrutiny.

The Cost of Living Commission Amendment Act, which will require groceries and other stores to transmit pricing information, as requested by the Minister responsible for Consumer Affairs, electronically to the Government for publishing and sharing.

The Merchant Shipping Amendment Act.

Bills to suspend pension contributions in the private sector for one year, and suspend mandatory Social Insurance Contributions for one year, as was mentioned by the Minister of Finance in his statement.

And, there will also be a Bill introduced to suspend pension contributions from Ministers and Members of the Legislature. All of those bills will be debated in two weeks.

To listen to the proceedings of the House of Assembly, you’re welcome to go to parliament.bm. You can listen on radio at 105.1 or you’re welcome to listen in at bernews.com.

The Government of Bermuda continues discussions with airlines and charter companies to arrange flights home for Bermuda residents. If you are a person who is ordinarily resident in Bermuda and you are still seeking to return home, please complete the Returning Bermuda Residents Home form which can be found on coronavirus.gov.bm. Click here for COVID-19 forms.  While we work to arrange flights from many destinations including the Caribbean, it is important to know the number of residents who would take a flight to Bermuda if one was available.

I know that there are many persons in Canada who are looking to return home as well, but I was pleased to know that we could repatriate five Bermudians who were stranded in Canada on a private jet flight which came in earlier this week.

If you have previously listed your interest with the Ministry of Tourism and Transport or the Airport Authority, you do not need to complete this form again as they have your contact details already.

Before I move on to my closing. Just a quick update from the Southside testing facility. They will be taking their testing on the road. There will be a West End pop up drive-through testing site, located at the Warwick Academy, this Friday from 4pm to 7pm. This is by appointment only, and there will be no walk-ins for those of you in the west end. So, if this trial is successful, there will be more pop up testing facilities throughout the country, so that people will not have to drive all the way to Southside and may be able to be tested inside of their communities.

Dr. Weldon advises that they can test up to 72 people, but bookings must be made online at coronavirus.gov.bm, and you can click the link at the very top that says Health Screening Registration to check the availability. When you go there please make sure that you click the Warwick Academy booking option.

I will conclude tonight’s briefing with a word of encouragement to our community, and a look ahead to what is expected from all of us and what is required to put more of our people safely back to work.

We have made remarkable progress in combating a global pandemic that no one could have prepared for and that many countries have simply struggled to manage. The effort that we have made; working together, leaning on each other, being there for each other has been not for days, not for weeks but for months.

As a people and as an island we have done exceedingly well. I remain hopeful that together with the rest of the world we have been changed by COVID-19, and this experience for the better and that the change within us lasts long after this pandemic has been relegated to the pages of history.

Now is the time for us to continue to work together. Continue to practice the Public Health measures which we have learned over the last few months.

We know physical distancing works. We know washing our hands works. We know limiting contact with others works. We must remain disciplined and continue to take responsibility for our actions that keep ourselves, our families and our community safe.

As we enter Phase 2 there will be greater retail opportunities together with the ability to eat out, visit licensed establishments and get the grooming that you may have been used to. Now is the time for us to think about how we can continue to keep each other safe.

Now is the time for us to hold each other accountable, and for us to make sure that we remain unified and focused. Now is the time for us to step into a new future with new opportunities and a new way of working in what will become our new normal for some time to come.

Many have asked me, why do we still have a curfew? Why are there so many restrictions? Why can’t I shave my beard or get a wax? Why can’t we raft up? Why does my boat have to be in at 7pm? Why are there so many limits on our freedom?

The reason is simple. We are not out of the woods yet. We are still under a State of Emergency and we must not reopen our economy too quickly. Trust and believe, I want life to return to normal, yesterday as well. But just as much as I want my beard trimmed tomorrow, because we want it does not mean that it is safe to do so.

We must continue to work to limit the spread of this virus and as we continue to build our capacity to combat this virus. So, this weekend, and starting tomorrow, again, now is not the time to tear it. It is still cool out time. Let’s keep putting in work, so that we can move into Phase 3.

With the House of Assembly’s virtual session on Friday, there will be no Friday press conference. The next press conference will take place on Monday the 25 May, and we will move to two press conferences a week format, with the conferences taking place on Monday, and on Thursday.

In closing, I just have a few things to say. On Monday I neglected to wish a happy 89th birthday to Mr. Allan C. Frith. So Mr. Frith I want to wish you a happy belated 89th birthday. And I would like to say special happy 40thbirthday to Mr. Ralph Gumbo Bean, Jr., Captain of High Pressure, FC.

Thank you.

 

It’s Ok To Not Be Ok

Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out we are here for you

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Bermuda Red Cross PFSA and CSIM Responders.

18 May COVID-19 Update

Opening to Phase 2 –  COVID-19 Update

 

 

Good afternoon.

The gradual return of activity on our streets and the efforts of hardworking men and women in business to adapt to a rapidly changing model of customer service should have been seen by everyone. Slowly, there is growing economic activity in Bermuda and some people have been able to return to work. As we go about our daily lives, the same precautions must apply and we know what they are: frequent and proper hand washing; physical distancing and the proper wearing of masks. The ability of more of our families, friends and neighbours to return to work and to earn the living that provides for their families depends on our collective efforts to reduce the spread of this virus which if not done, can infect our most vulnerable and overwhelming our healthcare system.

Last week I signalled that Cabinet would meet on the weekend to discuss Bermuda’s move into Phase 2 of our multi-phased plan for reopening. Yesterday ministers considered input from our caucus colleagues, the latest public health guidance and weighed the benefits and risks of moving into this next phase. Your concern is our concern. The transition must be measured, emphasize safety of our people, and return as many people to work as safely as possible. We believe what we have determined achieves that goal, and that it is needed. It is indeed time to move Bermuda into Phase 2.

With effect from Thursday, May 21, these are the changes that you can expect:

  • Retail stores will be open for in-store customers, and they will be occupied by 20% of the buildings approved maximum fire occupancy inside at any one time, and will follow the same alphabetical shopping days in place for grocery stores and gas stations;
  • Beauty salons and barbers will open under strict public health requirements which the Minister of Health will expand on;
  • Restaurants, both standalone, and restaurants in hotels will be able to open for outdoor dining only;
  • Licensed bars with outdoor facilities will be permitted to open on the same criteria as restaurants. To ensure the safety of both workers and patrons, restaurants, and those licensed bars slated to open in this phase will only be permitted to do so with the approval of the Ministry of Health. The Environmental Health team will work with restaurant owners, and operators and bar proprietors who have outdoor facilities already to ensure that they are able to meet the strict standards required to begin serving patrons again. This means, if you do not have the requisite permissions, it will still be unlawful for you to open on Thursday.
  • Outdoor weddings and funerals will be permitted, with a maximum of 20 persons outdoors in attendance, subject to the proper wearing of masks and appropriate physical distancing. These two services are the only times where more than ten persons can be gathered. Apart from that, the restriction for gatherings of ten in public and or private remains.
  • Requirements for those boating to be from the same household, will be removed. But still, only a maximum of ten persons will be allowed on any boat, subject to appropriate physical distances. That means you cannot have ten persons on a 20 foot Boston Wailer. You must be responsible.
  • Following consultation with the Bermuda Pediatric Association, playgrounds will be open and licensed daycare centers can apply to the Minister of Health to again, open their doors for childcare. This is especially important for our essential service workers.
  • The use of outdoor gym equipment, in our public parks, which was prohibited will now be allowed. However, anyone using this equipment should sanitize this equipment, prior to public use.
  • Remote working and working from home will still be required, were reasonably practical.
  • All businesses permitted to operate will operate between 7am and 9pm, as the 10pm to 6am curfew will remain in effect.

The reopening of these services will mean an increased need for enforcement and compliance. We are focused on the health and security of people at all times, and this includes service providers as well as customers. The Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment will be checking for adherence to public health standards regularly.

The team at Environmental Health will provide training to these officers to assist them in monitoring physical distancing and public health standard compliance. It is our intention that these changes will be enforced into next month, and therefore on Friday I will table the revised regulations in the House of Assembly and invite the House and thereafter the Senate to approve their extension through to June 30. This extension to June 30 does not mean that there will be no more changes over the next six weeks, but it is required as the current regulations expire at the end of May. Collectively, if we do our part, we can advance to future phases, allowing more persons to return to work within the next few weeks.

With the expansion of services available in Phase 2, there will be parents reporting back to work and will need to have continued educational support for their children who attend our public schools. The Department of Education is organizing an educational support programme for children of parents who aren’t able to return to work during Phase 2. Parents who may be returning to work from Thursday should send information to the principal of the school that their children attend.

Please provide the names of your children and their grade level, and please submit this information, no later than Wednesday, May 20. This information is critical, so that the department can know in advance the number of children that they should plan for. The educational support programme will focus on students continuing their learnings, but in a different venue, other than home. The programme will be administered as a supervised controlled environment. To be absolutely clear, the programme will service the children of those parents who must physically return to work, resulting from changes in the regulations. The programme at this point will not be equipped to accept children with special needs.

Now, the Minister of Health will present today’s COVID-19 results and give more details regarding this move to Phase 2, Minister of Health.

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Between Sunday and today there were 532 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 2 were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda now has 125 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 39 active cases, of which
  • 35 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 4 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 77 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased is 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 59 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

The average age of persons hospitalized is 74 and their age ranges from 70 to 78 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 39 are Imported
  • 74 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 8 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 4 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

As we move into Phase 2, the Ministry of Health will be creating clear guidance instructing what permitted businesses must do during this phase and what it means for certain sectors. This guidance will be posted on the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm.

One such guidance note that has been created for Phase 2 is Personal Services Guidance for the Consumer regarding the limited operation of beauty, hair and barber shops…and I stress the word ‘limited’.

Under Phase 2, hair services including hair cutting, styling, and barbering services will be permitted. Services requiring hair washing are permitted but clients should be encouraged to come with prewashed hair for express services unless chemical services are scheduled. Pedicures and manicures including gel and acrylic nails will also be permitted.

Not permitted under Phase 2 are beauty services requiring:

  • A client to disrobe (such as massages, body wraps or waxing);
  • Permanent makeup (eye or lip liner) or any tattoo-type services, electrolysis, or laser hair removal and;
  • Extensive touching of a client’s body (such as shoulder or back massages, pedicures and manicures with add-on massages or paraffin wax treatments).

The reason for these prohibitions is that they require excessively close contact and touching a client’s face and body. These activities dramatically increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, so are very high risk and cannot be permitted.

While it is true that in healthcare settings it is sometimes necessary to touch and get very close to a patient at times, this is done only when medically necessary and with appropriate PPE. Grooming and beauty treatments are not essential care that could justify the level of risk. So, ladies and gentlemen, in Phase 2 these treatment cannot be permitted.

In addition, mobile services or home visits are NOT permitted in Phase 2. Again, the reason for this prohibition is that it would increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. Performing these services underground, outside regulated premises will simply pose a health risk for the stylist, the client and their families. So do not attempt to undertake this activity. Mobile or home beauty services are just not allowed during Phase 2.

Salons operating during Phase 2 should take a number of steps to prepare to serve you safely during this period. These measures will help to protect you, the customer, and those providing the service. They include the following:

1. Signage

You should expect to see additional signage indicating that your salon has taken steps to prepare to serve you safely during this phase.

2. Physical Distancing Policies, Barriers and Shields

Your salon may have implemented physical barriers at service counters, between stations or you may notice that the salon serves less customers while you are there. These efforts are important for physical distancing.

3. Increased Hand washing and Use of Sanitizer

You should be asked to sanitize your hands immediately upon entering the premises. You should notice increased hand washing and cleaning from your stylist.

4. Questionnaires about your Health

To protect the stylist, you will be asked questions about your health. Do not attend if you are unwell, or if you have been around someone who has symptoms of COVID-19.

5. Recording of Client Contact details for Contact Tracing

Be prepared to provide more information. Public health officials may require additional information during an outbreak. Your salon should ask for detailed contact information for this purpose.

6. Increased Cleaning and Sanitizing of the Salon

Cleaning in between customers must occur for chairs, touch points, and work spaces. Be patient as salons complete this in between clients.

7. Use of Mask(s) and other PPE

Personnel in the salon must be wearing a mask and you must wear one while there. If you forget your mask, call ahead to see if your salon provides them.  I should note that businesses and patrons are responsible for providing their own PPE.

8. Increased Cleaning of Tools, Brushes and Implements

Your salon must always provide clean tools (clippers, guides, brushes and combs) and new disposable implements (nail files and buffers). If you are unsure, ask questions.

Further guidance will be posted over the coming days for other permitted businesses including retail and restaurants which will be open for outdoor dining only.

Lastly, the public will be aware the bus services are intended to resume with a 3 foot distancing requirement and mandated mask-wearing on buses. This reduced physical distancing has been permitted by public health on public transport ONLY as it is an essential activity for the resumption of work and economic life. Its necessity justifies the risk, and it is mitigated by the mandatory mask-wearing. The masks reduce the risk, but the physical distance should be as great as possible in all other settings. It is the combined measures of hand hygiene, physical distance and mask wearing that create protection.

Other jurisdictions are adopting similar measures in order for public transport to be able to operate.

For those relying on public transportation please be mindful of the following, in addition to the requirement for wearing a face mask:

  • keep a distance from fellow travellers to a minimum of 3 feet,
  • avoid rush hours is possible,
  • try as much as possible to face away from other travellers,
  • avoid physical contact and
  • cover your face when coughing or sneezing.

The key thing is to not be too close to other people for more than a short amount of time, as much as you can. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus and the amount of time you spend in close contact: you are very unlikely to be infected from just walking past another person to take  up your seat, 3 feet away.

I end by reminding us all that if we do not adhere to public health requirements we will see increased cases of COVID, increased hospitalizations and increased deaths.

As we transit through the reopening phases, it is not to return life to normal – it will never be normal again while there is no vaccine or cure for COVID. The phases aim to allow time for cultural and behavioural change, so that, together, we can prevent having to Shelter in Place again in the future.

The new normal is all about hand-hygiene, physical distancing and mask-wearing for all of us. We must to integrate this into our daily lives to ensure safe passage through Phase 2.

You can stay up to date and informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 by visiting coronavirus.gov.bm.

Thank you very much Minister of Health. Now we will have an update from the Minister of National Security who will give an overview of the policing plan for Phase 2 and also talk about the third sector support and donations received. Minister.

THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

Last week Friday we welcomed back returning residents on the Delta Airlines charter flight. One of the challenges that we had noticed from prior arrangements at the quarantine facility was that individuals were confined to their rooms for 24-hours a day. In an effort to make their stay more balanced and holistic the Ministry of National Security implemented a twice a week physical activity routine for the residents in the facility.

Activities such as walking, high intensity training, yoga and meditation classes will now be available for those housed in the facility. They will adhere to physical distancing guidelines as outlined by the Ministry of Health, and we are thankful to be able to collaborate with members of our wellness community who have donated their time to ensure the wellbeing of our residents during their time in quarantine.

As the Premier indicated, we will be moving into Phase 2 on Thursday, and the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) and the Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR) will maintain their community engagement to ensure that the regulations are followed.

A comprehensive operational plan is now in place controlled by the Gold Commander of the Bermuda Police Service, Assistant Commissioner Martin Weekes working in partnership with the Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda regiment, Major Ben Beasley.

Extensive Police and Regiment resources will be visible across the island to ensure that businesses permitted to open fully comply with all regulations.

Visits will be made to business premises to check:

  • physical distancing measures.
  • the use of PPE masks where mandated.
  • required health regulation compliance in regards to cleanliness and sensitization.
  • the appropriate number of persons within the premises.
  • the enforcement of any other guidance set by the Ministry of Health.

Advice will be given in regards to minor breaches. Serious breaches or repeated breaches will result in:

  • Immediate closure of the business premise.
  • Law enforcement action toward the proprietors.

Additionally, outside dining areas will be visited to ensure physical distance compliance and again that health measures are being adhered to. Other points to note for permitted businesses and the public include:

  • Businesses are expected to publish the relevant guidance to patrons in prominent places within their establishment.
  • Road side sobriety checks will be in place to enforce against alcohol use on the roads.
  • The Coastguard will be active to ensure regulations compliance on the water.
  • Police and Regiment officers will be present to ensure patrons leave establishments open during the night time economy promptly at 9.00 pm.
  • The Curfew regulations will be in force from 10pm – 6am, and any breaches will be subject to law enforcement and/or arrest.
  • Police and Regiment will also continue to be visible in public parks and other areas to ensure regulation compliance by the public.
  • A new fixed penalty framework is being developed to address regulation breaches which will result in on the spot fine for individuals and businesses. Non-payment will result in court action.
  • Any member of the public that sees a breach by a person or a business can report the breach to the police in one of the following methods:
  • Report on the web portal https://portal.police.bm.
  • Dialling 211

With businesses preparing to reopen I cannot stress enough how critical it is that all establishments have the appropriate PPE supplies available for their staff and for their customers.

To be clear, procurement of these items is the responsibility of the business.

I am encouraging the public and our businesses to please be mindful and responsible when engaging in these expanded services. There are health protocols and restrictions in place. If the guidelines are not adhered to in accordance with the Emergency Powers Regulations, this could result in a business being closed.

Over the weekend, the Bermuda Weather Service provided an update on Tropical Storm Arthur. We expect this to become a subtropical storm when it passes Bermuda later this week.

This is a timely reminder that hurricane season starts on June 1st and now would be a good time for residents to assess their emergency plans and storm supplies. Even as we navigate Covid-19, from a Government standpoint, I can assure Bermuda that all steps are being taken to ensure that we are ready for the season.

Finally, I wish to take this opportunity to extend my thanks appreciation to the combined efforts of our charitable organisations. To date, the Third Sector has received $1.84 million into the Bermuda Emergency Fund for food and supplies for our most vulnerable. Through their work, they have on average on a daily basis provided 10,000 meals to individuals in need.

Also over the course of this crisis they have provided the following:

  • Conducted 8,400 quarantine check-up calls and returning resident screenings.
  • Fielded 200 mental health calls on average for support from people in distress: feeling isolated, anxious or depressed.
  • Provided support for women and their children fleeing violent situations and requiring safe housing for 8 weeks.
  • Facilitated for 10 people to receive support for sober living.
  • Served an average of 28 unsheltered persons at the  Salvation Army per night (24/7 with shelter in place including people in transition).
  • Provided transport for Covid – 19 testing and requisite ambulance decontamination and;
  • Provided transport for seniors for medical appointments, dialysis, wound care and other health support.

I wish to thank Myra Virgil and the full collective of charitable organisations who make up the Third Sector Emergency team. They have our gratitude for ensuring that those in need have food, shelter and support.

Thank you very much Minister.

Before I go to questions, I think it is important for us to collectively take stock of where we are and where we are going. The success of the country isn’t my success or the Cabinet’s success. It is the success of all of us and we should collectively be proud in our efforts.

As a country, to date:

  • We have managed to successfully contained the virus on our shores and we’ve never moved to wide spread “Community Transmission”. This is due to not only our decisive action as a Government, but the continued cooperation of all of you.
  • With the support of the Ministry of Health and the aid of young Bermudian Dr. Carika Weldon, numerous volunteers and local community physicians, we created a government testing lab that enabled the island’s testing capacity to expand dramatically with Bermuda among the leaders in the world for per capita testing.
  • We ensured that widespread testing is conducted at no cost to people being tested.
  • We quickly identified facilities that could be used to quarantine arriving passengers for two weeks and then arranged for all to be tested prior to being released to their homes. This policy prevented further spread of the virus and is one of the reasons why we didn’t move to community transmission.
  • While the hospitalization rate is falling, the Ministry of Health and the Bermuda Hospitals Board have successfully added 48 additional beds to our stock of hospital beds to enhance the hospital’s ability to care for patients with COVID-19 if needed; and
  • Through public and private sector efforts we’ve expanded the number of ventilators available at the hospital with other measures to improve the ability of our hospital to respond to any future outbreak.
  • We provided new and unprecedented support for our people economically displaced by COVID-19 with over $20 million paid out in support to those who were unable to work, and over $12 million being made available to small and medium sized businesses.
  • We’ve worked together as a community to support our most vulnerable members of our society. The third sector, churches, community groups and citizens ensure that our seniors, vulnerable, and our homeless population were supported during this time; and
  • We set aside petty political bickering and worked together across the political, philosophical and ideological chasm that so often holds back our island’s progress.

We have done well as a country. I am grateful to everyone within the Government, the Legislature, the community, the unions, private sector and third sector who have helped to get Bermuda to where we are today.

Though we have done well, we have not been perfect and there are things we could have handled differently.  We concede that we could have:

•   moved faster to test all in our seniors’ homes; and

•   been quicker to provide payment of unemployment benefits to those who qualified but didn’t get them in a timely manner.

However, despite those setbacks – as a country we have done well and we all should be proud.

We have adjusted quickly to changing circumstances, moved swiftly to correct missteps and followed examples set by countries that are successfully managing COVID-19.  We are grateful and humbled by the support, trust and gratitude we have received from the community and for everyone’s patience as we continue to work together to overcome this virus.

From here, as we get ready to move into a new phase, we must remain vigilant and continue to push forward with solutions that protect the health and safety of our community. At the same time, we must put our people back to work safely.  With the right tools and with your cooperation we can have the courage to give our people the freedom to once again earn a living and provide for their families.

We are in a position today to give Bermudians more choices and more freedom.  But with more choices and more freedom comes greater responsibility. We cannot become lax and move away from the work, which we are all doing to keep us safe; wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing our hands, and making sure that we do not hug, kiss and embracing when we see persons while greeting. As the Minister of Health said, these actions could cause another outbreak and can force us to go back to where we came from, where I’m sure none of us want to go.

We have not defeated this virus completely, but it is important to us as a country that we cannot let this virus defeat us. We have increased our capacity to take care of our citizens who may be covered afflicted with this virus. We have increased our capacity to test and detect, to trace and to isolate persons who may become infected with this virus, and collectively as a leader of this government, I have confidence that we can deal with what the future may bring. The truth is, however, that we must continue to be safe. We must continue to be kind, and we must continue to be patient. As more and more businesses open, we will see many changes in how we interact with each other at retail stores, restaurants, at our parks, and even at our beaches.

We must remember that everything we are experiencing is new and unusual, but it is necessary to make sure that we can get more of our people back to work, while making sure we keep our country safe.

The days ahead, and the economic challenges ahead will be tough. Our economy has been weaker, and there may be businesses that will not survive in the current economic climate. Our people and our institutions will feel economic pain. What this experience has taught us is that fear, cannot stop us differences of opinion will not paralyze us, but kindness and compassion for each other, will take us further and faster. The opportunity before all of us as your government and the opportunity before us, as a community, is this. Rebuilding our economy, less than the image of the past, while successful, it did not always include everyone.

We must build a new economy, one that is based on equity, genuine cooperation and genuine collaboration for the benefit of all. On Thursday, more of us will be able to return back to work, and that is a start.

But we still have a long way to go. We’ve come far together. Let us continue to work together for each other, and remain focused on the goal at hand. And I have no doubt if we continue to add to the upcoming months, as we have in the past two, Bermuda’s success will be that we have successfully managed this virus, while getting our people back to work.