Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update January 12th

Bermuda Government Weekly COVID-19 Update Press Conference

Good Evening Bermuda,

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

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

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

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

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

Minister….

Good Afternoon,

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

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

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

There are 91 active cases, of which;

•        84 are under public health monitoring and

•        7 are in hospital with 1 in critical care;

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please do not register your interest if you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Weldon…

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

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

How the mRNA vaccine works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the mRNA vaccine was fast-tracked

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

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

Viral genome sequencing

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 from the UK:

  • B.1.160
  • B.1.177

and 1 from the Asia:

  • •B.1.36

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update January 5, 2021

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Press Conference – January 5, 2021

 

 

Good evening, Bermuda, and a very Happy New Year to you all.

I hope that whether you had a small gathering in your home, Zoom meetings, WhatsApp or FaceTime calls or a little bit of all of them that you and your families had a safe and relaxing holiday season.

Our celebrations were different, and difficult this year. Not being able to see certain family members, not being able to travel, gather in large groups and not being able to celebrate, as we normally do. Thank you on behalf of your government for your continued sacrifice and the collective effort that we as a country making to keep each other safe, and to beat the coronavirus.

One proud Bermudian tradition did go on as the Gombey troupes took to the streets to perform on New Year’s Day. I’d like to thank the Minister of Home Affairs Deputy Premier Walter Roban, who acted as Premier over the holidays and the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, Minister Ernest Peets and their respective ministries and all agencies that were involved in ensuring that we can enjoy the company safely on New Year’s Day.

Thank you to the Gombey troupes for their enjoyable and authentically Bermudian performances, which is a unique part of our culture, and also for working with the government to make it all possible and safe for them and for the public.

And I want to, of course, say thank you to the public for adhering to the guidelines when watching the Gombeys. I saw pictures and videos from areas such as Town Hill and Bailey’s Bay of residents enjoying the performances from a safe distance.

At today’s press conference I’m joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, and the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming who will each provide updates from their respective ministries. Following that, I’ll provide you with an update on the changes that the Cabinet has agreed to the restrictions that are in place, and discussed measures that we will take going forward to help us ensure that we secure a safe future and share some reasons for hope.

First we’ll hear from the Minister of Health.

Minister …

Good Afternoon,

This evening I am saddened to report that Bermuda has once again experienced another COVID-19 related death.

The loss of another life to COVID-19 in the Bermuda community is very upsetting and I offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of the deceased during this extremely difficult time.

I will now provide today’s daily statistics…

There were 873 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and 8 were positive for COVID-19.

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

·         1 resident who arrived on DL 617 from New York on 30 December 2020 and tested positive on their day 4 test

·         1 resident who arrived on DL 584 from Atlanta on 3 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

·         2 residents who arrived on BA 2233 from London on 3 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

Two of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact as they are associated with known cases.

The additional two new cases are classified as under investigation. These cases are among residents with no currently identified links to other known cases or history of travel in the past 14 days.

Since the last update, 3 cases have recovered and, sadly, one has died.

There are currently 99 active COVID-19 cases in Bermuda, of which:

·            94 are under public health monitoring and

·            5 are hospitalized with none in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 632 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 99 are active cases, 522 persons have recovered and 11 persons sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

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

The mean age of all currently active cases is 41 years (median: 41 years) and the age range is less than 10 years (age group: 5-9 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 53 years (median: 54 years) and the age range is less than 30 years (age group: 20-29 years) to greater than 80 years (age group: 80-100 years).

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

The source of all cases is as follows:

·         168 are Imported

·         384 are classified as local transmission of which:

·         349 are Local transmission with known contact/source and

·         35 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source

·         80 are Under Investigation

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

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

There are a few matters that I need to cover in my remarks today…

First, the vaccine:

I am pleased to confirm that just over 9,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Bermuda on the British Airways flight this Friday 8 January 2021. Once the vaccines arrive on island, they will be taken immediately to a storage facility.

The Ministry will begin administering the vaccine doses on Monday 11 January 2021, to healthcare and essential workers who agree to take the vaccine. In this context, essential frontline workers are those who provide services which prevent social disruption and allow society to function and who are also at risk for higher levels of exposure to COVID-19. This includes firemen, police, corrections officers, personnel at the ports of entry and teachers.

We will also administer the first batch of the vaccine to our most vulnerable, seniors (who give their consent), in rest homes and long-term care facilities. There is no cost for the vaccine and they will be administered at sites arranged by the Department of Health and with primary care physicians who have been approved by the Department of Health.

The vaccine will be given in two doses; the first dose will be given next week and for those people the second dose will be given three weeks later. The rollout of the vaccine will proceed along those lines: the first dose, then the second dose administered three weeks later. For the vaccine to be fully effective, two doses are required.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved for use in the UK after meeting strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which follows international standards of safety. The vaccine has also been approved for use in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine so far, and no serious side effects or complications have been reported.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Health held a mock vaccination trial exercise at the Hamilton Seventh Day Adventist Church.

This was a small exercise designed to provide an opportunity for the Department of Health and relevant partners to assess our ability to document vaccine administration events using the 10 to 8 appointment system and the electronic immunization registry. The drill was limited to the simulated movement of patients through the vaccination process.

We will have post-exercise debriefings tomorrow to evaluate the exercise and determine what tweaks and improvement are necessary.

Regarding returning residents, the Ministry of Health would like to remind the public that, per Quarantine (COVID-19) (No 3) Order 2020, travellers landing in Bermuda without a pre-arrival test will be charged $300 at the airport. There are no refunds, so you are advised to plan ahead and, carefully consider if you should be travelling at all.

The Government’s policy has not changed in this regard; we encourage residents to be tested before returning and have your test results with you on arrival to avoid the $300 fee.

If you are using the Costco/AZOVA Health test, I ask everyone to read the company’s testing procedures very carefully. The BTA has a handy outline of the process on its website, gotobermuda.com, with links to the Costo site.  Your options are to purchase a test kit voucher from Costco.com and have the kit shipped to your overseas accommodation, or purchase the test kit from select Costco pharmacy locations but only after doing an online health assessment. The tests, which cost $139.99 online, are saliva tests that should deliver results within the new five-day turn-around period. Costco membership is not required.

I know the BTA is working with Costco and its partner AZOVA Health to address current teething issues and to provide additional information about the process, as this is a useful and welcome option for travellers to have.

As people are returning to the workplace after the holidays, I want to take this opportunity to remind employers that you are responsible for providing your employees with factual information from health officials and assuring that ‘return to work after travel guidance’ is adhered to, as outlined at www.gov.bm/coronavirus-workplace .

Over 20% of the cases that we had in last month’s outbreaks were workplace outbreaks and transmission. This reveals that workplace standards are often not rigorous enough as employees relax around co-workers. Also, some people return to work too early after travel or even when experiencing symptoms. The Government’s position and guidance remains that persons should work remotely when reasonably practicable. Diligence is needed as cases continue to rise overseas. Through public health officials, we can help to prepare and educate employees without causing unwarranted concern.

Likewise, I would like to remind the general public that we must not become complacent and let our guard down. As I have said repeatedly, we must, as a community, follow the public health guidance and measures put in place to stop the spread of the pandemic. We cannot be irresponsible about COVID-19 – a virus that is so easily transmissible. Wear your mask, wash your hands frequently and properly, use hand sanitiser, practice physical distancing, and avoid the 3-C’s;

  • closed spaces with poor ventilation,
  • crowded places with many people nearby
  • and close-contact settings such as close-range conversations – six feet must be maintained at all times, including while greeting others.

It goes without saying, that the health and wellbeing of our community is our main priority, and we are working hard to protect you . . . But we need your help. Contract tracing is a fundamental part of outbreak control that’s used by public health professionals around the world to prevent the spread of infections.

Contact tracing is used to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease. If a person tests positive for coronavirus, a public health officer would speak to the patient to identify anyone who has had close contact with them during the time they are considered to be infectious.

Our contact tracers are working tirelessly to protect Bermuda from the spread of the coronavirus. But some people in our community, when contacted by a contact tracer, are not cooperating.

Please, I cannot stress this enough, if you are contacted by a contact tracer, fully cooperate with them. This whole process is completely anonymous – they will protect your privacy. Your cooperation will protect the health and wellbeing of our community. Not cooperating could lead to further spreading of the coronavirus, which could shut down our entire economy.

And if you have not already, download the WeHealth app. It is an anonymous contact tracing tool.

In closing, I would like to remind the public about the Community Mental Wellbeing Hotline availability – 543-1111. The line is open Monday to Saturday, 5-9pm.

The wellness hotline is for:

  • those who are feeling anxious;
  • people who may be stressed while taking care of loved ones;
  • seniors who may feel isolated;
  • people who are having a hard time with the isolation;
  • and those caring for their loved ones who want to chat.

Those are just a few examples, and if you need the support, call them, or if someone you know can benefit from this support, please give them the number. 543-1111.

This support is free of charge to the public as funding has been made available through the Bermuda Foundation with support from the Health Innovation Fund.

Bermuda, stay informed on the all of the latest developments about COVID-19 by regularly visiting the Government of Bermuda’s website coronavirus.gov.bm.

 Finally… stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me

Thank you, Minister of Health, and on behalf of the government and the people of Bermuda, I extend our condolences to the family of Bermuda’s 11th COVID death that was just announced by the Minister.

They’re reported as numbers here, but that is without question, somebody’s loved one, we must remember that this virus can take lives.

I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Minister, and her team at the Ministry of Health for all that they do, as well as the testing teams at the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory and the other testing facilities.

Many had to work late hours over the holiday to conduct tests, and send out results, so that others may be able to enjoy their Christmas with their loved ones. I also know that the work they’ve been doing to help us contain this outbreak has been difficult and texting on them personally. So I thank them for their dedication.

Now, the Minister of National Security will provide an update from her ministry.

Minister …

The Bermuda Police Service has released the name of Bermuda’s first road traffic accident victim. It is with heavy sadness that behalf of the Government, I am extending our condolences to the family of Oronde Wilson Jr. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

One death on Bermuda’s roads is one too many.

We are saddened by any serious road traffic accident and are devastated by a fatality. As a country, we need to be aware that road safety is a public safety matter.

Policing Bermuda’s road is only one part of the equation. Each of us should be responsible while driving, riding, running, walking and even crossing roads. It is imperative that all residents take seriously, act cautiously and with concern for your own safety and the safety of others.

Just as we must act responsibly on Bermuda roads, we must also continue to do our part to adhere to the Covid-19 health guidelines and advisories.

Over this past holiday weekend, I am pleased that the majority of our residents adhered to the curfew and we had only seven (7) of the person were deemed to be in breach of curfew. These matters are being dealt with and person(s) will be before the courts in due course

 

Though the curfew has changed to midnight, it is as important as ever that everyone adheres to the revised times. The Bermuda Police Reserves will continue to support the Police Services with enforcement. There have been 26 breaches in total since its inception on December 18th. It should be noted that anyone found in breach of the curfew will have a file submitted before the Department of Public Prosecutions.

During the past three weeks, the BPS’s COVID 19 Compliance Team in partnership with the Bermuda Reserve Police have continued with their liquor license premise checks. There were 101 checks at premises across the island.

As the Minister of National Security, I wish to thank all of Bermuda for making responsible decisions and taking the necessary precautions to protect them and their families. Generally, we had a relatively peaceful holiday period.

This is a testament to our residents who adhered to the health guidelines and advisories which encouraged people to celebrate in small bubbles this holiday season.

As you would have seen, the Bermuda Police Service issued a public reminder that if you intend to be on the roads in the evening hours, please plan by ensuring you have enough time to get home before the curfew.”

Thank you very much, Minister Ming.

I’d like to thank the Reserve Police for their continued support, while enforcing the curfew. While I know that living with these current restrictions are not easy government must continue to make the tough decisions when necessary for a safer future for the weeks and months to come.

The Ministry of Health will look to increase community surveillance with increased testing for teachers, healthcare workers and athletes in our consistent effort to keep Bermuda safe, and to ensure that we keep our economy going.

We want students to be able to go back to school, families to be able to visit loved ones, and for us to be able to go and enjoy some of the regular activities, such as dance on the weekends and also football matches. We must do what is necessary in the present in order to ensure that we can get our lives back to normal in the near future.

Looking back, we have been fortunate in being able to enjoy some forms of normality that other countries cannot. And this is due to our performance and the collective work and effort, vigilance with testing and adhering to the guidelines, wearing our masks, practicing physical distancing and now, with the support of technology, using the We Health Bermuda app, while shielding our vulnerable. Now, I would like to provide you with an update or changes to the public health emergency regulations following the Cabinet meeting earlier today.

In line with the recommendations for the Ministry of Health, the Cabinet has agreed to extend most of the current restrictions in place with a few changes that I will outline.

·        The first change is that the nightly curfew will remain in place. However, we will begin each night at midnight until 5am which is similar to the curfew that was in place in Phase Four restrictions;

·        Businesses will be required to close at 11pm, whereas they’re currently now required to close at 10pm;

·        Personal services restrictions will be relaxed, to allow for the trimming of beards and other personal care services that require masks to be removed;

·        In gyms physical distancing requirements were reduced from ten feet, between patrons, to six feet; and

·        the number of people who can attend an outdoor funeral has been increased from ten to 20.

Other restrictions remain unchanged, including gatherings remain restricted to no more than ten people, and indoor bars and nightclubs will remain closed.

While I know that this may not be welcome news for some, in the interests of public health, we have made the decision to keep bars and nightclubs closed for the time being.

This, as always what we reviewed in two weeks’ time and we’re taking this action, as we want to be absolutely sure of no spikes or surges in cases from activity around the holidays.

This is part of a targeted strategy that will allow us to open our public schools safely, as it is of utmost importance that we are able to open our public schools to students next week Wednesday and we must be absolutely sure that the outbreak is under control before mass reopening of our bars and clubs.

Persons who may work in establishments that are required to remain closed and who have been approved for assistance will receive additional payments from the Ministry of Finance.

Additionally, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation will extend and increase in support to businesses who are still under restrictions.

I close today by offering a message of hope. These are without question the dark days of winter. It is windy. It is rainy and in Bermuda, it is cold, and this pandemic, for many, seems to be dragging on and on.

However, as difficult as it may be, now is not the time to give up and there is cause for cautious optimism. There is hope on the horizon in the form of the vaccine. And while I understand that the concern has been expressed by some locally and internationally, I think it is important to recognize that this is one of the vital tools we need to get back to normal.

I will be getting the same vaccine available to you. My parents will be getting it. My wife will be getting it. And the people that I love most my life will be getting it when it’s available to them, because that is the way that we are going to beat this virus, and finally rebuild our country with Bermudians at heart.

Our medical professionals will speak more on the science, and I encourage you to come to them with your questions, as it is important that we are open and honest about this phase of which we’re about to enter.

Already around the world, millions have received the approved vaccines. There are so many stories of people who have matched the adversity of these times with a cheerful spirit or safe innovations that still brought joy.

We saw recently how one family’s shielded 106 year old, Miss Myrtle Edness who could remember the impact of the last pandemic contrast with a young couple, the journey of married life begins in the midst of a pandemic, and whose love for each other could not be delayed by current circumstances.

We have come so far, and I’m approaching this new year with renewed optimism and promise. As a government, we have economic decisions to make. We have social issues to address, and we must continue to battle this coronavirus. It hardly seems possible that we have spent almost ten months in this fight, but the fight must go on.

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

Before I take questions from the media. I would like to apologize for what was some intemperate interactions with the valued members of our media over the last few press conferences that I attended.

Like many, I was fatigued, and sometimes when you’re tired, you get irritable, and I need to do better job to not do that so I apologize to the media, because you play a valuable role inside of our community, asking questions on behalf of persons, to make sure that we can do our job to inform.

So in this new year, I will say sorry and I will do my best to be a little bit more kind. So with that, I’m happy to take questions from members of our media today.

PRESS CONFERENCE – NOVEMBER 25 MINISTER OF EDUCATION

School System COVID19 Updates 25 November 2020

 

Good morning Bermuda, Members of the Media, and thank you for joining me today.

We are all now aware that COVID19 disrupted our school system this previous weekend.  Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Health made the cautionary step to require the students and teachers who spent the most significant time with the students indoors to quarantine.  These affected schools are St. George’s Prep P2 Class, Paget Primary’s ASD Class and as of yesterday, West End Primary’s P5 Class.

Despite these actions, I would like to stress there have not been any students testing positive for COVID19 to date.

This morning I wish to lay out the plans and preparations in place to address COVID-19 safety and health protocols in Bermuda’s Public Schools.  It is important that we continue to keep our students, teachers, parents and the general public aware of these guidelines.  We do not take this situation lightly and will continue to stress and enforce these Safety and Health protocols.

We must operate our schools in strict adherence to the public health guidelines developed by the Department of Health and the Department of Education.  Students, teachers, parents and the broader community must understand that every care is being taken to safeguard our children and community from further COVID infections or community spread.  While some may find it inconvenient to wear masks, social distance, wash hands and stay in your bubbles, these things must be done in order to maintain our relatively good handle on this pandemic and keep our schools open and our children learning.

With that in mind, let me outline the following measures that are in place to address this and any potential risk associated with COVID 19 related incidences in our schools.

ENTRY SCREENING

Entry screening and Safety and Health protocols will remain in place.  Staff and students must be diligent with following safety and health protocols.  We are urging public school families to adhere to the guidelines and be prepared to answer the daily questions and follow mask-wearing protocols.  This is the first line of defense in keeping our schools safe.

SCHOOL FACILITIES:

The Department of Education continues to provide schools with cleaning, hygiene and PPE supplies on an ongoing basis.  The Department has a system in place for monitoring the cleanliness of school facilities with random inspections.  To date, forty-six (46) inspections of facilities have taken place.

In the event of potential COVID19 exposure as what was we have experienced this weekend, classrooms and any affected areas are deep cleaned and inspected before students and staff are allowed entry.

EDUCATION EMERGENCY MEASURES COMMITTEE:

As the Safety and Health of students and staff are of paramount importance, at a meeting with the officers of the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Ministry of Education, in October 2020, it was proposed that an Education Emergency Measures Committee (EEMC) be formed.

The purpose of the EEMC would be to provide support and direction to schools for mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from any COVID 19 related emergency in the public school system.  The EEMC will ensure schools are supported appropriately.

The formation of this Committee is derived from the existence of the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) that takes responsibility when the Island experiences a National Disaster.  Similar to the EMO structure, the EEMC will be chaired by the Minister of Education; and, comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Education Headquarters, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Unions and the Department of Communications.

The final make-up of the EEMC is being finalized and their initial meeting will take place within the next 2 weeks.

COMMUNICATIONS

Parents can expect official notifications from school principals and administrators in a coordinated method.

Official announcements from the Commissioner and Department are done by way of Power School accounts, the Department’s Facebook groups for parents, the Department of Education’s social media network and the www.MOED.bm website.  Updates are also listed in the Department’s online newsletter The Scoop.

Let me use this opportunity to ask parents to update their PowerSchool accounts and join your respective Facebook groups.

Upon notification from the Department of Health of a COVID19 related issue the following will happen:

  • Principals and School Administrators will contact the affected staff and parents;
  • Principals will hold Zoom meetings with staff and follow up with letters.
  • Schools will conduct Zoom meetings with school parents.
  • Staff and students will be COVID-19 tested.
  • Information will be posted on www.moed.bm; Department’s social media network and PowerSchool
  • A public statement issued after the internal notices.

REMOTE LEARNING READINESS:

In the event a class or year level at the primary or middle schools has to transition to remote learning, the Department will prepare learning packets. The Department will within 48 hours provide, based on current resources, laptops for up to four (4) classes to use while students are quarantining.  The laptops will be delivered to students during the two-day transition from the classroom to remote learning.  The Department of Education has prepared guidelines for remote learning by school level.  Teachers have received initial training on Schoology, which is a web-based learning management system that allows schools to administer educational courses and training programs; and to track the progress of its users.  A Schoology Support Team will assist teachers who have to transition to remote learning.

Teachers can use Schoology to assign work to students electronically; collect and grade work from students; and return that work to students for quick, high-quality feedback. Schoology allows teachers to create lessons quickly and differentiate instruction for each student, when necessary.

Schoology allows for a variety of input formats so that students are not limited to producing traditional word documents. Students can provide audio or video recordings to teachers as evidence of their learning. Schoology also allows parents to track their child’s progress easily and communicate with teachers directly.

CONCLUSION

As the Christmas Holidays are around the corner, and I am urging that travel be limited to emergencies only.  Anyone travelling, upon return to the island, must note that the Health Regulations prohibit you and anyone you live with, from entering a school facility until you have quarantined for a minimum of eight (8) days.

In closing, I would like to urge our students, teachers, parents and the general public to understand the procedures outlined are to be followed in order to accurately provide updates on our schools and keep our schools safe and healthy.  To reiterate we need to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash your hands and keep your bubbles small.  We all play a critical role in keeping our island safe.  Let’s all do our part.

Thank you

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE NOVEMBER 17, 2020

 17 November Press Conference

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Good evening Bermuda, and welcome members of the media who have joined us here at A. B. Place this evening.

I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will be providing an update to the public on the latest from her Ministry including changes to our rules surrounding travel to the island. Following that I will give an update on matters related to our border opening and training opportunities that are available to Bermudians so that they may reenter the workplace. First the Minister of Health. Minister.

Good Evening Members of the Media,

Yesterday, there were 1,483 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 223 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 20 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 194 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 54 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 7 to 101 years.

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

Overall, 46% of cases were Black, 47% White and 7% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 111 are Imported
  • 91 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

It is anticipated that in the near future, arriving visitors will have to secure a negative PCR pre-departure test that is no older than 5 days prior to arrival in Bermuda.

Right now, the period for that test is no more than 7 days before departing. However, as the availability of pre-departure testing has improved and the number of imported positive COVID-19 cases has slowly increased, we have decided this is an appropriate change to make at this time – but we will continue to evaluate this protocol on a regular basis and adjust as necessary.

With those students that are studying overseas more likely to come home this month and next to visit family and friends, vigilance around returning travellers – and compliance with the mobile quarantine provisions in effect – is especially important.

I want to re-emphasise that mobile quarantine requires that a resident or visitor with negative COVID-19 PCR pre-departure and arrival test results must still test on Day 4 and Day 8. Likewise, a resident or visitor with a negative Day 8 COVID-19 PCR test result must still test on Day 14.

As the Minister of Health, I remain concerned that some travellers believe that two negative tests means “we’re fine; we can do anything.” To be clear – that is not the case. There are restrictions that apply to returning residents and visitors regarding their movements and activities, until they have a negative Day 14 test result.

For example, a traveller with a negative pre-departure test and negative arrival test can dine outdoors but not indoors, and cannot visit a bar or nightclub.

After a negative test result on Day 8, a traveller can dine indoors but cannot play a contact sport even if it is played outdoors. That person also cannot attend a large event such as a wedding.

Our community is protected only when everyone does their part and plays by the rules.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Thank you.

Thank you, Minister Wilson.

I appreciate the work that continues to be done by your team at the <inistry of Health. Given the greater availability and speed of testing overseas it is reasonable that we adjust the time allowed for pre-tests prior to arrival on island down from seven days to five days. It is important to note that the Government of Bermuda is finalizing, through the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Health, is working on an agreement with a nationwide chain in the United States to provide for additional testing options for travelers who may be coming to Bermuda.

It is important to note that 40% of our imported cases have pre-tests on day 6 and day 7.

The tourism industry recognises the need for this change, and it is important to note that Bermuda still offers more flexibility than a number of other jurisdictions who require a negative pre-test within 72 hours of departure. These changes are necessary as globally we’ve seen an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.

This increase in cases globally was also seen locally as we witnessed a spike in imported cases over the last four weeks, with our 7 day daily average of new cases hitting numbers not seen since the spring.

While there has been this increase in imported cases, it is worthwhile to provide data and context so residents can better understand the reality of our management of this virus on our borders.

However, before I provide those statistics, I must say that although I have said so previously, it is worth repeating that our Public Health Officers at the airport are doing a tremendous job. They are accurate, thorough, and fully immersed in their role; and we are very fortunate to have such a dedicated team on the frontline of our fight against the coronavirus, and every resident should be grateful and proud of their diligence.

The airport reopened to scheduled commercial flights on 1 July, and the latest analysis considers data between 1 July and 12 November. The assessment provides an accurate picture of the number of cases, the source of the increase, and informs any changes in travel policies for the country.

Since July, 24,000 passengers have arrived at the airport and only 66 of those 24,000 passengers tested positive for the coronavirus on or after arrival; that means just over one quarter of one percent (0.27%) of arriving passengers were infected or became infected with the coronavirus. Just breaking that down on a month by month basis:

  • in July, the positivity rated was 0.36%;
  • in August, it fell to 0.17%;
  • in September, the positivity rate hit its lowest level measuring at 0.13%;
  • in October the positivity rate tripled the amount that it was in September measuring in at 0.39%;
  • And as of last Thursday, 12 November, the positivity rate for November was tracking at 0.38% – though that number would have come slightly as there has only been one positive case that have been reported in the last five days.

While 66 infections is a large number for our small country, it is important to note that these are all imported cases – the 66 of them are all imported cases – and our stringent testing programme catches almost all cases.

It is also important to note that the positivity rate that we observed in October is almost the same as what we observed in July. There were less cases as few people were travelling. However the positivity rate of .36 in July is just a bit lower than the positivity rate of .39 in October.

What we have seen, which has been different, is an increase of travellers testing positive on day 4 and day 8. Which some will assume, that means individuals possibly are contracting the virus at some point in time during their travel. Not necessarily on the airport but possibly before the airport or after their tests and before the board the airline.

This is why, as the Minster of Health has said, it is essential that travellers observe the Mobile Quarantine rules. The Minister of Health outlined the restrictions, making sure they maintain physical distance and not going indoors with large gatherings until they are permitted to do so.

Like every protocol, the Mobile Quarantine policy was established to strike a balance. It accounts for a situation where, given previous negative tests, someone will likely test negative on their tests after their negative arrival test; but there’s still a possibility that they may be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. Therefore it is important that all that can be done by these travelers to minimise the possible transmission of the virus.

The information about Mobile Quarantine, is distributed to all arriving passengers at the airport, so every arriving passenger is aware. However, for those who need further information, there is a Tips for Mobile Quarantine flyer that can be easily found on the website coronavirus.gov.bm.

Our most effective weapon in the fight against the coronavirus is Bermudians remaining vigilant and continuing to follow protocols. We all know what it is: wearing the mask, good hand hygiene, and maintaining physical distancing.

While some may question the need to continue to be so wary, and I’ve seen a few persons who keep on speaking about there are so few cases why do we have to keep on doing this? It is just a reminder that it’s a Catch-22, it’s a chicken and the egg. The reason why there are so few cases is because we continue to do this and if we stop doing this, then we will see what is happening in other places where they do not have the strict rules that we have here in Bermuda.

For all of our successes at the airport with arriving passengers, the Government has been alerted to several gatherings, social events, and other functions where attendees have been indoors and have not been adhering to the protocols.

I have said that repeatedly every week, this is not the time to get complacent and this is not the time to slack off. I certainly understand COVID fatigue. I get it, I get tired of wearing a mask as well. It is not fun to continue to maintain physical distancing. I actually got in trouble at the supermarket the other day, as I forgot to wait behind the line and someone reminded me. That’s the challenge that we have.

But here is what I want to remind everyone, that we cannot, especially at this time, where we see an increase in imported cases, tests on day 4 and day 8 and what is happening all around us with the coronavirus to get weary.

We have an enviable record, and the only way we are going to maintain that enviable record, maintain our record of almost no local transmission is to continue to follow the protocols, as it only take one person, or one couple to infect others at a gathering and lead us back to a place of restrictions like we are seeing in so many other countries.

I have said in the past, that many Bermudians are facing a very difficult and uncertain time. Many are unemployed and need additional financial support. For some more than one person in the household is unemployed and they don’t know where they will find funds for everyday necessities. I want to remind all Bermudians, that there is help available. We have said on numerous occasions that this Government will not let people go hungry during this pandemic. If you need help, contact the Department of Financial Assistance, as there are processes in place to ensure you get you receive the support that you need.

The uncertainty of not having a job, the stress of worrying about the coronavirus, and the significant changes that have taken place this year alone, have created a great deal of stress, leaving many feeling anxious, depressed and in some cases extremely isolated.

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, please please reach out and get some help. There are professionals available who are able to hear your concerns and help you to deal with the feelings you may be having. The phone number is 543 1111. I’ll repeat – 543 1111. Professionals are on the line able to answer and speak to you and make sure you take care of your mental health.

I now wish to address the reality that some people are facing about their prospects for future employment. We did speak about the funds which were made available for Financial Assistance.

But as we all know, Bermudians are working people and we have survived for well over 400 years in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean because we are hardworking, creative and industrious. I believe that part of our DNA means Bermudians want to work, and not be supported by the government.

Accordingly, the Minister for Labour recently announced the Government has added 40 occupations to the closed category for work permits. That means there are 40 jobs and careers where work permit applications will not even be entertained to ensure that Bermudians who have been laid off can find their way back to work.

I also wish to speak about job training programmes that are on offer at the Department of Workforce Development; particularly as the deadlines to sign up for the courses are quickly approaching.

The Department is offering training courses in: Computer Literacy, Administrative Assistant, Certified Cleaning Technician, Hospitality (Food & Beverage), Digital Literacy, Landscape Gardening, and they are also running a graduate training programme for recent college graduates.

For people who wish to begin or enhance their computer skills the Department is offering a Computer Literacy Course that will give participants access to over 300 courses that are geared to produce proficiency in Microsoft Office software, and the Microsoft Windows platform. The deadline to apply for that course is 27 November.

In partnership with the BEDC, the Department is also offering an Administrative Assistant course that is ideal for those who may currently have low-skilled jobs that do not pay them enough for them to meet responsibilities; or people who have lost employment. Participants will learn the skills, and duties of a 21st century Administrative Professional. The deadline to apply for that course is also 27 November.

These days, companies, organisations, and other venues are far more aware of the need to disinfect and sanitize areas, and the need for overall cleanliness, especially in light of the pandemic. Accordingly, the Department is offering a course entitled Accredited Cleaning Technician. While there are many after-hours jobs that are tidying, for people who graduate from this course persons, upon graduation, will be certified for a career and the deadline to apply is 27 November.

In another valuable partnership, the Department and the Bermuda Tourism Authority are offering the Learn to Earn hospitality course that is ideal for those who wish to enter the Food and Beverage Industry. The course will teach skills and provide a solid foundation, as well as practical on-the-job training. The registration deadlines are 27 November.

For those who have rudimentary computer skills but need to enhance their skills in the digital realm, the Department is also offering a Digital Literacy Course. This course will teach participants about the Office 365 suite of software. The course will also provide an element of job readiness to assist course graduates to attain greater employment opportunities. The deadline to apply is the 27 November.

Landscape gardening is one industry where we have a large amount of guest workers. It may be because while most Bermudians have cut grass in their youth (and perhaps their adulthood), gardening is a far more serious endeavour. Knowing trees, plants, shrubs, their seasonality, and other elements will be taught. Those who prefer to be outdoors, or those who want to enhance their skillset from cutting to designing and planting, will greatly benefit from the Department’s Landscape Gardener course. That deadline to apply is also the 27 November.

And finally, for university or college graduates who have not been able to find full time employment, the department is running a graduate trainee programme. This initiative will match graduates with opportunities within their chosen field or industry. They will gain benefits from experts in their field, build a personal brand, and find out what it takes to thrive. The deadline to apply for that in next week Monday 23 November.

Whether you require financial assistance or retraining due to redundancy or other downturn in your industry, the Government is providing avenues for Bermudians to restore the personal pride and dignity that comes from working and earning a wage.

This Government is working and doing all we can to keep Bermudians safe and employed during these unprecedented times. The Department of Workforce Development, the Department of Financial Assistance, and the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, are all working to aid employment. Government departments and agencies will continue to work together to develop programmes that will attract new business to our shores and find ways to diversify our economy. While we train Bermudians for employment opportunities while they are developed. That ends my update for today.

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE NOVEMBER 3, 2020

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update November 3 2020

Good Afternoon Bermuda, and welcome members of the media.

I am joined today by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will be providing an update to the public on the Coronavirus and other matters from the Ministry of Health. Following that I will give an update on matters related to our economy and the Throne Speech which will take place on Friday.

Minister of Health Statement

Good Afternoon,

There were 722 test results received by the Ministry of Health yesterday, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 206 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 21 active cases (all imported, consisting of 8 visitors and 13 returning residents), who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 176 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 54 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 7 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 cases is as follows:

  • 95 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

Yesterday I advised the public via press release that on 1st November 2020 two visitors to Bermuda broke the requirements of paragraph 12 of the Quarantine (COVID-19) (No. 3) Order 2020. The individuals willfully broke their quarantine to attend a celebratory gathering, prior to receiving the results of their COVID-19 arrival test as provided for under paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Quarantine Order.

Both pleaded ‘guilty’ to the offense. The court made the decision to fine them $2500 dollars each or face 250 days in prison.  Their COVID-19 test has since returned a ‘negative’ result.

Although it is disappointing that two of our visitors broke their quarantine requirements this weekend, I wish to commend the outcome of yesterday’s court decision. The prosecution of these individuals demonstrates that Bermuda takes the protection of our borders and the health of our people extremely seriously. I greatly hope that further breaches will not occur and potential offenders are now dissuaded from such actions.

I would like to also advise that there are two students and the parent of one of those students who have recently been identified as contacts of a case.  With the assistance of the school nurses, the Department of Health has been in contact with these persons and has required them to quarantine.  They will also be tested for COVID 19 tomorrow.

The School Outbreak plan is being finalized and the Ministry of Health is arranging meetings with school Principals to discuss expectations and implementation.

I now wish to remind workplaces that they must follow the Return To Work Guidance which can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm.

Specifically, I wish to encourage employers and employees to pay particular attention to WHEN it is safe for them to return to work following travel.

This decision is based on whether you work in a high, medium or low risk setting, and advice will be different depending on the type of workplace you have, and the degree of risk it attracts. One thing that ALL the Guidance has in common is that you absolutely cannot return to work without a negative COVID-19 arrivals test. I want to repeat that – you are breaking the law by entering your workplace without waiting for a negative arrivals test to go along with your negative pre-departure test. This means, for example, if you have a meeting the day you land in Bermuda and do not have a negative arrivals test you CANNOT attend that meeting in-person.

Also, I know I have mentioned the concept of “mobile quarantine” during several recent press conferences, but it is crucial that travellers understand that there are certain activities you MUST NOT DO until you have cleared the mobile quarantine period of 14 days post-travel:

  • DO NOT attend events with large groups of people (e.g. weddings, parties, family gatherings, etc.);
  • DO NOT hug or kiss;
  • DO NOT visit elderly relatives or friends at high risk for COVID.

Conversely, you should:

  • Keep away from crowded places;
  • Stay out of closed spaces with poor ventilation;
  • And wear a mask in all public places.

Activities that are ‘okay’ to do for travellers with a pre-departure test and negative arrival test include things like taking a walk or bike ride outdoors, dining outside, going to the beach, swimming in a pool, hiking the railway trail etc. However, things like going to the gym or spa are not recommended until you receive the results of your Day 8 test.

I know there will soon be many students returning home to Bermuda for the holidays…Parents, PLEASE ensure that your children are following mobile quarantine advice.

Once again, I would like to encourage returning travellers to take particular care and follow enhanced precautions during the time between having their pre-departure test and boarding their flight back to Bermuda. Consider everyone you come into contact with a potential carrier of COVID-19. Wear your mask. Be extra vigilant in avoiding those who seem unwell. Keep at least a six foot distance between yourself and others. Wash your hands often. Carry a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Avoid crowds and any situations where you are unmasked with others in a poorly-ventilated space.

The past few days and weeks have seen three large sporting events take place in Bermuda, meaning increased visitors to our shores. Therefore, I am encouraging any volunteers or spectators from the recent golf, sailing or rugby events who have been in close contact with visitors or persons outside of their household (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) to get tested for COVID-19 at one of the pop up testing sites across the island. The November pop-up testing schedule has been posted at coronavirus.gov.bm.

While the Ministry of Health’s testing of travellers is doing an excellent job in keeping Bermuda safe, periodic screening of the population is a good way to add another layer of protection. This is particularly pertinent when we consider that the incubation period for COVID-19 is up to 14 days…This means that some people who test negative on arrival and even on day 4, may not show up as a positive until day 8 because the virus is still incubating until that point and not detectable in their body. It is the silent incubators which require us to maintain our defenses and highlight the importance of following mobile quarantine post-travel.

And, finally, the Ministry of Health wishes to remind members of the public that flu vaccinations are available for the month of November at the Hamilton Health Clinic on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2pm until 4pm. The public are advised that this will be a walk-in service and NOT a drive through like the one provided at Flu Express. Clients are not permitted to park in the clinic’s car park. For further information call 278-6460. The flu vaccine is a safe and highly effective method of preventing most cases of flu.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Thank you Minister Wilson.

I am sure that the news of additional positive cases that we have had over the past week give many a reason for pause, especially with what we are seeing around the world. I would be misleading you if I said that the increase in cases didn’t cause me to be anxious, and wonder whether or not we are moving in the wrong direction.

Members of the public should know that we have an excellent team of professionals lead by an incredibly dedicated Minister of Health and a team of amazing public health workers lead by the Chief Medical Officer and a team of testing staff lead by Dr. Weldon, who work days, nights and weekends to ensure that we keep this country safe.

There will be more cases of the virus. For a virus as contagious of the novel coronavirus that is inevitable. We have chosen to use aggressive testing to open our economy and open our borders so that Bermudians can get back to work, and our economy can thrive. Our strategy is working, we are 5th in the world in testing, and we have to date avoided community transmission, but it is critical that we follow public health advice.

We must all act as though persons may be infected with the virus – because if they are, we will break the chain of transmission. If we do not act and follow public health advice, the virus can spread. Again we are all in control of how the virus spreads. If we do what we should, it cannot spread, if you do what they have done in other countries, it will spread. It is really that simple.

I have asked the Minster of National Security to ensure that there is rigorous enforcement of public health rules in business establishments, especially liquor licensed establishments. This means that places of business that are breaking the rules may be faced with being issued a closure notice by the Minister of Health. It is not ok to have parties in indoor spaces with persons not wearing masks, these are the types of events where if 1 person is asymptomatic, who may never be tested, dozens of persons can be infected, and lead to an outbreak and community transmission. Business owners, please note that you have been warned. We must all continue to be vigilant.

The Governments two most important tasks are keeping the country safe and rebuilding our economy. They both go hand in hand, especially during this time, and we must remember that bad actions put our economy at risk – we can and will set an example to the world, and I am confident in our ability to do that together.

We will attract more and more people who are drawn to Bermuda by our track record on managing this virus, our ‘Work from Bermuda programme, and the way we promote and manage our ‘New Normal’.

Additionally, our traditional assets of an educated workforce, an advanced economy, natural beauty, warm and intelligent people means many from around the world are looking at Bermuda…perhaps some for the first time.

Our economic pillars of Tourism and International Business rely on visitors; as an example, we recently hosted international golf, sailing, and rugby matches; a Tourism Summit, and the 2020 Bermuda Tech Summit. And as each event was either streamed or broadcast overseas, with thousands and thousands of social media posts generated, the opportunities were successful in showcasing Bermuda.

This hopefully means more people will be attracted to Bermuda…we are inviting people to our shores. But even as we open our border, those who we welcome must also pack personal accountability with them, so when they arrive they comply with our protocols and laws.

As I have said many times in the past, Bermuda has one of the most stringent testing regimes in the world. To date this has worked. This allows us to safely keep our borders open while testing residents and visitors alike.

Make no mistake, our vow to keep Bermudians safe is the same, or even greater today as it was during Shelter-in-Place, when isolation was our best and only weapon. Back then we were fighting a largely unknown virus, but we know so much more now. We know how it spreads; and how wearing masks minimizes the chance of it spreading. We have been able to safely move from Shelter-in-Place to holding events of 75 people and outdoor activities for up to 800 people as we saw last weekend.

Today we use data, arrival interviews, and innovative technology, which was piloted in Bermuda and is now being used around the world, to accurately and quickly test, trace, and make sure that people obey the quarantine rules that the Minister of Health has made.

The Government has and will continue to use every tool at its disposal to strike this right balance, and it is a delicate balance to strike…but as we do our part, we must all continue to make sure that we do our part together.

We are serious about the precautions we have in place and as the Minister noted, visitors were fined in Magistrates’ Court for breaching quarantine. Any breach can be a breach that starts an outbreak in Bermuda.

Turning to Friday. The Legislature will be reconvened in St. George’s in recognition of a General Assembly being established in Bermuda in 1620. This is the 400th anniversary. To give you a history refresher, one of the first laws passed in Bermuda was a conservation law protecting turtles in 1623.

For those who may not be aware, ours is one of the oldest Legislatures in the Commonwealth, and in the Western Hemisphere second only to the Palace of Westminster in London, home to Big Ben. In Bermuda, Members of the Colonial Parliament as it was called then, were holding meeting 150 years before the American war of Independence in 1776.

Imagine there were arguments and debates in Bermuda’s Assembly, 150 years before the United States was even born; and for that we Bermudians should be especially proud.

Throughout Bermuda’s long history of oligarchies, suppression of voting rights for women and for Black Bermudians, there have been necessary occasions where the Power of the People overturned Parliament’s authority; and Bermuda is all the better for it.

This pandemic has certainly impacted our economy and changed how we live and work. However, the Government was elected to ensure that we continue the work of rebuilding Bermuda with Bermudians at heart.

Unfortunately this year due to the pandemic there will be restrictions on the attendees in St. George. I hope that you will tune in to hear the legislative plan that the government has in store for this year.

This Throne Speech will be shorter than in years past. That is because the government is going to lay out what we can deliver in the legislative year.

Before I take questions from the media, I will reiterate a statement I made in a recent press conference. Many people are experiencing high levels of stress due to the impact the pandemic has had on all of us. Many people worried about their jobs and the employment of themselves or loved ones. Others are caring for family members. We are all facing elevated levels of stress. If you need help and someone to talk with, help is available. Call the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline – 543 1111. Someone will be there to help you.

Thank you. I will now take questions from members of the media.

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 27, 2020

Premier Burt COVID-19 Press Conference Remarks

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

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

Today, I am joined today by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will be providing an update to the public on the latest regarding the coronavirus and other matters within the Ministry of Health. Following that I will give an update on matters related to the violence that took place over the weekend in our community, I will touch on education and the technology that will be used to help to reduce the incidence of COVID in our community.

First, there will be the Minister of Health.

Good Afternoon,

Yesterday, there were 764 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and one was positive for COVID-19. The most recent case is classified as imported having arrived on BA 2233 from London on 22nd October 2020. The case, a resident, was asymptomatic and received a positive test result on their Day 4 test. Case isolation and contact tracing has begun.

Bermuda now has 194 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 10 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 175 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 55 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 7 to 101 years.

Overall, 49% of cases were Black, 43% White and 8% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 83 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

I would like to encourage returning travelers to take particular care and follow enhanced precautions during the time between having their pre-departure test and boarding their flight back to Bermuda. Consider everyone you come into contact with a potential carrier of COVID-19. Wear your mask. Be extra vigilant in avoiding those who seem unwell. Keep at least a six foot distance between yourself and others. Wash your hands often. Carry a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Avoid crowds and any situations where you are unmasked with others in a poorly-ventilated space.

As you will have all hopefully heard by now, the CDC has reclassified Bermuda from Travel Health Notice Level 2 to Travel Health Notice Level 0. Level 0 means a ‘Travel Health Notice’ does not apply or, in other words, that Bermuda’s rating has been revised to the lowest level possible.

This extremely welcome change comes as a result of negotiations led by the Ministry of Health with the assistance of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and Government House; and is a testament to Bermuda’s strict testing regime and public health protocols.

Our team has been working hard to keep the island safe from COVID-19 and our efforts continue to be recognized internationally. This change in our status with the United States CDC, will hopefully encourage more visitors to come to our shores and continue showcasing our strong and resilient island home.

Previously, Bermuda was listed at an Alert Level 2, and the CDC recommended people at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid nonessential travel to the island, and practice enhanced precautions.

More recently, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, required a 14 day self-quarantine when travellers return to the state of New York from any level 2 country.This led to difficulties for persons hoping to visit Bermuda and if not rectified could have put flight capacity to the island at risk.

An investigation by the Ministry determined that countries rated Level 0 or 1 were exempt from the quarantine requirement of New York State.

Again, I want to congratulate all involved who worked with the CDC via CARPHA and other channels to secure Bermuda’s reclassification.

One topic which I now want to touch on briefly is workplace guidance in a COVID-19 world – specifically offices. I have heard several questions raised recently about mask-wearing, meetings, physical distancing requirements and remote working.

There is an abundance of workplace-specific guidance on the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm but I will provide you with a few key points now as it relates to office environments:

  • Employees should work remotely if possible;
  • Consider using team ‘bubbles’ for office staff. (I.e. one week half of the staff are in the office; the next week the other half are in);
  • Encourage employees to stay home if unwell;
  • Encourage employees to wash hands or use hand sanitizer often;
  • Employees should work six feet from others or three feet if wearing masks;
  • Staff should hold virtual meetings when possible. Where remote meetings are not possible, staff must be six feet from others and no more than 10 persons in a meeting;
  • Employers should review options for increasing ventilation – consider air purifiers, for example;
  • Employers should also review how persons enter and leave the work space. How can you reduce the overlap of employees and increase disinfection?
  • Where located in a multi-office building, identify designated entry and exit points to minimize worker contact while moving through the worksite;
  • Employees should wear a mask whenever moving around the office;
  • And, finally, consult the Return to Work Recommendations for Businesses at coronavirus.gov.bm. There is special guidance for returning to work after travel.

As a reminder, the remaining October Flu Express location is the Clock Tower, Dockyard on Wednesday 28th October from 10am until 2pm.

During the month of November the flu vaccine will be available at the Hamilton Health Centre in an outdoor setting using a pop up tent from 2pm until 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The flu vaccine is a safe and highly effective method of preventing most cases of flu.

Before I conclude my remarks tonight, I would like to remind people not to go to the hospital or health centres if they are self-isolating, quarantining or symptomatic without first calling ahead.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Thank you Minister and I would like to publicly thank your team at the Ministry of Health for working to revise our rating in the United States by the CDC. As the Minister responsible for tourism, it is certainly welcome news and just like you I’m grateful for all the agencies who assisted us in that regard, from Government House to the US Consul General, to CARPHA and all the persons who have gotten us to a place where we are recognized for being incredibly low risk.

As we transition to what I will speak about today, I just want to touch on the fact that many stories of countries who had COVID under control, no longer have this virus under control. There are many countries who bragged they are COVID-free and are now dealing with community transmission of this virus.

We do not want this to be us. I know I sound like a broken record, every Tuesday, all the social media posts and everything else. The fact is that though pandemic fatigue is real, pandemic fatigue is precisely the thing that will lead us to a place where we can see our economy being damaged again because of restrictions which may be necessary to protect life inside of this country.

Bermuda is another world but Bermuda is not immune. This can happen to us if we are not careful. We do have an incredible testing regime. We are able to host events in Bermuda. We do have the capacity to do things that other countries do not do. All of this could fall aside if just a few people act reckless. Persons do not obey quarantine regulations, persons find themselves slipping up and we can have one to two to four to 16 and so on and so forth. That is not where we want to go. So it is vital that we continue to follow the public health guidelines. By way of example, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Security have worked with Bermuda Football Association so that we can have up to 800 spectators at tomorrow night’s football game.

However, there are specific requirements there. Those requirements are social distancing and mask wearing to make sure we can protect all persons. I want people to remember, these are not rules and regulations that are put in place because we feel like putting them in. They are not rules and regulations put in place because we like walking around a football game and wearing a mask. They are rules and regulations that are put there to ensure that we can have football games in front of 800 spectators and that we can carry on our lives in a different and better place than many places in the world. So that is what we would like to do and I must leave that with members of the public that it is vitally important that you maintain the public health restrictions, follow the public health guidelines and do the very simple thing that the Minister of Health will continue to remind all persons to do.

I would like to offer condolences to the family who lost their loved one over the weekend, and must now bury a father, a son, a brother,  uncle, cousin or friend who is the latest victim to lose his life to violence. As a country we struggle to comprehend the loss of another Bermudian life, while at the same time concerned about two others who find themselves recovering from the injuries sustained on Friday night from a gun incident.

To provide support to those who live closest to where these violent incidents took place and to help family and friends come to terms with the loss of a loved one, the Gang Violence Reduction Team along with the Community Support Team, worked all weekend in Pembroke and Sandys to speak to those who were directly impacted, and to help to restore the sense of community that binds us together.

The Government is committed to continue its work to ensure that education, employment, community bonds, and a good quality of life helps young men see a future. A future where fathers don’t become fatalities and sons don’t become statistics. The pandemic will not cease this work, as it is necessary to address the root causes of which the violence is just a symptom.

Economic inequality, inequality of opportunity are the root causes of the violence which is mostly confined to one segment of Bermuda. The Black community. Though enforcement is not a matter for the elected government, that is the responsibility of the United Kingdom government represented here by the Governor.

Tomorrow there will be a meeting of the Governor’s Council to discuss matters related to the police and the ministers present will make sure that we signify the views and thoughts we have to the need to have effective enforcement not only working with the police but also with the judiciary to ensure when the police do their work, the judiciary holds up their end of the bargain as well.

I will spend a few minutes talking about education and the reform process which has started.

In 2017, the Government made a commitment to transform our public education system. This commitment, wasn’t ours alone, but reflected aspirations of our community.  We know that we have good schools and many great educators, but what we do not yet have is a universally excellent education system that meets the needs of all students and provides an education which is required for the future.

Our promise – the promise that our community asked for was to do better for young people and their families.  This means moving away from what we know is a traditional education that in too many ways, resembles what education may have looked like decades ago.  While it has worked for some, it has not worked for all, as many parents and alumni can tell you.

To that end, in March 2020 the Ministry of Education contracted with Innovation Unit, following an RFP process who have extensive experience in the methodology of school system transformation to help carry out the transformative work needed for the execution of the Government’s desired school reform.

It is important to note, as there have been a few people who have contacted me asking why we have contracted with an external body that has experience in this area to help design Bermuda’s school system. That is not the case.

Bermudians are designing our future school system. But what is necessary in an environment where you are dealing with change and complex change is that you need people who are experienced in change management which is an actual discipline. And that is the reason why Innovation Unit has been brought on board.

The work which is being put together regarding following the Government’s view on school reform has been led and driven by the Board of Education, consisting of person who are affiliated with the school system, teachers, principals, former teachers, parents, many different working groups that have come together to make sure the school reform that we are engaged in, is something that encompasses a broad cross section of persons. It is not something that is going to come from overseas. It is something that is going to be born right here in Bermuda.

As we are all currently experiencing so acutely, the world is certainly in flux.  We must not only respond to change, we must create change for Bermuda.  We can and we will develop the kind of public school education system that the community demanded through that significant community engagement and public consultation.

Innovation Unit along with the Ministry’s Governance Team comprising our local technical officers, they have implemented a series of training sessions.

I was here two weeks ago and I asked those people to go on the website and apply to be a part of the school design teams and many of you answered the call and did go online and sign up to be a part of those teams. They held training all last week and I visited the training session held on Saturday morning and was very pleased to see the wide cross section of participants who are willingly sacrificing their time to become the change agents needed for the transformation of our public school system. They are the first of many who will be equipped with the additional tools and skills in this change management process to reform public education and to keep the pledge that was endorsed by the voters for a second time, to phase out middle schools while introducing schools at the secondary level.

The Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain, will host a press conference tomorrow at 1pm to provide the details on the work of the Innovation Unit and what parents, educators and the public can expect in the coming weeks. The press conference can be seen on Government’s Facebook page and will be replayed on CITV.

Switching to Tourism. Last week I announced the appointment of MP Wayne Caines as Chairman of the Bermuda Tourism Authority board of directors. I was grateful that MP Caines accepted my invitation. He has proven leadership in the private and public sectors and has extensive board experience which I know will serve him well as he chairs that very important board.

Mr. Caines, with his talent and knowledge will bring a dynamic approach which is necessary as the board must guide the Bermuda Tourism Authority to capitalize on this critical period in our country’s history, while they also look to fill key vacancies in the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

Additionally, Mr. Kim Swan also accepted my invitation to join the Bermuda Tourism Authority Board of Directors. Surely there can be no greater on-island ambassador for Bermudian golfers and the impact of Sports Tourism than MP Kim Swan. Anyone who has a conversation with MP Swan will know that he promotes and recounts Bermuda’s history in an oral tradition.

While on the subject of Tourism, Bermudians will have heard that the Bermuda Tourism Authority and OpenClear (a New York-based COVID-19 screening entity) announced a collaboration that offers tourists travelling to Bermuda access to an expedited screening service that follows Bermuda’s health protocols. The service launched today, and appointments were made to take the test starting today.

This is just the latest service to balance the need to be open to the world, with our solemn obligation to keep Bermudians safe; and we are especially grateful to Delta Airlines who also assisted in promoting the service by listing the service on its website.

Once again, for persons who are traveling to Bermuda and for residents who may want to travel back to Bermuda to make sure they have a pretest they can avail themselves of the service at the Bermuda Tourism Authority offices.

As we work tirelessly to safely boost the economy and welcome more tourists and as that effort picks up steam, we must be vigilant and ensure that we remain on the frontlines of the battle against the spread of the coronavirus. To that end, and I’ve spoken about it before about the technology tools which will be needed as we move into a period when we are seeing more cases worldwide and sadly a few more imported cases here.

To that end, the Government has partnered with WeHealth, a body formed from the research efforts of University of Waterloo in Canada and Stanford University, who created Covid Watch, an app designed to track and trace COVID-19 exposures.

Government’s Information and Digital Technology Department has been running internal pilot programmes to test the effectiveness of the WeHealth App. We are pleased with the early results. Bermuda has been fortunate to work with the developers to create WeHealth Bermuda, an app specifically designed for the island. We will be running public pilot programmes as early as next week, after both the Apple and Google App stores approve its release to their platforms.

Launching the app is one part of the solution, as it is only as effective as the users make it; it is the Government’s hope that Bermudians will download use the app so its data is accurate and timely. Additional information will be provided in the coming weeks.

One of the things that is certainly a consideration is to possibly add qualifications for the attendance at large events, persons will be required to have this app on and activated, which will certainly help in contact tracing efforts for the government if in the case there is an outbreak.

As I said, pilots will launch next week, and in the coming weeks I’ll be happy to update members of the public on what we are doing there. But it is certainly something the Department of Information and Digital Technology has been working on and we are pleased we are now at the point where Bermuda will be able to launch an app which is specifically, not one of the early rushed apps which did not necessarily work, but one that is specifically on the Google and Apple protocol which meets all privacy requirements which ensures that your data stays private but can ensure we can tackle any outbreak which may happen in Bermuda. It’s just another example of the Government making sure that we are taking our time, working with the persons who have experience in this area, so we can deploy solutions that can certainly serve this country well and we continue to battle the coronavirus.

So with that is the conclusion of my remarks and I will take questions from the media.

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 14, 2020

COVID-19 Press Conference

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Good Afternoon Bermuda, and welcome members of the media.

Today, I am joined today by the Minister of Health who will be providing an update to the public on the latest from her Ministry. Following that I will give an update on matters related to the Economy, Tourism, and Education.

Minister of Health Statement

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 551 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and one was positive for COVID-19. This most recent case is classified as imported having arrived on British Airways flight 2233 on 4 October 2020. Case isolation and contact tracing has begun.

Bermuda now has 185 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 172 have recovered, and
  • there are 4 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 to 101 years.
Overall, 50% of cases were Black, 42% White and 8% other/unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 74 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

Following a press release issued by the Ministry of Health last week, I would like to remind the public that, commencing tomorrow, the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine will be available for priority groups through their doctor or the Flu Express at a cost of $15.00 per shot (for both adults and children). Persons over the age of 65 years will receive the seasonal flu vaccine free-of-charge.

The flu vaccine is a safe and highly effective method of preventing most cases of flu. Side effects are rare and usually mild.

The Department of Health’s “Flu Express” will allow people to drive to a designated site and receive the flu vaccine while waiting in their car, without having to get out.   This will make it easier for some people to access the vaccine, reduce crowds and maintain physical distancing.

The October Flu Express days and locations are as follows:

  • Under the Rubber Tree on Middle Road, Warwick on Wednesday 14th October from 10am until 2pm.
  • In the Hamilton Health Centre’s car park at 67 Victoria Street on Saturday 17th October from 10am until 2pm.
  • At Pennos Wharf, St. George’s on Wednesday 21st October from 10am until 2pm.
  • And at Somerset Cricket Club Field on Wednesday 28th October from 10am until 2pm.

Priority persons who should attend the “Flu Express” are:

  • Healthcare workers, caregivers and essential service workers;
  • Persons aged 65 years and older;
  • Any person with chronic medical conditions who is at risk of complications from the flu, e.g. diabetics, asthmatics and those with heart disease;
  • And children.

Flu injections will only be offered at the “Flu Express” on the specified dates to individuals in good health without active infections.

You will not be given the shot if:

  • You have allergies to eggs, chicken products, or any component of the vaccine;
  • You have had a reaction to the flu shot before;
  • You have a fever or are unwell;
  • You have had a seizure within the year;
  • Or if you currently have COVID-19 or are being quarantined due to COVID-19.

Please dress comfortably to allow the nurse easy access to the injection site in the upper arm.

During the month of November the flu vaccine will be available at the Hamilton Health Centre in an outdoor setting using a pop up tent from 2pm until 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The general benefits of flu vaccination are:

  • Decreased chance of contracting influenza;
  • Decreased chance of contracting influenza in pregnancy and increased protection for newborn infants;
  • Increased protection against influenza during travel abroad;
  • Increased quality of life for our community, especially the seniors, infants and children and persons at risk of complications from the flu;
  • And decreased absenteeism from work or school due to influenza.

In protecting yourself against influenza, you are also protecting your family, your household, your workplace and ultimately your community.

Having an annual flu injection provides a high level of immunity to the anticipated circulating strains of flu virus. Individuals who have had flu before or been immunized previously may only have partial immunity to this season’s flu.

The currently available flu vaccine has been designed to provide protection against the most likely circulating strains of influenza virus for the 2020/21 flu season. This vaccine contains four strains. It is an ‘inactivated’ vaccine.  It contains killed viruses and therefore cannot cause flu.

Influenza vaccine is recommended for all persons over the age of 6 months.  Children aged 6 months to 9 years require two shots, given 4 weeks apart if they are being vaccinated for the first time against influenza.

Individuals under their physician’s care for chronic medical conditions and children under the age of three years are asked to obtain a prescription for their flu immunization from their private physician.

For the upcoming flu season, flu vaccination will be particularly important to reduce flu because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two. COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. Another important difference is there is a vaccine to protect against flu. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

It is essential to know that getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19. Also, it is possible have flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

The chance of contracting flu, COVID-19 and other upper respiratory infections can be reduced by frequent hand-washing, by ‘covering’ coughs and sneezes, disposing of soiled tissues, avoiding crowded places and maintaining physical distancing.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Thank you Minister. I would like to echo your sentiments on the importance of residents getting a flu shots to protect against this year’s seasonal flu. This year it is vital that as many persons as possible avail themselves of the flu shot.

On the issue of letting our guard down – we have certainly seen a relaxation of attitudes towards the protections and actions which are necessary to keep us safe and most importantly to keep our economy healthy.

Bermudians do not need to be reminded, as we see it on the news every day, the increasing cases, the 2nd waves, the strict measures that impact the economy for countries in the Caribbean but also for countries in Europe. The virus is still a threat, and though you are as tired of hearing about it as I am talking about it, it doesn’t mean that it’s going away. We must continue to be vigilant.

Remember, in all likelihood this virus started from one person who was infected, and the entire world is now living through this pandemic. So it really only takes one person to start an outbreak here in Bermuda. That is why the Government will continue to press the message of enforcement, that is the reason why we will continue to remain vigilant, and that is why we will continue to encourage others in the community to remain vigilant, as the risks to our economy and our way of life is too great.

As I speak about the economy, I would like to share a story that those who follow US politics know well.

In 1992, former US President Bill Clinton was taking on incumbent president George HW Bush. Bill Clinton’s strategist James Carville was trying to find a quick and effective way to explain to Clinton’s team the messages that they needed to focus on and hammer home to the American People.

The message that resonated, and which caused Bill Clinton to win that election was: “It’s The Economy, Stupid”. In other words, no matter what else was going on, no matter what other grand plans they had, nothing else mattered as much as fixing the Economy. Now, nearly 30 years later, there cannot be a Government on the planet who does not have some concern about the performance of its economy and is telling themselves “it’s the economy”.

And as Bermuda earns most of its foreign exchange from providing services to others, either in International Business or Tourism, we are not immune to the global shocks that are reverberating around our world; more so given the fact that we have a significant tourism economy.

And so with the mantra: “It’s the Economy” ringing in Cabinet’s ears, we have set out to restore our Economy, and regain the enviable positions we had in 2019. I say enviable because there are some facts wish are important to share:

  • The last time GDP was higher than 2019 was in 2013.
  • There were more Bermudians working by December 2019 than at any time since 2014; and
  • More Tourists came to Bermuda in 2019 than at any time in the last 10 years.

I know there can be a lot of misinformation during election periods, but now that those times are behind us, I wanted to share that objective data that while previously reported, sometimes gets lost in the cut and thrust and the back and forth of politics.

However, with that said, October 2020 is not 2019, and while it may be good to look backwards our economy is certainly challenged today. The Government is working with employers and is receiving regular notifications of redundancies or restructuring which are necessary due to the business conditions caused by the pandemic.

We get the numbers, and we all hear them, but it is important for us to remember that each of those numbers represents a family, someone whose career may have been cut short, a provider for a senior or a young person who is now feeling very uncertain about the future.

I do not want anyone watching or listening to me now to think that the Government is blind or deaf to the challenges being faced by families and the incredible stress that the economic uncertainty causes.

I had a phone call from a constituent yesterday, who had been informed that the position at their job that they have been working at for a very long time, has been made redundant. They were seeking help and answers. That is why it formed a significant part of our Cabinet meeting today, the first Cabinet meeting of the new Government.

I would like to let members of the public know that next Monday, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour will hold a joint press conference and will update the public on the work being done to support those that are being displaced from work and also to speak about the measures that are being put in place to jumpstart and to continue the work to stimulate our economy. It is important and that is the number one focus of the Government. That is why we have to focus on what is working and develop as much as we can with our tourism economy.

Last week I proudly highlighted three international sporting events that Bermuda will host just in October: Gold Cup Sailing, World Tens Rugby, and PGA Championship Golf.

If these events were happening in any given July, we would be proud and happy; the fact that we are hosting these events in October, during a pandemic, when getting flights here is not easy, is clear testament to the work of which we have done thus far.

Our tourism industry will be boosted not only by the participants who have flown in to compete, but since our protocols have allowed us to successfully manage COVID-19’s impact, we were also able to promote Bermuda as a safe jurisdiction. Accordingly, in addition to hosting organisers and sponsors from three separate tournaments, we will also welcome the competitors’ families, support teams, spectators, and fans.

At present the only airlines who have not resumed their flights to Bermuda since the pandemic are WestJet and United Airlines. The others are flying at reduced capacity partly due to COVID-19: i.e. Delta and JetBlue do not sell their middle seats; and partly due to customer demand: which is why we must constantly tell the world we are open for business.

Clearly there are also other challenges which the Government is working on, specifically the issue with Canada and the Canadian flights which were cut back because of the restrictions which were put in place for visitors to Canada, which is an issue that we continue to work on and additionally there is the other issue which has recently occurred with the New York quarantine and the State of New York. There is continued work and effort there and if we do not resolve that issue, it can lead to a continued reduction of flights, and what we want to do is our best to make sure that we avoid that.

The more people demanding to fly to Bermuda, the more flight capacity we will have, and that will cause us to continue to support our tourism industry during the winter.

As airlines struggle to restore their flights and to fly profitable routes, Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry will gradually be greater served, and we are certainly seeing some level of improvement.

Further to those efforts to show and tell the people that Bermuda is still “Another World”, I would like to provide an update on our ‘Work from Bermuda’ Initiative. I am pleased to report that since the Initiative was launched on 1st August, we have received 452 Applications. Of the 452 Applicants, 354 were approved and we look forward to a high percentage of them working and residing in Bermuda.

And in addition to hosting International Sporting Events, rising Tourist arrivals, Airlines increasing their capacity, and our Work from Bermuda Initiative, we cannot underestimate what the change from London Gatwick to London Heathrow will mean for our tourism industry next year.

Although the change does not start until next March, the buzz that it is already causing in the Business and Leisure Travel sectors makes us optimistic for the 2021 tourism season; publications as diverse as Forbes, Loop News in the Caribbean, and TripAdvisor carried the exciting news. Tourism and Hospitality’s future is certainly better served, and Bermuda will always judge ourselves by how our competitors are doing and because of the excellent work of the Ministry of Health team and others, we are certainly in a better place.

I wish to very briefly share data about the other pillar of our economy, International Business. According to a recently released report from ABIR-The Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, 2019 represented the highest number of Bermudians working in the Industry since 2016.

I understand that Education is about more than finding a good job, but in order to take advantage of opportunities that do pay high salaries, we must ensure our children are educated and prepared to be global citizens. It is because of our commitment to Bermuda’s students that I cannot wait to see the work that the Ministry of Education is about to undertake.

Further to our intentions and efforts to overhaul the delivery of Public Education to Bermuda’s Students – phasing out middle schools and introducing Signature schools at the Secondary Level, the Ministry reached out to educators and members of the community seeking participants to serve on ‘School Redesign Teams’. These teams will participate in the design, prototype, and testing of the new technologies and practices that will empower students. Since the teams will be comprised of professional educators, community mentors, parents, employers, and others, the process will ensure that the education system that we are consulting on, produces well-rounded graduates who can confidently pursue whichever path they choose: trades, tertiary education, or entrepreneurship.

Accordingly, I recommend that parents and others sign up to be a part of this process for change and if you wish to join the transition which is taking part inside of education in Bermuda, I urge you to visit the website, learningfirstbda.com. On that website you will be able to sign up, register your interest, submit an expression of interest form to participate on the school redesign teams and you’ll be able to get information on the exciting work that is taking place in regards to the redesign of our public education system.

As the Minister of Education said during the election campaign, it is our expectation to work to introduce the first signature schools during the next school year. But, we want to ensure that the community is going along with us on the journey and is buying in. So please visit learningfirstbda.com so that you can join in with this effort.

So as I close, it is no question that during this fall we are in the midst of a very turbulent period, which is towards the end of a very turbulent year. And, just as we have worked together as a country to get through the challenges of which we face so far in 2020 that will be ever more important over the next few months.

It is without question going to get bumpy, and as I have acknowledged previously, there are going to be fears and doubts, but as we live on this island together, let us be in no doubt whatsoever that working together we will be able to overcome these challenges. The government is laser focused on the work which is necessary to improve the economy and we will stop at nothing to make sure that what we do is get our people back to work so that we can have a standard of living after this pandemic that actually makes sure that the people of this country can afford to live here, and continue to live here in comfort.

Thank you.

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 6, 2020

COVID-19 update – 6 October

Good afternoon Bermuda and welcome members of the media her today.

I am honoured to sit here again this week following last week’s General Election. I am joined at our weekly COVID update by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will provide an update from her Ministry. Following her update I will touch on a few matters before we take questions from members of the media.

Today there were 347 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda now has 181 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 170 have recovered, and
  • there are 2 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 to 101 years.

Overall, 51% of cases were Black, 42% White and 7% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 70 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

At last week’s press conference I responded to a media question regarding how we can safely partake in Halloween festivities this year. Today, I wish to elaborate further on my response and advise that local guidance has been created, based on CDC recommendations, and has been posted to Government’s social media accounts. It places various Halloween activities into three risk groups – either high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk and I will share them with you now…

Some low-risk activities which you can do safely this year include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household;
  • Decorating your house;
  • A virtual Halloween costume contest;
  • A Halloween movie night with people you live with;
  • And a trick-or-treat hunt with your household members in or around your own home.

Meanwhile, moderate-risk activities which you should do only if you can do them safely are:

  • One-way trick-or-treating where individually-wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go – such as at the end of a driveway. (Note that you should wash your hands before preparing goodie bags);
  • A small outdoor costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart;
  • A costume party held outdoors where masks are used (costume masks do not count) and people can remain more than 6 feet apart;
  • Visiting pumpkin patches where the use of hand sanitizer, mask-wearing and physical distancing is enforced;
  • And having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart.

And, finally, high-risk activities that you should definitely NOT do this year are as follows:

  • Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door;
  • Crowded costume parties held indoors;
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and shouting or screaming; and
  • any activity congregating densely with people who are not in your household.

It certainly brings me no joy to discourage our usual Halloween activities this year. I know Halloween is a time which many of our children look forward to and a big part of that is traditional trick-or-treating. But I ask you to imagine the contact tracing hurdles that would arise if just one industrious trick-or-treater was COVID-19 positive. It’s not worth the risk.

This pandemic has certainly not been easy for any of us; perhaps least of all our children. Birthday parties have been put on hold, celebrations cancelled, trips postponed, everyone is suddenly now wearing a mask…It can be a confusing time for our children.

But we must continue to follow the guidance. I know it is tempting and I feel like the biggest Buzz Kill standing up here each week…but we must.

Our numbers are low because we have been so good at following government advice to this point. We need to keep going. As I have said before, this is not forever. Please, Bermuda, just hang in there for a while longer. As winter approaches and countries are seeing their second wave begin we cannot afford to let our guard down now.

Before I conclude this evening, I want to issue a reminder to travellers: Both visitors and residents must apply for a Bermuda COVID-19 Travel Authorisation when travelling to Bermuda. Travel Authorisations can be booked 1 to 3 days before departure and must be pre-vetted. Please do NOT wait until the day of travel to book your Travel Authorisation!  Travel Authorisation applications are vetted between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. For more information, please call the COVID-19 Helpline on 444-2498.

Also, finally, a note to employers – thank you to the majority of you who are following the Return to Work Guidance as best as possible. I understand that the reconfiguring of office spaces and schedules has not been easy. I also know that many of you want to go back to “normal”, pre-COVID-19 times….And that while you are instituting safe practices at work (such as mask-wearing and physical distancing), please bear in mind that if your employees can work from home or on a rotational schedule that is still the preferable situation. Remember a close contact in an office space, would be within 6 feet of someone even while wearing a mask, for more than 15 minutes. Consider what would happen if one of your team members is a close contact of a positive person and your entire team must quarantine, effectively meaning you lose your whole staff.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Minister Wilson.

Thank you Minister of Health.

Looking back on the recently held General Election, on behalf of the entire country, I wholeheartedly commend the Parliamentary Registrar, Ms. Tenia Woolridge, for surpassing her office’s usual high standards to meet unprecedented circumstances.

While it may be tempting to focus on the results, the Registrar is truly an unsung heroine, who quietly, but masterfully, goes about her duties and obligations to Bermudian voters to ensure elections are beyond reproach, accurate and fair. I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to her and to her entire team at the Parliamentary Registrar’s Office.

I know how people and certain roles can be taken for granted, so I wish to note a few of the developments that were undertaken for the first time last week.

First, of course, there was, in the election, the opportunity to vote in the Advanced Poll was extended to all seniors, allowing a greater share of voters to exercise their constitutional rights without the worry of exposure to large crowds.

Second, the Registrar’s Returning Officers availed themselves of testing in order to carry out their vital public service; and they had to be trained on COVID-19 protocols, and new election rules.

Third, in partnership with Vision Bermuda the Registrar successfully introduced Tactile Audio Devices; machines that gave visually impaired voters privacy for the first time by allowing them to vote without someone watching them mark their ballots.

I know there are further accomplishments for which the Registrar and her team deserve credit; Ms. Woolridge marshaled her staff and they more than rose to the occasion – accordingly, I applaud everyone involved in producing and managing what was a safe, fair, and very efficient election.

When it comes to coronavirus related matters that have a direct impact on Bermudians, there is an issue that has recently arisen where the State of New York recently included Bermuda on a list of countries from which arriving passengers would have to quarantine on arrival.

It is well known that Bermuda boasts a testing regime that tests the most amount of persons per capita, currently and we are now, I think, fifth or sixth in the world in testing per capita, more than most countries on the planet and has extremely stringent requirements to be able to enter Bermuda. So we certainly do not agree with the new designation which has been put inside of the state of New York. Especially when we are only showing two active cases.

Technically, the list is derived by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the CDC list which deems Bermuda a Level 2 COVID-19 risk – meaning the risk in Bermuda is moderate, and new cases are decreasing or stable.

To further apply context, the UK Government’s current advice about Bermuda is,

“Bermuda is exempt from the Foreign, Commonwealth, Development advice against all non-essential international travel. This is based on the current assessment of risks.”

We are grateful for the reasonable position that the United Kingdom has adopted; and we are working to seek a modification of the CDC advice, (before they had us at Level 3, now they have us at Level 2, which is causing some issues with travel to New York, so we are looking to see if we can get that further modified) to ensure that its guidance reflects the reality in Bermuda, and even more tourists feel safe travelling and visiting our island.

As a result of the issue when it comes to safety, I am would like to provide you with three statistics that in a snapshot, reveal the state of the tourism industry, as we stand and where people consider it safe.

  • First, as would be expected, health and safety is the second most popular reason tourists are coming to Bermuda; beaches are still number one. However, with not many people travelling due to COVID-19, but it is logical that their primary consideration would be their health and safety;
  • Second, this is of local residents, in May, 50% of residents thought welcoming air passengers would pose a considerable risk to Bermuda’s health; now that number is only 12%, which recognizes that Bermudians have recognized that we can open our airport safely and have our tourists travel to Bermuda safely with excellent controls; finally
  • 97% of tourists who have come to Bermuda since we reopened the airport, to regularly scheduled commercial traffic, have felt safe or completely safe during their trip.

We have built on our COVID-19 protocols and testing regime by telling the world that we are open, and we are providing a safe destination for persons to visit, as long as they follow the rules. As a result of the consistent work, that we have all done together, our tourism outlook for the fall is looking far more attractive than we anticipated a few months ago, and there will be a number of events that will be held in Bermuda.

On the 24 October, Bermuda will host the Rugby World Tens Series;

On the 25 October, the Bermuda Gold Cup Sailing event that was recently designated a ‘Match Racing World Championship Event’ will begin; and

On the 26 October, the PGA Tours’ Bermuda Championship will begin, and live spectators will be in attendance. This is the very first PGA Tour event to be contested in front of live spectators since the beginning of the pandemic. And yes, it is happening right here in beautiful and safe Bermuda.

Most Bermudians are aware of the economic importance of our tourism sector, and given the wider impact when visitors hire taxis, dine out, visit attractions, or rent vacation properties. The difficult but steady recovery in that industry will positively affect business owners, employees, and entrepreneurs alike. That is why is it vital for us to continue to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission by following the advice from the Minister of Health, as un-fun as it can be, no one wants us see what is happening in other jurisdictions, where things are being rolled back.

Before I close, I would like to speak to some of the economic challenges that will be buffeting our island over the coming months and years.

I have to say this before I close. Things will get worse in the Bermuda economy before they get better. And though we have been able to reopen our tourism industry to a small extent, though our international business industry is functioning well, there will be challenges inside of our economy. There are persons who are being laid off, and we do note, that there are persons being made redundant, our job as a newly elected government will be to take the best ideas and to work to accelerate our economic recovery. The one thing that I want all of  Bermuda to know is there has never been before been a time like now that we have to continue to unify ourselves, to look out for our neighbours and to avail ourselves to the services that are being made available from the Government of Bermuda.

Before the election, I said that this Government would not stand by while people go hungry. After the election, our pledge is still the same. However, the times will get tough and it is important for us to remember that we are our brothers’ keeper and we have to continue to remain unified through the challenges ahead.

On Thursday, I will visit Government House to swear in a new Cabinet and the new Government will certainly address you next week as there are a number of economic matters that need to be spoken to for the public, so we can understand where we are, where we are going and how every can pitch in to help. With that, I’m happy to answer any questions from members of the media.

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

COVID-19 Update – Premier Remarks 29 September

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

Good afternoon Bermuda; and thank you, members of the media, for your attendance today.

I begin today’s press conference on a sombre note. On behalf of the Government of Bermuda and the people of Bermuda, I express my condolences to the family and friends of the young lady who lost her life at the hands of a heartless murderer on Sunset Lane, last evening in Pembroke during the early hours of this morning.

It pained me to have to console another mother at the KEMH into the wee hours of the morning, along with the Minister of National Security, Renee Ming and Pastor Leroy Bean as a result of such a horrifically violent act.

I ask that all Bermuda keep the family in their thoughts and prayers. And I would also ask all of Bermuda to please, if you know something, say something to help to bring the perpetrators of this incredibly violent, and seemingly escalating crime matter to justice.

Today I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will be first to give an update from her Ministry and then I will touch on general economic matters, matters relating to tourism before I take questions from the media.

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Today there were 418 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda now has 181 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • 167 have recovered, and
  • there are 5 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring;
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care, and
  • the total deceased remains at 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 to 101 years.

Overall, 51% of cases were Black, 42% White and 7% other/unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 70 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

I will now provide you with an update regarding COVID-19 vaccine procurement, something which I’m sure is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

I can tell you that the Government has recently engaged a contractual commitment to ensure guaranteed access for Bermuda to approved COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.

Bermuda is supported by the Pan American Health Organization – PAHO (a subsidiary of the World Health Organization) which is the specialized international health agency for the Americas.

PAHO has collaborated with GAVI Alliance, an international organization whose mandate is to improve access to vaccines and to source COVID-19 vaccines for countries under the PAHO remit. This collaboration provides Bermuda with access to vaccines to support 20% of the population in the first instance and additional access if and when required. The COVAX Facility, managed by GAVI Alliance, is the mechanism through which demand and resources are pooled to support availability of, and equitable access to, COVID-19 vaccines for all economies.

The goals of the COVAX Facility are to:

  • Develop a large and diverse actively-managed portfolio of COVID-19 vaccine candidates so that the best vaccines are ultimately made available and the supply will be sufficient for highest priority populations;
  • Deliver at least 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021;
  • Guarantee access to approved vaccines for every participating economy; and
  • End the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.

The commitment to purchase the vaccines through the COVAX facility provides Bermuda with several advantages. Firstly, it provides us with guaranteed access to approved COVID-19 vaccines. Secondly, it means that Bermuda is able to capitalize on economies of scales with the bulk vaccine purchase of potentially 2 billion vaccines. And, thirdly, Bermuda avoids the risk of trying to independently purchase vaccines which could see challenges such as access, availability, and prohibitive cost which could disadvantage Bermuda in the battle against the pandemic.

In addition, the United Kingdom will be providing Bermuda with a proportional amount of vaccines, therefore with the two streams of vaccine access available to Bermuda, we are well placed and prepared to tackle COVID-19 with vaccinations when they are approved and available.

On a separate issue, as I mentioned earlier this afternoon, I can advise the public that returning officers and presiding officers employed by the Parliamentary Registrar as well as election candidates will have the opportunity to undergo saliva screening prior to Thursday’s General Election to help ensure voter safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means the testing hours for the Perot testing location will be extended tonight and tomorrow night for this group of individuals who can attend between 6pm and 9pm either tonight or tomorrow night.

The Government believes this screening procedure will add an extra layer of protection for voters.

For more information individuals can contact the COVID-19 hotline at 444-2498.

I would now like to address a dangerous mistruth which appeared to be circulating locally on social media last week…

I am almost surprised I have to make this statement but…mask-wearing does not cause cancer.

The CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting.”

International health organizations around the world agree that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, preventing people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.

Therefore, it is vitally important that we continue to wear our masks…and wear them right.

Wear your mask so it comes all the way up, close to the bridge of your nose, and all the way down under your chin. And do your best to tighten the loops or ties so it’s snug around your face, without gaps.

Always wash your hands before and after wearing a mask. Use the ties or loops to put your mask on and pull it off; don’t touch the front of the mask when you take it off. For apartment or condo dwellers, put the mask on and remove it while inside your home as elevators and stairwells can be high-contamination areas. A cloth face covering should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.

Please remember that masks are to be worn in most work environments too. We, at the Ministry of Health, wear them every day. If you are in any doubt regarding what precautions or health measures you should have in place at your workplace, I urge you to read the ‘Return to Work’ Guidance for Businesses which is posted at coronavirus.gov.bm.

It includes sections on infection prevention & control measures, return to work considerations, occupational risk assessments, site cleaning & disinfection protocols, site operations and risk management, as well as general information on COVID-19.

Additionally, it contains industry-specific guidance for Healthcare Professionals, Care Homes, Offices and Banking Services, Construction, Mechanical & Landscaping, Warehouses, Auto Dealers and Retail Operations which details which PPE (such as masks) is appropriate for your workplace setting.

With our low COVID numbers, it’s perhaps easy to forget that we are living in the midst of a pandemic; but the reality is that we are and we need to take the same precautions we always have to protect ourselves and our community. Wear your mask, wash your hands often, practice physical distancing, avoid large groups and stay home if you feel unwell.  As I have said before, now is not the time to let our guard down. One of the reasons Bermuda has fared so well compared to other countries is because of our diligence when it comes to these actions. We have worked so hard and done so well; we must not stop now. These small steps make the greatest difference.

And, lastly, I would also like to clarify an incorrect story which appeared in last night’s news cycle.  A story ran claiming that the PGA Group, arriving in Bermuda at the end of October, would be exempt from on-island testing once they had received their arrivals test as the players would be moving in their own ‘social bubble’. This is not correct; the players are not exempt from Bermuda’s testing requirements. Players will take a pre-departure test, arrivals test and Day 4 test. Again, our stringent protocols have helped put Bermuda in a position which actually paved the way for such an event to even take place here. So we must continue to apply the same regimes for all which has proven to be fruitful to Bermuda as well as organizations such as the PGA.

Stay safe, Bermuda, and, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

Thank you Minister of Health for that comprehensive update. It is important to note we are still in the state of a Public Health Emergency and the coronavirus is certainly a threat.

I would like to begin my comments today by speaking about our new normal and Bermuda’s position and outlook. We all remember that we began physical distancing in March, and through shelter-in-place, and all of the other restrictions, Bermuda has been relatively successful in containing the impact of the coronavirus which has now taken more than one million lives worldwide.

As we sit here today in the last week in September, we are certainly at a different place but we have been able to safely and securely allow more tourists to arrive to help stimulate our economy and we continue to ensure we have testing available throughout the country.

Our public health strategy is to continually assess the results of tests, conduct contact tracing when a person tests positive, and to require the best behaviour that science and common sense requires.

And so Bermudians and residents should be proud of the collective effort and discipline that has largely kept COVID-19 at bay. I say at bay because we have not eradicated it, nonetheless, we have not reached community transmission.

Whenever there is a new infection, Public Health officers quickly identify the flight the person arrived on and identify everyone they may have been in contact. This is why it is critical that everyone who visits restaurants or other public places accurately completes the contact tracing information. I truly wish that we did not have to remind people, but, the precautions that are in place will help to protect vulnerable members of our society in case of any outbreak.

Now I know it is tedious and I know that as time goes on with the small number of cases people think that is no longer necessary. One thing that I will say as the minister responsible for technology in Government, we are trying to make that process easier.

Two young men from our coding boot camp that we hosted earlier this year, were engaged to complete an app that will simply allow restaurants and other liquor licenced establishments to scan the drivers’ licences of persons who are coming in to record their information. This will make the entry of information a little simpler. This app has been demonstrated and we are going to make sure it goes to the Privacy Commissioner so it meets all necessary privacy requirements. The information that is scanned is not going to be available to restaurants but it is only going to be activated by the Public Authority if that is necessary.

Additionally, you would have heard earlier we spoke about our tests with COVID watch out of Stanford University and I know that is now being piloted and you would have seen on the Government of Bermuda’s social media platforms, asking for people to respond to surveys on whether or not they would be wanting to use the Bluetooth contact tracing technology that is inherent in the COVID watch app.

Earlier this summer, as part of Bermuda’s COVID-19 Response strategy, the Cabinet made the decision to purchase and introduce quarantine bracelets. The system is comprised of electronic bracelets, purchased from a company in Hong Kong that is affiliated with the Hong Kong Government, and the Aqua app, developed by Hub Culture, a Bermuda based international business.

To properly implement this initiative, we hired eight persons, providing jobs for eight young Bermudians who were not working prior to us introducing this quarantine monitoring solution. They are being led by Superintendent James Howard from the Bermuda Police Service and Major Wayne Smith from the Fintech Business Unit and are called the Aqua Monitoring Team.

The bracelet is paired with a smartphone, and it uses Bluetooth technology and GPS to show the user’s location and allows the team to see violations of the quarantine rules.

The initiative began on Monday August 31 and the decision was made to place bracelets on anyone who arrived in Bermuda without a negative COVID-19 pre-test. Working closely with the Ministry of Health, the Aqua Monitoring Team ensures that everyone who was in quarantine complies with the rules and stayed at home until they complete their quarantine period, obtain a second negative COVID-19 test and were cleared to end their quarantine by the Ministry of Health. To date, 521 persons have been assigned bracelets and as of Tuesday, September 29, 160 persons continue to be actively monitored.

The programme is doing well and is now being expanded by the vendor to Hawaii. This was the intent of the Government of Bermuda’s overall technology strategy, that companies would test ideas in the Bermuda ecosystem and once achieving proof of concept, and be able to market them in larger jurisdiction throughout the world.

I am delighted to see this aspect of Government’s technology vision realized, especially as it relates to the coronavirus. Hub Culture, a Bermuda company, introduced this solution to Bermuda and now that the world knows it works, they will market it to the global marketplace.

As part of this deal, Bermuda gets a rebate on all bracelets purchased after our initial order, including any future bracelets that we purchase as well as bracelets that are purchased by other jurisdictions, such as Hawaii. Bermuda has proved itself to be a global leader and this solution is helping make sure we protect persons and persons can enforce their quarantine. This is vital to ensure our economy can continue to remain open.

It is key to note that this contract that was signed as we had successfully demonstrated and as it was used in other jurisdictions, the Bermuda Government will actually get money back from this. So this is certainly something that will be a win-win situation.

Moving to tourism I’d like to discuss the Fairmont Southampton’s closure and the impact this has on Bermudian employees.

I believe having a large number of redundancies, in fact, that’s a technical term, because it’s having a large number of persons who will no longer be working, is one of the biggest challenges facing any Government; and in a year of multiple and severe challenges, we will listen, plan, execute and then also overcome this one.

The Bermudians who were employed there, are homeowners, mothers, fathers, bill payers and taxpayers who have made a career serving people…service with pride. For them and their families, we cannot allow the uncertainty of employment income to become the certainty of poverty.

The Minister of Labour ensured the Collective Agreement was adhered to, and the Bermuda Industrial Union stated the hotel complied with the provisions. While that is admirable, following terms of a contract is the legal requirement; that does not mean the staff are comfortable or secure about their futures. Having spoken with my colleagues and technical officers, between now and the reopening there are ways that Bermudians can act and react to the closure.

The renovation is a construction project and we know that the hotel was purchased in December 2019 and was slated on January 2, 2021 for that renovation. The closure has happened earlier due to the coronavirus.

During the construction phase and in regular time, there are several hotel workers who supplement their income during the off-season by doing masonry, carpentry or general labourer tasks; they can and should enhance their skills and perhaps attain full-time employment at the site for the renovations.

Those who are already in the construction industry will have an advantage on experience and skillset, but a project this large will require many workers with varying levels of experience.

As such I recommend those who are interested should contact Bermuda College and or Department of Workforce Development to determine if and when relevant trades are being taught, or apprenticeships offered, and make themselves available for their opportunities.

To ensure that all former Fairmont Southampton Princess staff have the ability to secure reemployment, I wish to advise hotel owners and those that are hospitality employers that given both the impact of COVID-19 on the industry and the hotel’s closure all 2020 and 2021 work permit applications in the hospitality sector will be heavily scrutinized to ensure Bermudian hotel workers, particularly those with the experience delivering Bermuda’s tourism product are employed first.

This Government will stand by the workers at the Fairmont Southampton.

The Government acknowledges the proposed $100 million investment and it is essential that Bermudian employees must be the primary beneficiaries during the renovation and once the hotel reopens.

It is said that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”; I implore Bermudians impacted by the closure to do the things that may make themselves lucky.

Moving on to more items regarding tourism. In terms of arrivals and air capacity we are safely welcoming more visitors, but are still well below our airline capacity and in October we will be operating at only about 36% capacity.

In July we had 5,438, available seats that doubled in August to 12,122; we are anticipating approximately 17,000 seat capacity in October. While that figure is the highest since March, it is still 64% below our October 2019 arrivals.

However, there is progress that is being made that gives us further confidence in both our actions to battle the coronavirus and how effectively we communicated those actions to international markets, we do have new flights that are going to be launching service to Bermuda in October:

Delta Airlines will fly to JFK airport three times a week on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays;

  • American Airlines will fly to Miami three times per week. One flight will depart on Fridays,
  • another will depart on Sundays, the third flight will depart on Mondays;
  • British Airways, currently operating three times a week, will fly five times a week by the
  • end of October and I have been told that the British Airways flight has been operating at high capacity, which is likely the reason this has been increased and that is due to the benefit of the excellent management of the pandemic and also tourists from the United Kingdom, who do come to Bermuda, are not required to quarantine back in the United Kingdom on their way home.
  • Sticking with BA, earlier today it was announced that from 28 March 2021, British Airways will serve Bermuda from London Heathrow and no longer Gatwick Airport. Business groups and the BTA are in support, as Heathrow is a far more dynamic hub for onward connection to major European cities; allowing Bermuda to create connections in secondary European gateways.
  • And it is predicted that this will certainly help our tourism recover quicker from European markets. And certainly expanded as if it were to be compared to the flight at Gatwick.

I am proud that our COVID-19 protocols to date have been effective and we are creating global confidence in Bermuda and our ability to successfully manage the risks to residents and visitors. The fact that the Work from Bermuda programme has been so well received, with close to 400 applications, also attests to the balance we have struck between caution and commerce, between protecting lives and supporting livelihoods.

Now I will move onto the provisions for public school students for the rest of the week. I am sure that by now everyone, especially people who happen to watch YouTube knows that we are having a General Election on Thursday; as a result, all public schools are closed as they are polling stations.

Initially, some parents may have heard that schools were going to be closed on Friday as well, as that was the initial position. However, the Ministry revisited that decision in light of the three days lost to hurricanes Paulette and Teddy, the deep desire of teachers to capitalise on the return to face-to-face teaching and to assist students to normalize the new teaching and classroom protocols.

The decision was also taken bearing in mind the disruption to parents’ workdays every time a student has time off from school. Accordingly, schools will reopen as normal on Friday morning.

I wish to reassure parents, guardians, and the entire student population of one more vital element of schools and their use as Polling Stations. Every school is scheduled to be deeply cleaned and sanitised before school reopens on Friday; all cleaning will be undertaken according to stringent protocols using approved products. And for the work they are executing to keep our children safe, we are grateful for the teams of custodians and cleaners who are committed to ensuring our students are taught in COVID-19-free environments; you have the government and parents’ support, respect, and admiration.

Before I end, I would like to briefly address the concerns expressed earlier this week by persons, or a source as I will call it, from the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service.

In July, the Minister of National Security Renee Ming, and I met with the Fire Services Association (FSA) new leadership team. The team consisted of:

Ms Nakia Pearson,

Mr Ryan DeSilva,

Mr Anthrun O’Brien, and

Mr Randy Elgersma

During that meeting, the team briefed the Minister and me on a number of operational matters, including emergency response in the pandemic. Also, they relayed a number of concerns. After listening intensely, at that very meeting, I confirmed to the Bermuda Fire and Rescue representatives that the breathing apparatus was given Cabinet approval earlier in the year and has now arrived on island.

I also directed that capital funds that they were informed were frozen be unfrozen so that the other equipment purchases that they were advised were put on hold would proceed. I also confirmed with them at that very meeting that the training that they said was also going to be put on hold was authorized to proceed. We did our best to make sure that we alleviated the concerns at that time. There were concerns regarding training as there were new officers who had not been exposed to this training which meant they could not fully participate in the activities of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service.

This Government has the utmost respect and appreciation for the members of the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service. They are my family, they are my friends, and they are all of our colleagues’ families and friends as well.

We recognise their commitment and dedication to the safety of the people of Bermuda. Their exemplary service during this pandemic and recent hurricanes is commendable and speaks volumes to the level of professionalism and support that these fine men and women give to Bermuda.

It is unfortunate that this issue became politicized in the daily newspaper but such is the season of which we are in. I hope, however, after Thursday we can move forward in a spirit of collaboration.

With that, I’m happy to take questions from reporters.

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE SEPTEMBER 28 2020

COVID-19 Update – 28 September

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Today there were 1232 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 181 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 5 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 167 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 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:

  • 70 are Imported
  • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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