June 1st Press Conference

COVID-19 Press Conference Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember to avoid the three ‘Cs’:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COVID-Closures-Schedule-Phase-2V8_1

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

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

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

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

Thank You, Bermuda, and stay safe.

Thank you Minister.

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

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

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

Minister Caines.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

MINISTER OF TOURISM AND TRANSPORT STATEMENT

(To Be Added)

Thank you Minister DeSilva.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Bermuda Broadcasting Company Questions

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

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

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

COVID19 Update – May 25th Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

 

 

Good afternoon Bermuda!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Minister.

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

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT (Abridged)

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

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

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

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

Thank you Minister

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

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

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

Change can be scary.

Change can mean being forced out of your comfort zone.

But change can also mean new opportunities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20th Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

 

Good afternoon Bermuda.

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE STATEMENT

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

Unemployment Benefits 

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

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

The intended message was that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Emergency Measures 

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

Payroll tax – Restaurant and bar sectors 

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

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

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

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

Streamlined customs import duty deferment for business goods 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pension Suspension: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Minister Dickinson.

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

THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION STATEMENT

(To be added)

Thank you Minister of Education.

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

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

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

This Friday the House will debate:

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

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

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

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

The Merchant Shipping Amendment Act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

 

18 May COVID-19 Update

Opening to Phase 2 –  COVID-19 Update

 

 

Good afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Not permitted under Phase 2 are beauty services requiring:

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

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

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

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

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

1. Signage

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

2. Physical Distancing Policies, Barriers and Shields

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

3. Increased Hand washing and Use of Sanitizer

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

4. Questionnaires about your Health

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

5. Recording of Client Contact details for Contact Tracing

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

6. Increased Cleaning and Sanitizing of the Salon

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

7. Use of Mask(s) and other PPE

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

8. Increased Cleaning of Tools, Brushes and Implements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

Visits will be made to business premises to check:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much Minister.

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

As a country, to date:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 15th Press Conference

May 15th COVID-19 Update

Good Afternoon Bermuda. Since the announcement of the end of Shelter in Place and the confirmation that we will adopt a phased approach to our reopening of our economy, there has been much speculation around when we as a country will move to phase two, and what that will look like.

On Wednesday, I shared with you that a Cabinet sub-committee was formed to review our progress and to make a recommendation to the full Cabinet on the timing in moving to phase two. The Cabinet will meet in a special session on Sunday to confirm the full details of what phase two will look like, and the new regulations that will be put into place to ensure that we systematically open our economy. The health and safety of our community remains at the forefront of our approach in the strategy that we execute.

When we announced our multi-phase strategy, we laid out what each phase would look like. For phase two, we stated that our intended expansion of services would include: the reopening of retail establishments with strict physical distancing, and limited allowance of personal services such as hairdressers and barbers with strict restrictions governed by the Ministry of Health, and personal protective equipment use to be required.

I can confirm that this list may be expanded and will perhaps contain some elements originally proposed for phase three. What I have stated above, however, will be at a minimum of what Bermuda can expect to be the essential elements of phase two.

It is my intention that phase two will commence before next weekend but this will be confirmed by the Cabinet on Sunday and will be relayed at Monday’s press conference. The Minister of Health will now present today’s COVID-19 results and an update on the work being performed by her team in the Ministry of Health and also at the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Minister.

The Minister of Health statement

Today there were 244 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 1 was positive for COVID-19.

As I indicated in a press release yesterday, Bermuda has regrettably lost another victim to COVID-19. My sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of that individual at this difficult time.

Bermuda now has 123 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 45 active cases, of which
  • 38 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 7 persons are hospitalized; of which
  • 2 are in critical care;
  • a total of 69 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased is 9.

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

The average age of persons hospitalized is 76 and their age ranges from 68 to 89 years.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 39 are Imported
  • 72 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 7 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 5 are under investigation

While there are some cases for which a contact or source has not been identified, this is not sufficient to constitute community transmission. Therefore, Bermuda’s WHO-assigned country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”.

The plateau in figures shows us that as a country we have done an excellent job of containing COVID-19. This is as good an outcome as we could have hoped for in the midst of a global pandemic. It gives us confidence that the interventions we implemented have had a dramatically positive impact on our management of this pandemic so far.

However, we mustn’t let this good outcome make us complacent. I reported our real-time reproduction number on Wednesday as 0.47… Today, given the recent cases, the reproduction number has gone up to 0.99.

It is still below 1, but the rapid increase is a stark reminder of how volatile the reproduction number is in a tiny population such as ours, and why we cannot rely on it exclusively to inform all of our decisions.

It also reminds us that we have to remain scrupulous with our prevention efforts. This is going to be a long journey… it is up to all of us, to make it through successfully.

I will now provide further statistics regarding the hospital…

There have been 37 admissions for COVID-19 over the pandemic so far. The highest number of COVID-19 patients KEMH has had at any one time is 16. There have been no cases of COVID-19 at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI).

To date, 536 MWI and KEMH patients have been tested for COVID-19. All patients in two of KEMH’s long term care units have now been tested.

There have been 60 surgeries (emergency, urgent and cancer-related) performed over the last four weeks and 53 babies born between April 1 and May 12.

I would like to take this moment to thank all of the BHB staff for their tireless work during this pandemic; not just regarding COVID-19 management and care, but also for carrying out some of their usual duties under these unusual and, as we well know, highly stressful circumstances. Thank you for all that you do.

The Premier has already touched on the issue most prominent in people’s minds right now…When we will move on to Phase 2.

Understandably, everyone wants to know when Government is going to progress us to the next phase. But what I want to stress is that this much of the decision depends on YOU, Bermuda. YOUR actions decide for us when we move forward. The power to determine how quickly we progress from phase to phase lies in YOUR hands.

As such, I want to encourage everyone to wear a mask at all times when you are not at home or exercising; sign up to HealthIQ.bm; practice physical distancing (which means putting 6 feet of distance between yourself and others); and frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

If we do not do these things, we cannot move on to the next phase.

We all want to move to the Phase 2…but we want to do this safely.

Because the real-time reproduction number can fluctuate the Ministry of Health will be using a number of criteria or ‘indicators’ to measure whether it is safe to proceed from phase to phase.

We have proposed a combination of indicators to measure how we are doing with our prevention and capacity, and how we’ve done in minimizing COVID spread.

Behavioural measures that will be monitored will include face mask wearing, physical distancing compliance, number of people reporting on HealthIQ and the proportion of cases that can be linked to clusters.

Performance measures will also be used to confirm that it is safe to move to the next phase. For example, the country classification must remain at “local transmission” or less and there must be a small number of cases reported, minimum hospitalizations and critical care cases.

We will be sharing more on this next week after Cabinet makes certain determinations.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health is currently finalizing guidance for each sector’s re-opening. For Phase 2, this includes guidance for retail establishments, personal services, and so on, which we will announce next week.

In the meantime, stay safe and be well, Bermuda.

And, remember, Phase 1 has not been a green light to party. It was an amber light to proceed with caution. Let’s show that we know how to prevent COVID in our day to day actions, so we prove that we’re ready for Phase 2.

Thank you very much Minister of Health and thank you to your team who continues to work on the frontlines to ensure that Bermuda remains safe. Now, we will have an update from the Minister of National Security on the flight that arrived today, and on the work being carried out by his Ministry, the Bermuda Police Service, the Royal Bermuda Regiment, and the enforcement activities that will take place this weekend. Minister.

The Minister of National Security Statement

 

(To be added )

 

Thank you very much, Minister. And much appreciated for that update.

As Premier, I also have responsibility for digital services within the Government of Bermuda. One of the most important factors to the continued reopening of the country is making sure that we are making effective use of technology.

You would have heard the Minister of National Security speak about the Government quarantine facilities operated at Bermuda’s award-winning hotels. To ensure effective quarantining at home right now, we’re having to make use of the Bermuda Police Service who check to ensure that self-quarantine is enforced. Going forward, Bermuda will be procuring a technology solution that will enable strict enforcement of home quarantine. It is hoped that this solution will be in place within the next month so the government quarantine facilities may close. These new technology solutions can also support the move to regularly scheduled air travel as persons will be required to quarantine upon arrival and will be able to be monitored via technology solutions.

Related to that, I would also like to take the opportunity to provide the country with an update on COVID-19 related apps that will be key to our ongoing battle with this virus. It is very important to understand that COVID-19 related technology is a complex and evolving space. Of utmost importance in the success of any solutions we choose is community trust and participation. No matter how good the technology solution may be, if the community does not embrace it, then it simply will not work.

Countries around the world are racing to pilot and test new and unproven technologies that can help address the challenges presented by the global pandemic. Bermuda is monitoring these efforts with a keen eye as to what lessons we can leverage, but the bottom line is this: we are not going to rush to a solution. There is no need to be the first in this particular instance. Unfortunately, on the market right now, there is no one single app that does everything and as such, we are watching each country and the solutions they pilot for insights to guide our efforts.

There are five core areas that we have identified in the COVID tech space:

  • First, are leading indicators, which can help inform public health officials to the potential risks of the spread of the virus.
  • Second, contact tracing in terms of identifying individuals who are positive and may have been exposed to the virus.
  • Third, contact monitoring, to be able to accurately monitor and follow the progression of those contacts to ensure that they receive adequate care and take all possible precautions to prevent any possible future spread.
  • Fourth, citizen and stakeholder feedback to ensure the public is informed about the risks and actions they can take to mitigate them. Also, ensuring decision-makers are informed with the right metrics to react quickly to any changing situation.
  • And fifth, is access controls, such as quarantine-monitoring solutions, potentially to allow for quarantine to take place outside of a government facility.

We are keenly watching Canada and Norway’s Telenor who have leveraged cell phone networks to provide anonymized information regarding the general movement of the public to understand the risks of potential spread. We have been watching the UK in terms of being a leader in symptom tracking to help provide predictive indications of trends of the virus.

The Health Council has launched healthiq.bm as our own version of tracking this information. If you haven’t gone to healthiq.bm, please do so tonight. Everyone is anxious to move towards phase two, but it’s important that we take responsibility and do the things which are essential as we are still in phase one. So please go to healthiq.bm.

We have been watching Singapore, Australia, and the UK’s pilot in the Isle of Wight in terms of their rollouts of Bluetooth contact tracing technology. These applications require wide community buy-in to be effective, and that requires extensive public education on what they are used for and why in order for people to trust them.

We are conducting our own internal pilots of similar Bluetooth contact tracing technology. We are also conducting an internal pilot of GPS-based technology that can act as a guide to assist essential workers in logging where they go to better inform contact-tracing interviews. The bulk of our focus has been on evaluating solutions developed in collaboration with top universities like MIT and Stanford, as these institutions are best placed to ensure privacy-first approaches.

About two weeks ago we reached out to Bermuda First Technology Working Group for their assistance, and I am grateful for their help in piloting these applications and doing further research so that we may find the best technology solution for Bermuda. This is an example of the collaboration between the public and private sector which is necessary for us to ensure we get our economy back up and running again.

On the digital credentialing solutions, there has been a great deal of talk about the potential for COVID passports to reopen global travel. Additionally, there are conversations about credentials which may be used so that persons who are able to go back to work can actually know that they have a credential on their phone, which states that they are cleared to go somewhere or have completed any particular training which is necessary to be at work. This is an area where we are examining the global developments and are also exploring as a potential pilot opportunity for Bermuda to take a leading role.

One of the biggest areas of focus and a source of particular public interest are the apps to support contact tracing. It is essential that there is a broad understanding of what these apps do, as many Bermudians have suggested that they simply will not use such apps or are hesitant. It is very important that people understand why they mean to use these particular applications when they become available. Contact tracing is a complex process. When someone tests positive, their doctor is informed so that they can tell the patient. Then, the contact tracing team reaches out to map who they know and who they were potentially in contact with. Those contacts are then informed and given instructions on how to mitigate risks. But it is important to note, as the Minister of Health had indicated earlier, that the contacts do not actually know who they were in contact with, as the person who may have been positive for COVID is kept confidential.

The challenge is that this process of notifying contacts can be very time consuming. Every hour that passes between someone testing positive and those that were in contact with them being informed increases the risk of spread of the virus. Bluetooth contact tracing apps can assist with this by greatly reducing this time and will be essential as we move to future phases. They can also assist with notifications of anonymous contacts situations where you perhaps shared a bus or sat in the same restaurant as someone but didn’t know them to be able to inform contact tracers.

However, it is worth recognizing that technology is not a perfect solution. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ve been exposed and can only serve as a guide that you may have been. It is useful to greatly assist the efforts to mitigate the potential spread of the virus if you follow a prescribed procedure to reduce the risk. If someone you have been in recent contact with has tested positive, you can be informed instantly enabling you to make the right choices immediately without waiting for a contact tracer to call you, to significantly reduce the risk that you can pass the virus on to a vulnerable family member or anyone else.

While some persons are willing to receive notifications about potential risks, in order to be more aware before they potentially visit and interact with family or friends, other persons are not so willing. The virus has introduced a great deal of fear amongst many in the community, and a negative stigma around those who may test positive. Some individuals are best being carefully informed by a qualified medical professional, that they may have been exposed so that they can get the support and assistance they need to manage this information.

Before rolling out these forms of solutions, it is critical that we ensure that we have public understanding and participation, as they require a significant proportion of the population to participate in order for them to be effective. As early first steps, as I mentioned before, we are conducting closed pilots to confirm that the technology works at solving the problems we’ve identified. Similarly, we’ll continue to watch other jurisdictions to learn from their efforts and to react accordingly. We are also going to be rolling out surveys to gauge public buy-in and sign-up forms to gain support from the community in regard to expanded trials.

It is also important to note, as we had a meeting on this with the Ministry of Health earlier this week, that any solution which we are going to use will be examined by the Privacy Commissioner to make sure that it meets the privacy requirements which are necessary to have public support.

The success of many of these technologies rely on that support of the people and are an essential tool in allowing us to reopen our economy. They can help us to get people back to work, and make our recovery and moving into other phases more quickly. I ask that everyone to work with us by seeking to understand the role that technology has to play, and the part that you can play in making sure that we can open up as quickly as possible, safely. Technology can help us do that, and that is why the government is going to make investments in this area so that we can get our economy back up and running as quickly as possible.

As a note, I’m pleased to announce that the public bus service will return on Monday 18 May. There will be a press release going out later from the Government of Bermuda today, which will give the modified schedule for the buses. It is important to note that the Ministry of Health requires that all passengers wear a face mask when traveling on the public bus and maintain a minimum of three feet distancing when seated. As a result, seating will be limited to a maximum of 17 passengers with no standing allowed. The Department of Public Transportation will monitor the demand and deploy additional buses where possible on individual routes.

Please note that before boarding, it is important that you do not board a bus if you are unwell, or displaying flu-like symptoms such as the fever, coughing, or sneezing. Please reduce conversations with bus operators and if you must converse, do so at the door. All passengers must wear a face mask and anyone without a face mask will not be permitted to ride. Customers must sanitize their hands upon entry, adhere to the physical distancing signage when choosing your seat, and it is important also that healthcare workers do not wear their medical uniforms on the bus.

Remember to travel only for essential purposes and never if you have cold or flu-like symptoms, sneezing or coughing. Now is not the time for leisurely bus or ferry rides, so please continue to stay home as much as possible. The Department of Public Transportation would like to thank the public for their patience and cooperation as they help in keeping Bermuda safe from the spread of COVID-19.

Bermuda, as we enter what we hope to be the last weekend of phase one, we must remain vigilant and continue to push forward with solutions that protect the health and safety of our community while we get our people back to work safely. With the right tools and with your cooperation, we can have the courage to give our people the opportunity to once again earn a living and provide for their families.

On Monday, we will provide the full details on the next phase, how that will work, and what that will mean for you and your families. This is a big step that we will take. A step into the future. And a step in moving us back to the new normal in this pandemic era. Yet I cannot express enough how important it is that we remain vigilant and keep discipline in the behaviours that have helped to achieve our success to date. As a country, we have done tremendously well. But it only takes a few of us not observing the rules, which will make us fall back very quickly. As you heard the Minister of Health say earlier, our real time R number moved very quickly from 0.47 to 0.99. That is a reminder to all of us that we are far from being out of the woods and it is important that we continue to wear our masks in public and to do what is necessary to reduce the transmission of this particular virus.

It is important that we move together as one people with one vision, and one common cause and that is to keep our country safe as we move back to work.

Thank you, and I’m happy to take any questions from members of the media at this time.

 

May 13 2020 Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update May 13 2020

Good evening Bermuda.

Thank you for tuning in and welcoming us into your homes once again for our COVID-19 briefing. Today we will have an update from the Minister of Health on items dealing with the Ministry of Health and the latest test results. We will also have a presentation from the Minister of Finance. Also with us this evening is the Minister of National Security who is here to answer questions members of the media may have.

I want to give a special thanks to my Deputy Premier, Walter Roban, who stepped in on Monday to lead the press conference while my family celebrated my son’s fourth birthday.

We will begin the press conference with a statement from Minister Wilson

MINISTER WILSON STATEMENTS

Between yesterday and today there were 157 test results received by the Ministry of Health.

Unfortunately, we suffered a technical error in yesterday’s numbers and reported 153 results when, in fact, there were 127 received by the reporting cut-off time. Since then we received a further 30, for the total of 157. None of today’s results were positive for COVID-19.

As such, Bermuda’s total confirmed positive cases stands at 121. Their status remains as per yesterday:

  • there are 47 active cases, of which
  • 40 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 7 persons are hospitalized, with
  • 2 of these in critical care
  • A total of 66 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased is 8.

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

The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 68 and 89 years, and the average age is 78.

Now that we have a larger number of cases who are deceased, we can provide collated information about the deaths, as there is less risk of identifying individuals. The average age of all deceased cases is 75 and the age range is 57 to 91 years.

The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit has also been able to do more analysis of the racial breakdown of COVID-19 in our community. Today I can report that, as we have seen in other countries, the impact of COVID-19 is, indeed, also worse on black populations here in Bermuda.

Currently, 57% of cases are black, 39% are white and 4% are other or unknown. However, 72% of hospitalized cases are black, and most distressingly, 88% of deceased cases are black.

The causes are not fully understood anywhere but it is generally believed that it is due to underlying health and socioeconomic disparities. There are higher rates of chronic disease among black populations and a greater likelihood of living in smaller dwellings and higher density areas. These factors contribute to the likelihood of COVID-19 spread and its impact.

These statistics are also a stark reminder of why preventive measures are so important. If we don’t wear masks, wash our hands and maintain physical distance of 6 feet, we will not fare well as a country.

Nevertheless, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of people who were hospitalized have recovered and been released, which I think is excellent news. I want to thank the staff at KEMH for their exceptional care of COVID-19 patients.

For example, there is a covid-19 positive patient in the hospital who last week moved from ICU to a general ward. That patient says the nurses helped him through what he describes as a scary experience. It is the nurses who comforted and encouraged him, and helped him renew his faith that he could make it through. This is a wonderful testament, especially during Nurses Month.

I now want to to talk about the importance of Infection Prevention and Control Training. No matter where you work or which industry you work in, the risk of spreading infections in the workplace is ever-present. It is important that everyone knows the risks, how to stay safe, and keep themselves and everyone around them healthy.

General measures to prevent and control the spread of infection are critical in combating COVID-19 and preventing its spread. An understanding and appreciation of the general principals, as well as the full co-operation and involvement of the entire team, at all levels, is essential to our success.

As an employer it is your duty under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to train your employees in this regard whenever there is a risk to their health and safety, such as that presented by COVID-19. To help employers with this, the Department of Health has created online training which has been posted on coronavirus.gov.bm and covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19. This 50-minute course is for all employees and management. I encourage all employers to be aware of this training and to share it with their staff where appropriate.

Today I can share with you the estimated real-time reproduction number (Rt) of COVID-19 for Bermuda.

The Rt is different from the basic reproduction number… The basic reproduction number, referred to as R0 (pronounced R-naught), is the average number of susceptible people infected by each infectious person.  The R0 is a static number, currently estimated at 2.4 for COVID-19, and is based primarily on the characteristics of the infection.

In contrast, the real-time reproduction number (Rt) depends on additional factors including  personal behaviours and interventions made to reduce contact between infected and susceptible people; its value will change over time as all of these factors change.

The current estimation of the real-time reproduction number for Bermuda is 0.47 but this can fluctuate a great deal in a small population like ours.

This is promising as our goal is to have an R at near or below 1.

The real-time R is just one indicator that can be used to understand the impacts of our mitigation measures (or non-pharmaceutical interventions) and the country’s overall status. This number will continue to be monitored and factored into decision-making for moving to future phases of our reopening. The Ministry will use the Rt number, as well as public compliance with physical distancing, hospitalizations and other factors, to make recommendations to Cabinet as to when we can move to Phase 2.
And, finally, I want to end with a request…Please, Bermuda, use care and caution when operating vehicles on the road.

Since the shelter-in-place regulations were relaxed, there is increased traffic on the roads between 6am and 10pm.

Excessive speeding poses a threat to the safety and wellbeing of not only the operators of the vehicles involved but other road users, especially the increased number of individuals using the roads for exercise. It is our responsibility as a good citizen of our country to practice and promote road safety.

During this time of COVID-19 pandemic, we should also be very mindful of the impact that preventable road traffic collisions can have on the capacity of our hospital. Please work with us and exercise care, courtesy and caution as you make your commute.

Thank you very much Minister, and it’s certainly encouraging to get that particular information regarding our real time reproductive number.

Yesterday was International Nurses Day. Yesterday Minister Wilson released a video thanking nurses in Bermuda for their tireless dedication. Nurses play a vital role in each and every healthcare system around the world, making a difference to the lives of their patients and their patients, families.

In Bermuda, your endless dedication is recognized and appreciated during regular times, and is highlighted as we move through this global pandemic. On behalf of the Government and the people of Bermuda, I add my sincere appreciation to the 751 registered nurses in Bermuda. I also want to recognize the dedication of nursing assistants, and everyone involved in the health care of Bermuda’s residents.

I also would like to extend a thank you to everyone who is involved in the operation of Bermuda’s testing facilities. Thanks to the collective efforts of all, on Monday, Bermuda entered the top ten countries per capita in the world for testing. However, this is not a competition between countries, but the more that we tests, the more we know about the virus, and its spread in Bermuda.

Over the past couple of days we took a bit of a break from testing. So as you see there are not a lot of new results today. Over the next few days we will be testing and retesting essential workers, and our seniors’ homes, and we will also offer testing to persons in correctional facilities, while continuing the open testing of the population this weekend.

Antibody testing started last Saturday at the government drive thru testing facility at Southside in St David’s, and the Government is now administering two types of COVID-19 tests for the general public. As stated last week, the PCR test or Polymerase Chain Reaction test detects the presence of COVID-19. Thus, identifying anyone who has an active infection with the virus. This test is administered through a nasal swab.

PCR test results enable the Ministry of Health to detect, who has an active infection, isolate them and identify those that they have been in contact with.

The antibody test is to determine the presence of the body’s immune response or antibodies and is administered through a finger prick blood sample. This enables the detection of individuals who have had COVID-19 in the past, and who may not have been detected in previous testing regimes.

Moving on to give a little bit more information about the technology surrounding the notification of the results. As of 3pm today, all those who booked appointments to be tested between 24 April and 11 May would have received their results by email yesterday and today as it was just a recent system upgrade. Those who came as walk-ins have been called by a medical professional with the results. And they’re also being entered into the system to get an email.

From tomorrow, when the testing at Southside resumes, all doctors will have access to their own portal where they can see the patients who have listed them as their doctor. From this portal, they’ll be able to receive the results, easily run daily reports and also download reports for patient files.

As of 11 May, 2,426 tests have been conducted through, Drive-Through, some of the challenges which prevented the results from being sent quickly include: no doctor listed; people listing themselves as their doctor; and old email addresses for their doctor. I’m also pleased to report that news from the Government lab indicates that everyone who was tested, up to yesterday would have received the results as of 3pm today.

There was a delay in getting some other results back over the weekend. However, those issues have been resolved and testing results will now be turned around in 24 hours.

Due to the overwhelming response by the public to be tested for COVID-19, most of the available appointment slots, have been taken at the Southside Drive-Through Testing Facility.

In response to this exceptional demand, operating hours for this coming weekend, were extended from 9am to 7pm. However, I’m informed that all of those slots have been booked. And there are 687 persons who are slated for tests in between now and over the weekend.

I can report that next week, more spots have been opened, and the slots are available to the public for booking on Monday and Thursdays. However, some of the days are going to be reserved for the testing of specific essential workers who may be involved in Phase Two reopening. Not all the days are open, but there are some slots which are open for next week’s testing.

Also starting tomorrow, an additional lane will be open for essential workers between the hours of 10am and 7pm. Essential workers include members of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, Bermuda Police Service, Department of Customs, and Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service. Those persons can book directly with their office administrator, as the online portal for the essential workers has been shut down.  As we open up one for the general public, essential workers are able to go ahead and book through their particular establishments.

Finally, if you’re looking for the link to go ahead and book your tests, it can be found at our website coronavirus.gov.bm. And that is for the general population. Most of the slots are filled for this coming weekend. However, you can now book slots for next week Monday, and next week, Thursday.

COVID-19 has devastated the global economy and as we’ve sought to protect the health and safety of our community, we have also been focused on ensuring that the economic effects of COVID-19 will not be worse than the health impacts of this pandemic. With us now is the Minister of Finance, the Hon. Curtis Dickinson, with an update on the work being done by his team. Minister.

MINISTER OF FINANCE STATEMENT

It has been several weeks since the Government passed legislation on March 24th to provide unemployment benefits to those impacted by COVID-19 related job losses. In a very short time leading up to (and during) the Shelter in Place Order, we architected and implemented a new system from scratch, and collected an unprecedented number of applications from individuals and employers.

Unfortunately, necessary details — required to ensure entitled individuals only were receiving benefits in accordance with the regulations — were either missing or inaccurate in a large number of applications, resulting in many failed payments and ultimately in delays in receiving badly needed benefits.

Over the last couple of weeks, much of this has been cleaned up, and significant improvements to the system have been implemented. Resolving a lot of the initial challenges has not been an easy task, and the team deserves a lot of credit for answering the call and working hard to deliver benefits to a large number of people.

This week we are paying benefits to over 7,000 applicants, totaling approximately $7 million. Including this week, the program will have paid an aggregate of approximately $22 million in benefits.

I am happy to report that over 500 individuals that were receiving benefits have returned to work and informed the Government. I want to remind everyone, both employees and employers, that you must report the date are returning to work immediately to the Department of Workforce Development. You may do so by emailing your information to unemploymentbenefit@gov.bm.

COVID- 19 Economic Advisory Committee 

To navigate appropriately through this crisis, we will require the input and advice from all stakeholders in the community.

As mentioned in my Ministerial Statement on Friday 8th May, I have established a COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee.

The Committee includes key stakeholders in the Bermuda economy and community.

I can confirm that the terms of reference have been drafted and the first meeting will be held next. At this meeting, the terms of reference will be reviewed by the Committee and ratified.

The role of the Committee is to provide insight and expert advice on how to protect jobs and stimulate economic activity during the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The objective of the Committee is to assess and recommend prioritized impactful strategies for the short, medium- and long-term economic recovery from the crisis.

More specifically, the Committee shall:

  • Solicit and obtain information and ideas from a broad cross-section of the community and all sectors of the Bermuda economy about the functioning of the economy and potential recovery initiatives;
  • Provide prioritized recommendations on the design, implementation and evaluation of policies to promote growth, create jobs and improve the long-term prosperity of Bermuda;
  • Provide analysis and information for the operations, regulations and healthy functioning of the economy;
  • Engage, direct and liaise with subcommittees as needed for the development and implementation of approved recommendations;
  • Review, assess and propose changes to Government and Government corporate bodies, and agencies; and
  • Assist with other items as the Minister of Finance may request.

I will chair of the Committee, and it’s membership will include 10 other individuals. The Committee will include representatives of all key sectors of the Bermuda economy. The Committee will also invite other participants to present or provide information.

To ensure full participation in the process and increase efficiency, the Committee may also establish various subcommittees as it deems appropriate to arrive at the best outcome for the country.

These sub-committees may include business owners, industry associations, key individual stakeholders and public officers. Sub-committees are anticipated to have an industry focus and may include tourism and hospitality; technology and infrastructure; financial services; retail and services; social services and healthcare; development and construction.

The sub-committees will present their observations, findings, initiatives, action plans and recommendations to the Economic Advisory Committee for review and consultation.

I look forward to starting the work that is necessary to identify and eventually implement the measures to enable sustainable economic growth and mitigate the social impacts of the pandemic.

Financial Hardship Withdrawal 

I am pleased to confirm that today the Senate passed the legislation amending the National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 to permit a person under the age of 65 who participates in a private, defined contribution pension plan or local retirement product, to voluntarily withdraw up to $12,000. This legislation will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Once the legislation has been brought into operation, a member or a former member of a pension plan or local retirement product under the age of 65 will be able to apply to their administrator for a one-time refund of up to $12,000. If their application is approved, their plan administrator will have up to 20 working days to make the payment.

The Senate also passed regulations to allow members and former members of a pension plan or local retirement account to receive a refund of up to 25 percent of their account balance, provided they had attained normal retirement age (65) and had retired.

The Pension Commission will be providing specific guidance to the plan administrators to make the entire process as efficient and timely as possible.

Thank you Minister.

And I do want to commend your team and also the team within the Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports for ramping up this unemployment programme and making sure that we were able to get this programme up and running so quickly. We will recognize that there are lots of countries that are far larger than ours who have not been able to effectively deliver these benefits and I’m pleased that in our country, we were able to have the foresight to get this up and running very quickly, to be able to provide that support to persons who need it, while we make sure that our country remains healthy.

I’m sure that many persons are curious about the move to Phase Two, and when that might happen. At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, I can confirm that no decision has yet been made on when we will be moving towards Phase Two. As we said when we mentioned these particular items there are no defined timelines that are set. And there has been no decision to move to Phase Two.

However, with the R number, which the Minister of Health has reported, being below one, we do, possibly have the capacity to move forward. A Cabinet subcommittee will be meeting tomorrow, consisting of the Minister of Health, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Public Works, who will meet to discuss whether or not an official recommendation will be made to the Cabinet on moving to Phase Two at some points in time in the near future. And I look forward to sharing that information with all of you when I next see you at the press conference on Friday.

As we have mentioned previously, there will be a flight arriving from Atlanta, this Friday. All passengers who arrive in Bermuda will be required to stay at a government quarantine facility. The only persons who are exempt from this requirement, are those who present medical evidence to the Minister of Health in order to be exempted from staying in a government quarantine facility.

Those persons who are allowed to quarantine at home, only for medical reasons will still be checked by the Bermuda Police Service on a regular basis to ensure that they are maintaining their quarantine. At the end of the 14 days persons whether or not they’re in a quarantine facility or at home, due to medical reasons, will be tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to be released from any type of quarantine.

We’ve also received a number of questions about a possible flight from Canada. If you are Bermuda resident looking to return home from Canada, you can go to the website coronavirus.gov.bm and click the link COVID forms to provide your particular details, under the traveler form for travelers who are looking to return home.

If you have already filled in this form, you will receive updates on any particular flight. Right now, we are working to gauge interest in a flight and capacity to fill a plane. Also, if you are a Canadian resident and you wish to return home from Bermuda you should complete the form.

Before I end this evening, I would like to read an email I received last Friday from a member of the public. The email was addressed to me and to the Minister of Health.

“Good evening, Premier, and Minister Wilson. My mother is presently in a senior rest home which was tested yesterday, 6 May for COVID-19. Today, I received a call, advising me that an online site had posted and I quote, ‘Third Rest Home Comes Up Positive For Coronavirus’. As you can imagine, I was very upset, upon hearing and reading this, even though the name of the seniors’ rest home was not given.

“Clearly, there must be a breach in confidential medical information somewhere. This reporting can evoke worry and unnecessary stress for all family members of patients of Bermuda’s Seniors Rest Homes.

“Minister Wilson, you always mentioned at the COVID-19 updates to be sensitive to families. It appears that this particular news agency is not being mindful of that.

“Premier, I would like to thank you and your team for working and keeping us informed via the televised and online updates during this national crisis.”

There are two clear messages that I wish to give this evening.

If you are employed by a seniors’ home and have access to patient information, you are in breach of confidentiality agreements by sharing information with people outside of approved family members. Given the sensitivity of the information around positive results, I urge those persons phoning, emailing and sending WhatsApp messages to stop giving this information to the media prior to families being notified.

Families should not learn about sensitive health matters, through media outlets. And as you see in this particular instance, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the home was named or not, because family members know that particular homes are being tested, and as the Minister of Health said we are doing testing of nursing homes, but we will also be doing retesting of nursing homes and it is particularly important that this is kept in mind.

My second message is to members of the media, who are comfortable breaking news and sharing sensitive information about the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Even if you get what you may deem to be exciting information that must be shared immediately, I beg you to stop and think.

Think about the impact that your story will have on family members who have loved ones in the homes that you’re writing about. Think about the added stress and concern that you may be causing these families unnecessarily as the government will be in the process of notifying persons who have been tested.

Understand that your definition of news is also reaching residents and families who are now given extra stress about worrying whether or not they have tested positive and the fact that the general public, may know, before they do.

For Bermuda, we are addressing a situation that we have never faced before. And this is the time for us all to work together. And for us all to support each other. This is the time to think about others.

There are those in our community who have been afflicted with COVID-19, and with that comes a lot of anxiety and concern, not just for persons who have the virus, but also for persons in their household, their family members and friends. We must all do what is right. And we must all do what is in the best interests of our community.

We are a very small island. And with very little information, we can somewhat accurately identify most people in any given situation. This is why the Government has been so careful with the testing results, the statistics which we release. I want to continue to ask all of us to try our best to respect others’ privacy.

As we conclude tonight’s briefing and before I open to questions, I extend my thanks to everyone who continues to show kindness and generosity.

This afternoon, my family joined the children of the essential workers at the essential workers school at The Centre on Angle Street, as Miss KellyAnne Pacheco of the local company Party Animals provided a drive-by Character Motorcade. The children at the school and my family thoroughly enjoyed it. So thank you, Party Animals.

While the hours may be long, the tasks daunting, and the emotional toll of protecting people’s lives can be overwhelming, none of us who are sitting here at this podium would be able to do the work which we continue to do without your support. The calls, emails, social media posts and messages of support, encouragement and prayers for our safety and success are truly appreciated it.

When the days seem darkest, please know that those simple acts of kindness and compassion, truly brighten our days. Before I go to questions, Bermuda, we have made progress and the results which we are continuing to get is certainly a cause for optimism. I cannot express enough that if we move too quickly, if we relax our guard, if we stop practicing the efforts of which we’ve been doing over the past two months, this virus can come back and jeopardize all of the progress which we have made.

So while there may be space for us to move to Phase Two, it cannot happen if we are not all doing our parts. That means very simply: maintain your physical distance; wear a mask wherever you go; and make sure that you minimizing your contact with as many persons as possible.

With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.

May 11th Press Conference – Bermuda’s Death Toll Rises By One

May 11th Press Conference Bermuda Government Update

 

 

Good evening.

Tonight I am filling in for the Premier, he is out this evening celebrating the birthday of his son Ed. So we wish Ed a happy birthday and we look forward to seeing the Premier back with us on Wednesday at the next press conference.

Today we will have the Minister of Health who will be giving the update on COVID-19 and the work of her Ministry; The Minister of National Security, who will provide an update on the work of his ministry and the Regulations that his Ministry and been overseeing during this period.  And, we are also have an update from Minister Zane De Silva who is the Minister of Tourism and Transport who will give us an update on the work to get our public transportation system back up and running again and also helping with our economy as a result.

And now Minister of Health Kim Wilson.

MINISTER WILSON STATEMENT

Between Sunday and today there were 469 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 1 was positive for COVID-19. I am, however, deeply saddened to say that we lost another person to COVID-19 over the weekend. As is the norm, details of this individual won’t be made public by the Ministry to respect the family’s right to privacy, especially at this difficult time.

Bermuda now has 119 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 45 active cases, of which
  • 37 persons are under active public health monitoring, and

I’m pleased to share that some hospitalized persons have been discharged, so now only

  • 8 persons are hospitalized;
  • a total of 66 have now recovered, and as indicated earlier
  • the total deceased is now 8.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years. The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 68 and 89 years, and the average age is 77.

On Saturday we completed testing of all 21 of Bermuda’s care homes. Although the results of one care home are still being processed, to date we have the results of 333 care home residents and 436 staff members from 20 different care homes. Of all tested, 44 have come back positive.

I now want to share with you the results of The Bermuda Omnibus Pulse Survey which was commissioned by Bermuda Department of Health on the topic of COVID-19.

The survey consisted of telephone interviews with 400 Bermuda residents conducted between April 22th and 29th; during the ‘Shelter in Place’ requirement.

The survey asked questions on various topics including: COVID-19 News and Information Sources; Self-Quarantine and Reducing Stress; Impact of Shelter in Place on Behaviour; Programmes and Services; and Routine HealthCare Services.

On the topic of self-quarantine, only a minority of residents interviewed were required to self-quarantine (for example, if they travelled abroad), and the vast majority (81 per cent) of those who did self-quarantine indicated they had a suitable space to do so.

Virtually all residents were aware of ways to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, with by far the most common stress relief tactic being exercising such as walking or running. Meanwhile, two in ten residents mention spending time with and talking to family and friends as a method to relieving stress and anxiety; this was more likely to be mentioned by younger residents.

A variety of behaviours were evaluated to determine what, if any, impact the Shelter in Place order had on residents’ behaviour. Some expressed positive changes and others expressed negative changes.

Of note, three in ten indicate they now exercise more frequently than before the Shelter Place order, while the same number indicate exercising less frequently, which is perhaps related to gym closures.

I was pleased to learn that a greater proportion now indicate their eating habits are better (32%) as opposed to worse (19%).

Fewer than two in ten residents (17%) require routine health care services, and of those, just fewer than one-half of those (45%) have indicated the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their ability to access these services. Of the services they require routinely but have been unable to access, their doctor’s office or clinic (36%) and dentist (26%) are most commonly mentioned.

The topic of ‘access to healthcare during COVID-19’ actually segways perfectly into what I wish to share with you next…

I am thrilled to announce today the creation of a new Telenurse hotline and GP Telehealth consultation service for uninsured and HIP clients.

I want to, firstly, thank Argus Insurance for initiating this programme and making this possible. Argus approached the Government in late March with a proposal to provide Telehealth (nurse and physician) services to uninsured persons at no cost to the Government.

Initially, the programme will work like this: When an individual calls the COVID-19 hotline (444.2498) feeling unwell with symptoms that are unrelated to COVID-19, and they are uninsured or have the Government’s HIP health insurance policy, they will be transferred to Argus’ contracted Telenurse vendor – FoneMed. The Telenurse will provide advice and, if the individual needs to consult a GP, the calls will be transferred to Argus to set up a Telehealth consultation with a GP in Bermuda.

Telenurse advice will improve access to healthcare and minimize unnecessary utilization of hospital emergency rooms and other medical services.

It is a wonderful way to give back to the residents of Bermuda, particularly the vulnerable population.

It should be noted that this is a pilot and feasibility study. The pilot will allow the Ministry of Health to better understand the extent of need among those in the community who are, for example, out of work because of COVID-19. However, it does not replace health insurance or the need to have a GP.

I can also share that Argus Insurance has implemented a number of financial relief initiatives that will help cash-constrained individuals and groups maintain benefits while deferring premiums…. Argus is offering its clients options to defer this year’s premium updates while maintaining benefits to ease hardship on individuals and businesses, where necessary.

In closing, I wish to thank local companies such as Argus who are doing what they can to ease the financial burden on those who need it most during this pandemic.

Thank you Minister.

I would like to now extend our condolences to the unfortunate, most recent death related to COVID-19 to the family and friends of that person. I would also like to continually express condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one as a results of COVID-19. And certainly, we should keep in our thoughts our thoughts, all those who continue to fight this disease here in Bermuda, and wish them recovery.

The House of Assembly passed legislation on Friday 8 May amending the National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 to permit a person under the age of 65 who participates in a private, defined contribution pension plan or local retirement product, to voluntarily withdraw up to $12,000.

The Senate will meet this Wednesday to debate the legislation and if approved by the Senate, the legislation will be signed by the Governor.

Following this, the Minister of Finance will then bring the legislation into operation with the publishing of a notice in the Official Gazette.  Once the legislation has been brought into operation, a member or former member of a pension plan or local retirement product under the age of 65 will be able to apply to their administrator for a refund of up to $12,000. This will require them to complete an application form along with providing the appropriate supporting documentation.

If their application is approved, their plan administrator will have up to twenty working days to make the payment to the applicant as requested.

The Pension Commission will be providing specific guidance to the plan administrators to make the entire process as efficient and as timely as possible.

Also during Friday’s virtual session, the Premier confirmed changes to the Emergency Powers (COVID-19 Continuing Precautions) Amendments Regulation 2020.

These changes were:

  • Marriages and domestic partnerships can now take place with no more than ten people, including the officiant, in attendance;
  • Clarity was given around SCUBA diving. It is prohibited during Phase One; and
  • Money service businesses are permitted to operate, with the permission from the Minister of National Security, restricting the number of customers inside at any given time in the business. It should be noted that licensed money service businesses must receive permission from the Minster of National Security prior to opening their business.

The Minister for National Security will give an update on the work of his Ministry during this period in time.  Minister Caines.

MINISTER CAINES STATEMENTS

For the most part, we are seeing broad cooperation from the community and their compliance with Phase One of the Regulations. We are however monitoring various community chatter about the possibility of planned events to commemorate Bermuda Day. Again I urge the public to please be mindful of the guidelines in place. Any disruptions or breaches of the regulations could result in the Phase One period being extended. Sadly, as you are aware, last week our community was once again shaken by gun violence and anti-social behaviour.

Against the backdrop of what our Country is facing, this type of activity is the absolute last thing that’s needed. The Commissioner of Police has advised that the BPS have increased their patrols in key locations to manage gang tensions. And I encourage anyone with any information on last week’s incident to please contact the Police and share what you know. The Royal Bermuda Regiment continue their community engagement to ensure the Phase One regulations are followed.

This includes monitoring activity during the curfew hours and visiting beaches, parks and public spaces to ensure that persons are physically distancing and taking the right health and safety precautions. A special note about curfew hours specifically for boats and vessels on our waters. As a reminder, under the regulations, the curfew for vessels is actually at 7.00 p.m. and not 10.00 pm. So to be clear, at 7.00 p.m. any boat, vessel or pleasure craft should not be cruising around in our waters. Individuals on these boats must be indoors by 10.00 p.m.
Switching to the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service – these dedicated men and women continue to provide a vital service to the community.

Last week, the BFRS answered a total of 138 emergency calls:

– 93 were EMS related.
– 45 were fire related.

Also last week, as part of our new normal, the BFRS introduced Remote Video Inspections or RVIs particularly for buildings and construction sites. With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing in person inspections, these video links enable the Fire inspectors to conduct smaller routine inspections, consultations, system tests and Fire Certificate Occupancy Inspections in keeping with the health, safety and distancing guidelines.

Since its launch 3 requests have been received for the video remote inspection service which are conducted either via WhatsApp video, FaceTime or Zoom.

Any business or construction site can utilize this service by emailing fireprotection@gov.bm.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the Bermuda Red Cross for their recent donation of surgical masks to our BFRS team. We appreciate their support of the BFRS and all our frontline workers during these challenging time.

Over at the Department of Immigration, there are a few updates to share. The waiver of certain fees:

Fees will be waived for applications that would have had a resultant negative impact during the period March 18 – June 5, 2020, for advertisement extensions, late applications, and appeals for continuance of work.

Expired Passports & Visas (already-resident applicants)
– For resident work permit holders (and dependents) whose passport and/or visa has expired but who cannot obtain a new passport or visa, we will waive this requirement.
– Employers must ensure that new passports and visas are applied for by August 4, 2020.

Applications should not be submitted for potential work permit holders (and their dependents) who are:
– currently off island and whose passport and/or visa has expired,
– who do not have a passport and/or visa, or
– for visa controlled nationals, whose passport and visa does not meet our 45-day rule.

Lastly, regarding the Delta Charter Flight which is due to arrive in Bermuda on May 15. This special flight is courtesy of Travel Edge and consists of 86 passengers.

These include Bermudian students and residents who have been unable to return home. The flight also consists of some residents who have been abroad for medical treatment.

As with the previous air-bridge flights all of the standard health and safety protocols will be followed at the airport to ensure the safety of our Customs and Immigration Officers as well as the members of the flight.

Everyone must quarantine at the Government Quarantine Facility for 14 days. The fee for residents staying at the quarantine facility is $100 a day. Please note that the Ministry is accepting applications for persons who are not able to pay due to financial hardship- this will be considered on a case by case basis.

Anyone who may need to self-quarantine at home for medical reasons should apply to the Ministry of Health.

Both of these exemption forms can be found on the Government website at forms.gov.bm/covid-19/Traveller-Quarantine-Exemptions-Applications.

Once Wednesday’s flight has landed and the disembarking passengers have been processed. That same flight will return to the US that same day, with 92 outbound passengers of varying nationalities.

Thank you Minister Caines.

I wish to also acknowledge the presence of the Police Commissioner Mr. Corbishley who is here as well.

As part of our phased and measured approach to reopening the island, public transportation plays a crucial role with getting our people and economy moving again.  The Minister for Tourism and Transport, the Hon. Zane De Silva is here to give an update on the work he and the Ministry are doing to get public transportation going and as a result getting our economy moving.

MINISTER DE SILVA STATEMENT

A week after the Government’s announcement of a phased reopening of Bermuda’s economy, this is now an opportune time to update the country with an overview of the measures being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism & Transport to restore public transportation and reintroduce scheduled commercial flights to the island.

The public will be aware that the public ferry resumed service today under a reduced operating schedule with limited passenger capacity. The schedule is available to download from the Department of Marine and Ports Services website at www.marops.bm.

The Department of Public Transportation or DPT continue to operate the KEMH bus service while preparing to implement additional measures for resuming the public bus service.

The DPT is working to reintroduce the public bus service in the following phases.

Phase 1 – Sunday Public Bus Service operating 7 days per week.

Phase 2 – Full Summer Schedule

Before service can resume there are critical items that are being resolved, these include:

  1. Installation of driver protection screens (sneeze guards);
  2. Deep cleaning of buses;
  3. Obtaining agreement from the BIU/BPSU for the proposed scheduling arrangements and from the Office of Safety and Health committee for the proposed recommendations;
  4. Installation of hand sanitizers on all buses; and,
  5. Managing crowd control and queuing at Central Terminal.

We expect these issues to be resolved in the very near future and the public will be informed when the bus service is scheduled to resume.

In the interim, all members of the public are welcome and encouraged to use the public ferry service.

Now on to the topic of reintroducing flights to Bermuda.

As an island isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, air service is quite literally Bermuda’s lifeline to the rest of the world, and is critical to many areas of our economy and ultimately has a major impact on our economic wellbeing.

Air service to Bermuda is always a matter that has to be managed with the utmost consideration, but this is of overriding importance at the present time when considering the potentially menacing role that international travel can play in the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism & Transport is taking the lead role in reviewing and coordinating policy and the implementation of necessary controls in respect of air travel and its potential impact on the island.

Last year, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport supported a collaborative effort between the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Bermuda Airport Authority to produce a strategy aimed at improving airlift to the island.

Together, these bodies commissioned an experienced aviation consultant called Ailevon Pacific or APAC as they are more commonly known.

In the first quarter of this year, APAC were due to introduce its recently completed strategy to increase and improve airlift to the island.

This strategy sought to grow Bermuda’s airlift capacity, that is, to increase the number of airline seats available for purchase both to and from Bermuda.

Increasing airlift capacity is an important stepping-stone towards growing Bermuda’s tourism industry.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone to ‘hit pause’ on the implementation of the APAC airlift strategy but this does not mean that the process of ‘building the strategy’ has not greatly assisted in other ways over the past eight weeks.

Being able to leverage APAC’s broad range of relationships within the industry, and being cognisant of the recently completed strategy document, as well as partnerships with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Bermuda Airport Authority, and Skyport Bermuda has been in constant contact with its airline partners.

I am pleased to today inform the public, that all of the airlines serving our country before COVID-19 say they are ready to return to Bermuda once the crisis passes.

However, and perhaps not unexpectedly, the mix of gateway cities, the time of year, and the frequency of flights may not be what we have become used to in years past at least not initially.

We should anticipate a gradual resumption of the regularly scheduled air services. We should certainly NOT expect everything to return to normal immediately.

In updating the public on the current situation in regard to air travel, I would add important words of caution, that by its very nature, this is a constantly changing situation that may improve or may indeed, worsen by the time we reach Phase 4 of reopening, the “New Normal” phase.

When the time is right for regularly scheduled commercial flights to resume at L F Wade International Airport and non-residents are once again permitted to pass through our borders, we anticipate service to and from the following airports to recommence:

  • New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport;
  • Boston’s Logan International Airport;
  • Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport;
  • Toronto’s Pearson International Airport; and
  • London’s Heathrow Airport.

The British Airways service from London’s Heathrow Airport will be a ‘new’ service for Bermuda and will replace the previous British Airways service from Gatwick Airport after British Airways consolidated its operations at Heathrow; at least on a temporary basis.

For our tourism sector and for the majority residents travelling from Bermuda, the change from London Gatwick to London Heathrow could have many advantages, particularly given how much easier it is for travellers to connect to other European countries from Heathrow as opposed to Gatwick which has limited European connections.

In the meantime, we anticipate the resumption of airline service to Bermuda from Philadelphia International Airport and Miami International Airport sometime in the not too distant future.

However, we would stress that we do not anticipate services from these cities resuming immediately upon Bermuda reaching the “New Normal” phase.

Like everything else at present, this is subject to change!

Lastly, I would like to advise all of Bermuda that the seasonal services from Newark International Airport, Washington Regan Airport, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport are unlikely to resume until 2021.

It should be stated that throughout discussions with our airline partners, the Ministry has been extremely pleased with the responsiveness and flexibility shown. Particularly considering how much turmoil currently exists throughout the global aviation industry.

At this point I would remind the public of another extremely important reality.

Dialogue with airlines and winning their commitment to serve Bermuda is really only one-half of the onerous tasks associated with restoring post-COVID-19 airlift to Bermuda.

I can also reassure the people of Bermuda that the Ministry of Tourism and Transport is working very closely with the Ministry of Health to prioritize a long list of public health requirements that MUST be implemented to keep our community SAFE as the time for the “New Normal” approaches.

There still remains much work to be done in a multitude of areas as we progress towards Phase 4.

Our primary focus is to ensure that as an island, we get to this point safely and responsibly.

Thank you Minister De Silva.

Finally tonight, I’d like to extend a word of thanks to all of my colleagues that are here today, but also to the ministries and departments behind them, that ensure that the work that they’re doing is done well. And they’re all doing a great job.

I would also like extend a heartfelt thanks to my own ministry team those at the Ministry of Home Affairs and all the departments. I would like to particularly give thanks, because I haven’t had an opportunity to do this during this period, to my PS of Home Affairs and particularly to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which has been giving great assistance to our commercial farmers, commercial fishermen, veterinary practices and pet stores.

I would also like to give thanks to one particular department in my ministry, the Department of Consumer Affairs, which is fielding a lot of questions from people around issues of consumer protection, through this period.

But as I said, there are many ministries and departments, including this one of Communications that has been doing a great job for us through this period. So I extend this message to that team as well, who are here at every press conference, helping to make sure that we get the message out to the public..

I would also like to thank everyone on the island who has been working to protect our community from COVID-19 and particularly those who have been helping us to enforce

the emergency regulations which have been in place for a number of weeks now. And who are sacrificing a lot of their time and energy, right now, to get our economy going in this Phase One. But I’d like to also mention as well, the goal is to get to the next phase.

It’s not just to stay where we are.

And that will depend on a number of things. That will depend on the number of new cases that we get, it will depend on the number of hospital admissions, it will depend on the number of ICU admissions, it will depend on compliance by the public regarding physical distancing.

Obviously, people in public we’ve asked them to wear masks. And also, the amount of hospital PPE that we have that can ensure the protection of everybody who’s working to take care of people through this period And the use of the Health IQ app as well. This will help our community to manage the situation.

This will be able to be led by the Ministry of Health and how we get to that next phase, and the advice that the public health professionals provide us in the government, and it will guide those decisions that we make.

And, of course, at the end of the day, if we all follow the rules, we will get to the next phase. So it’s very important that we remember, it’s by our cooperation and following the rules that are carefully laid out, that Bermuda will get from one phase to the next.

And we will be a healthier and safer country as a result.

And with that, I conclude and would happily in turn, receive any questions from you who are here today.

 

May 6th COVID-19 Update

Press Conference with COVID-19 Update

 

Good day Bermuda and thank you for joining us

Today, Bermuda laid to rest a Bermudian public servant, a Bermudian leader and our friend. Former Speaker of the House and MP for Southampton East, Stanley Lowe.  In a pre-COVID-19 world he and his family would have received the pomp and circumstance of an official funeral, and the line of speakers to give him the recognition and accolades which he deserved would have covered the gamut of past and present political, social and community leadership.  Sadly with COVID-19 and physical distancing, we could not give him the home going ceremony that a man of his accomplishment and stature deserved.

We who serve in the House of Assembly, meet on Friday and I am certain that the outpouring of admiration, respect and stories of Speaker Lowe will provide some comfort until the day when we can properly and fully recognize this fallen Bermudian.  Our prayers are with his family and with all who knew, loved and admired Speaker Lowe.

I am pleased today to have with me, Minister of Health Kim Wilson, the Minister of Public Works Lt. Col. David Burch, the Minister of National Security Wayne Caines and Bermudian biochemist and Science Advisor to the Government of Bermuda, Dr. Carika Weldon.

Minister Wilson will give an update on COVID-19 testing results and the work being conducted by the Minister of Health.

MINISTER OF HEALTH’S STATEMENT

Today there were 195 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 3 were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda now has 118 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 52 active cases, of which
  • 37 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 15 persons are hospitalized;
  • a total of 59 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 7.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years. The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 64 and 91 years, and the average age is 77.

As of today, we have tested 247 care home residents and 302 staff members from twelve different care homes. Of all those tested, 505 results have come back negative with 44 positive. We plan to finish the testing of all care homes by Sunday.

I would now like to clarify how cases and countries are classified, as the terms sometimes overlap and can cause some confusion.

Cases can be classified as imported, local transmission, or under investigation. An imported case is a person who was exposed to COVID-19 abroad.

A case is classified as local transmission if the person has no history of travel and has a known exposure to an imported or confirmed case in Bermuda.

A case is considered under investigation until an exposure to COVID-19 is determined, at which point it will be classified as either imported or local transmission as appropriate.

If no link is found within 4 weeks of a positive result, the individual case will be classified as “local transmission”. We are not classifying individual cases as “community transmission” to avoid confusion with “community transmission” on a country level.

Community transmission is a country classification which is defined by World Health Organization as larger outbreaks of local transmission defined through an assessment of factors including, but not limited to, large numbers of cases not linkable to transmission chains and/or multiple unrelated clusters in several areas of the country.

Other categories included by the World Health Organization are sporadic cases and clusters of cases. Bermuda is currently classified as clusters of cases – which is a category for countries with local transmission. We will advise immediately if the country status changes.

Over the past few weeks, the Ministry of Health has created various guidance documents regarding face masks – from how to make them to how to wear them…and I have to say, I’ve seen some very impressive homemade cloth masks over the past few days.

Today, I want to clarify WHEN to wear masks. The short answer is that you should wear a mask whenever you are outside of your home. This includes at the grocery store, while taking public transport or taxis, and for workers at all workplace premises…unless, of course, you are working from home.

There are exceptions to this guidance. You can remove your mask while engaging in strenuous exercise outdoors such as running and jogging, but you must put it back on once you have completed your exercise if you plan to be around others, outside of your home.

Delivery personnel MUST wear a mask when going about their business, in accordance with current regulations.

Lastly, mask-wearing is not recommended for young children below the age of two, for child safety reasons.

I want to remind the public that, because there is currently a global shortage of surgical masks, Bermuda needs to conserve these masks for those who need them most, such as our healthcare workers and those who are sick.

Reusable (cloth) masks complement safe physical distancing measures and provide some basic protection. Masks help protect others from you, in case you are infected but unaware.

And, remember, I wear a mask to protect you; you wear a mask to protect me.

For more information on mask wearing or making go to coronavirus.gov.bm.

Now that the shelter in place restrictions have ended and we are in phase one of reopening, business leaders must do their due diligence to ensure that employees are adequately protected when returning to work.

In light of this, ‘Return to Work’ Guidance for Businesses has been created with recommendations to assist employers in establishing workplace protocols to protect employee health and safety when returning to work after COVID-19.

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. It also provides a sample screening questionnaire for employees returning to work after the shelter in place and an occupational safety & health risk assessment template.

Additionally, it contains information for specific populations and work groups. For example, there is industry-specific guidance for Healthcare Professionals, Care Homes, Offices and Banking Services, Construction, Mechanical & Landscaping, Warehouses, Auto Dealers and Retail Operations.

We recommend that screening protocols be in place before employees return to work. Employee screening will help ensure that any symptomatic individuals are identified before coming to the facility and to prevent the potential spread of infection.

In addition to employee screening, once employees arrive to work it is advisable that clear reporting procedures be developed and communicated to all staff. These procedures must inform staff of what to do if they were to develop respiratory symptoms.

Conducting an assessment of employee occupational risk of exposure to COVID-19 will be crucial in determining what steps are needed upon re-opening your business. Occupational risk will vary from very high, high, medium or lower risk. The level of risk will depend on several factors, including:

  • industry type and job responsibilities;
  • the need for close contact with persons who are known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19;
  • the need for close contact with the general public;
  • the need for repeated or extended contact with the general public; and
  • employee susceptibility to infectious diseases.

It is essential to determine which occupational risk category your employees fall into. In doing so you must consider that different groups of employees may be exposed to different risk levels. You must also take into consideration whether or not you have any medically vulnerable employees in your workplace.  This information will determine the types of controls that may be needed in your workplace.

Once your business re-opens, it is essential that protocols are in place to outline what employees must do if they develop respiratory or flu-like symptoms when at work. These protocols must outline, as a minimum, who employees must report to, what information is reported and who maintains this information. We recommend that the person(s) in charge of maintaining accident/dangerous occurrence reports and other occupational safety and health issues at your business should be responsible for this.

We also recommend that a specific location be designated for employees who develop respiratory or flu-like symptoms at work, to ensure that they are adequately isolated from the rest of the workforce. This location must be communicated to all employees so that they can report to this area, as needed. All areas where these employees have been must be cordoned off and appropriately cleaned and disinfected.

Before employees return to work we recommend that thorough cleaning and disinfection of the work facility be conducted. Disinfection should focus on frequently touched and flat surfaces throughout the facility and must be done multiple times daily with EPA-approved disinfectants or a bleach solution only.

Again, that guidance can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm.

In closing, I just want to highlight the availability of the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline at 543-1111 as a resource to our community while we weather this storm. That number again is 543-1111.

We realise that these are times of extreme heightened stress and anxiety – particularly for those who are quarantined and those being tested for COVID-19 – and therefore I want to remind people that this resource exists for you. Thank you to those individuals who man the phone lines at the Wellbeing Hotline, providing this vital service for our community.

Finally, I want to thank another group of people trying to help out those who may also be struggling…Thank you to the Market Place who announced today that they will be offering a 5 per cent discount to all Financial Assistance clients from now until October 31st. This applies to all of their Market Place and Price Rite stores on any day of the week.

Thank you Minister.

Following on from the Minister of Health, we have with us Dr. Carika Weldon, a young Bermudian woman of international acclaim who we are truly fortunate to have with us on island aiding us in the fight against COVID-19.  I first met Dr. Weldon three and a half years ago when she came back to Bermuda to speak at Thinkfest, hosted by Ayo Johnson. Since that time I have been incredibly impressed with her dedication to promoting science in Bermuda.

She has started a foundation in Bermuda to raise money to expose young residents to science. She has mentored many students here and she has hosted international conferences in Bermuda to discuss cutting edge topics in genetics such as gene splicing. She is a member of the Royal Society of Biologists and recently became a Fellow of the Institute of Biological Medical Science.

Dr. Weldon gave this presentation to our Cabinet yesterday, and I thought it would be great to share with the country so that we all can have a better understanding of how testing can assist in defeating COVID-19.

She will be discussing the work that she’s doing in conjunction with the Ministry of Health to keep Bermuda in a global leadership position containing this particular pandemic. Now, I give warning before Dr. Weldon starts, that some of the items that what she covers are particularly technical, and I know that there are slides to accompany this, and I apologize that there might be some interruption of our services for the hearing impaired, but we are going to make sure that this video was put out later so that those persons who are hearing impaired can make sure they can get the full information that Dr. Weldon is putting forward. With that, Dr. Weldon.

DR. WELDON’S STATEMENT

(Details to be added at a later time)

Thank you Dr. Weldon and thank you again for coming home and the work that you and your team are doing.

I can say without fear of contradiction, if it were not for your tenacity to assist us in scaling up our testing capacity, we would not be leaders globally in testing our population for the novel coronavirus. And I have to say this although some people get upset at me, the slings and arrows that the minority in Bermuda have tried to throw at you should be deflected by the enormous admiration, that young and old, black and white and everyone holds towards your particular accomplishments and your work and your country is incredibly proud of you.

Now we have Minister of Public Works, Lieutenant Colonel David birch, who review the guidelines for entry to government offices, and the work that is being done within his Ministry, Colonel.

MINISTER BURCH’S STATEMENT

Everyone will be aware of the restrictions we have endured over the last 6 ½ weeks from scaled back government services to Shelter in Place.

Despite the closures, the Ministry of Public Works, with responsibility for all government assets which include public lands, beaches, public parks, government buildings, water distribution, sewerage disposal, solid waste management and refuse collections, continued operations virtually unchanged as most functions are essential services.

On the front line are our sanitation workers and the staff at Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility.  At the start of this crisis there were some challenges with refuse collection. These were swiftly resolved and collection not only continued but in fact, the teams improved their performance by completing their assigned zones before 2:00 pm daily. It is also important to note that there were no health and safety incidents during this period.

The Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility – a 24 hour – 7 day a week operation -and an almost entirely Bermudian run operation adjusted seamlessly to the changes and carried out its vital role with no difficulties.  I remind that this facility generates a significant amount of electricity that is sold to Belco and the benefactor is the Bermudian taxpayer.

Other challenges involved individuals placing garbage for collection curbside after the area had been serviced and illegal dumping across the island. The issue with residential garbage collection was quickly resolved with Government supervisors visiting those responsible parties. The illegal dumping is still to be addressed – it is the source of significant disappointment to and irritation for me – as such there are several options available for enforcement that are being explored.  I am determined to take the necessary and possibly controversial steps to curb this behavior.

While we were learning and operating throughout the shelter in place, we also began preparing for the inevitable reopening of the Government.

In anticipation of that decision it was decided that returning to work would be a gradual process, dependent on several factors such as:

  • the ability of staff to attend work when nurseries, schools (public/private) and public transportation remain offline;
  • determining how staff can function in their respective workplaces while adhering to the new social distancing requirements; and,
  • the ability to keep front line employees safe while interacting with customers.

In preparation for the reopening, the Ministry of Public Works developed protocols that outlined how we can safely resume providing the necessary services. This involved the Ministry of Public Works’ Health and Safety Officer consulting with the Ministry of Health regarding the proposed protocols. Following this initial consultation, the four Health and Safety Officers from Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Works and the Cabinet Office worked together to draft the protocols and procedures now in place to reduce the transmission of disease among our workforce and the community we serve.

With the Government now open and operating in a limited capacity, we continue with our phased approach of a gradual return to work. Wherever possible, to reduce the number of persons in the office at any given time including opportunities to work from home that are being encouraged.

For those working in government offices, the recommended physical distancing between employees is 6 feet which translates into a 28 square foot circular area allotment per person. However due to different office layouts, in practice, it is appropriate and more practical to double this number to 60 square feet.  Considering the current government space standard per person is 65 square feet, physical distancing in Government offices is assured.

In addition to the physical distancing, we have also implemented the following protocols for entering government buildings with the necessary signage affixed to inform and reinforce the message.

All persons entering government buildings or facilities must:

  • Have their temperature taken;
  • Wear some form of face mask;
  • clean their hands via the hand sanitizers available at the entrance to each location; and
  • A maximum of one or two persons are allowed in an elevator at any one time – depending on the size of the elevator;

There were concerns expressed regarding the air-conditioning systems in buildings with some reports indicating that the virus could spread through the building’s air-conditioning systems.  To address this issue, the Ministry consulted local air-conditioning vendors who in turn provided assurances that this can be mitigated.   As such, all air conditioning systems in government buildings were deep cleaned before reopening along with all work spaces.

Despite the challenges we will face going forward, the Ministry is confident that if the aforementioned protocols are adhered to, the risk of spreading COVID-19 will be greatly reduced permitting the Government to slowly expand business operations.

Thank you Minister Burch.

The Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment will be enforcing the evening curfew between 10pm and 6am, conducting both patrols and checkpoints.  The Regiment is keen to ensure that essential and exempted people are inconvenienced as little as possible.

Enforcing the regulations during daylight hours means the police and regiment will ensure they have a visible presence in public spaces.  The public should expect to see regulations enforced at all public parks, beaches, golf courses, railway trails, and authorized businesses.

The Coastguard will enforce the regulations on Bermuda’s water.  This will include commercial boats, pleasure crafts, and areas such as inshore waters, harbours, private docks, recreational areas, and marinas.

There will be an increase in the number of Regiment soldiers working over the weekends to deter large gatherings and to inform the public of the regulations. The public is advised to re-read the legislation and the physical distancing and closures document so you are do not accidently in breach of regulations.

Under the current regulations there remain specific categories of business that must remain closed for example: bars and clubs, spas, gyms, barbers, beauty salons, sports clubs and restaurant dine-in services.

For other businesses, the law still requires an employer to arrange for his or her employees to work remotely from home if that is reasonably practicable. Those businesses that cannot operate remotely, such as construction, landscaping, or the outdoors showing the real estate are no longer required to not operate, but what is important is that appropriate physical distancing is strictly observed.

Customers are not permitted to enter the business premises so that any businesses provided are only available for curbside, delivery collection or done via phone, and the internet.

It is still not allowed for any employer to force an employee to come into work where that person can reasonably work from home. Any employer who does that will be in violation of the law. Mandated working from home in the private sector does not end until phase three. Where appropriate physical distancing is not observed, the regulations permit the Minister of Health to close the business until there is compliance with these important public health conditions.

The devastating impacts of COVID-19 has created massive economic disruption and displacement to workers around the world. Here in Bermuda, we began to address this impact to our economy through the introduction of the new unemployment benefit, which is seen $15 million paid out to date, and provides a safety net for our workers through this programme. Additionally, to support small and medium sized businesses, the Minister of Finance has given a grant of $12 million to the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation to assist those businesses during this time.

On Friday, the House of Assembly will meet to pass legislation that will provide further economic relief to Bermudians. Under the proposed amendments to the national pension scheme, which were approved by the Cabinet yesterday we will expand the scope of existing provisions for financial hardship to include a one-time withdrawal of up to $12,000, from person’s individual pension accounts.

There are those who will raise legitimate questions and legitimate concerns about the impact this could have on the long-term health of person’s individual pensions. We share those concerns. But it is clear that this is not any normal time. Funds like this should only be accessed in emergency situations. And it is undoubted that the massive amount of unemployment that is seen in our economy due to the restrictions that are necessary to put in place to preserve life is such an emergency.

The reality is that there are people suffering today, who need assistance today and the overall health of our economy requires help today. This money is Bermudians’ savings, largely overseas and bringing some of that money home is the right move at this time.

This will have no impact on anyone currently receiving pensions and no impact on those persons set to be eligible to receive pensions over the next couple of years.

It is important to note that withdrawals can only be made from individual defined contribution plans, what we call private pensions. Withdrawals cannot be made from Government’s Social Insurance Fund, or it cannot be made by public officers or those persons who work in quangos, such as the Hospital and other places from the Public Service Superannuation Fund, or public officer pensions.

These are defined benefit plans and other defined benefit plans are not eligible for this one time withdrawal. So, to put it simply, you will not be allowed to dip into anyone else’s savings. These funds will come from individual savings that persons have saved up over the years. It is your money and at a time like this, your money can be used to help our economy.

Applications for participation in this relief initiative will be administered by the current pension plan administrators.

In developing this relief programme, we consulted with the Opposition who have agreed to allow a process which normally takes weeks to be conducted in one day in the House of Assembly on Friday. I am grateful to the Opposition for their support and cooperation in moving this forward. I am also grateful to the Speaker of the House for allowing us to be able to move this in virtual session on Friday.

This relief and initiative has also received the endorsement and support of Bermuda’s Pension Commission. The Minister of Finance will provide further details on how to apply for this relief and other details once the legislation has completed the legislative process.

I encourage everyone to listen to the House of Assembly on Friday, when we will have another virtual session. You can hear the details of the plan as the details are laid out. And the House of Assembly debates this legislation on how we can help Bermudian families navigate these extraordinary challenging times.

On Friday the House of Assembly will also debate the new regulations which were put in place to govern Phase One.

I would like to remind persons who are at home who are watching and for those persons who are suffering emotional or mental distress to please take advantage of the hotline which has been established. That number is 543-1111.

Before I close tonight, I would like to echo the Minister of Health in reminding persons to wear masks in public, and continue to practice your physical distancing. The only way that Bermuda is going to keep this virus at bay is if all of us follow the rules which have been laid out. Any person who does not causes an issue for all of us. The closer we adhere to the rules, the more we avoid leaving the house unnecessarily, the sooner that we can start moving to the next phases.

When you leave your house, it is very important that you continue to practice physical distancing. I know that it is difficult sometimes to be patient and to wait inside of these particularly long lines, but this is our new normal. The only way that we are going to be successful is if we adhere to these guidelines.

So please be kind, be considerate, and be patient. And I would like to thank the team at Bermemes in conjunction with Coral Coast Clothing, who donated these wonderful new Bermuda face masks, which I’m sure are lovely for all to wear. Thank you for them.

The health and safety of each and every one of you remains our driving motivation at the heart of all the decisions which we make. Our hearts go out to everyone who has lost loved ones, who have loved ones currently wrestling with this disease. Our hearts go out to the workers and businesses that have seen their ability to provide for their families and meet their obligations significantly diminished. And our thanks go out to everyone, everywhere across our community that has done their part to help our community get through this.

The next press conference will take place on Monday afternoon at 5:45pm. We will not be having a press conference this week Friday, as the House of Assembly will be meeting in virtual session and all persons are encouraged to listen to the House of Assembly session that will be taking place while we would normally be here doing our press conference.

We will pick up again next week for Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where we will have more details on what is necessary required to advance Bermuda from Phase One on to Phase Two. There will be presentations from other Ministers on the various initiatives that the Government is taking to move the country forward.

Before I close, I would like to thank all of those persons in the community who are supporting each other in the search for the missing young lady Chavelle Dillon-Burgess. I just would like to say thank you for your efforts in that search. It proves that we as a community can work together in times of crisis.

With that close and I’m happy to take any questions from members of the media.

May 4th Press Conference Update

4 May COVID-19 Update

Good afternoon Bermuda.

Today the Government joins with all of Bermuda to mourn the passing of the latest victim of COVID-19.  We pray for their family and their friends, and we continue pray for those who are currently battling this virus, whether they be at home or whether they be in our hospital.

It is important to remember that COVID-19 is not a joke. It has forced many families to say goodbye to loved ones before their time. It has caused economic stress, personal stress and mental distress to many Bermudians. It has left many without work, especially those in our tourism and service sectors.

It is clear that this disease and this virus is no laughing matter.

Yet this weekend, while the vast majority of Bermudians left their homes only when necessary, far too many treated it as a joke, with reports of gatherings, parties, and certain businesses not enforcing social distancing and also a stabbing. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.

I have spoken with the Minister of National Security, and enforcement will be stepped up and the penalties will be strictly enforced. The penalties for violating the regulations include a $10,000 fine and/or a term of imprisonment. To be clear, my job is not to criminalise anyone, and I do not wish to criminalise any more persons in this country than we have already done. However, I must balance that between my responsibility of keeping the country safe during a pandemic.

Tomorrow, the Cabinet will meet and amongst our matters of discussion will be whether there is a need to refine the existing regulations, and also the discussion of implementation of further economic relief measures for residents and business owners impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, authorizing a one-time withdrawal from private occupational pensions.

I am joined tonight by the Minister of Health, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport. And before I go on to the other Ministers we will begin our press conference today with an update from the Minister of Health on the work being done by her team to protect the health and safety of Bermuda.

MINISTER OF HEALTH’S STATEMENT

Between yesterday and today there were 127 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 115 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 54 active cases, of which
  • 38 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 16 persons are hospitalized;
  • a total of 54 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 7.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 59 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 95 years. The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 57 and 91 years, and the average age is 76. The age range of deceased cases is 57 -91.

As of today, we have tested 142 care home residents and 198 staff members from six different care homes. Of all tested, 299 have come back negative with 41 positive.

With respect to testing at the two care homes with outbreaks, at Matilda Smith Williams Rest Home less than 50% of those who tested positive were asymptomatic; at Westmeath, 90% were asymptomatic.
With respect to the first airbridge, there were 11 positive cases and all were asymptomatic. Quarantined passengers of the latest airbridge are being tested this week.

I give these details reluctantly, notwithstanding the public’s right to know and the media’s desire to report granular detail. However, I remind you all that given the size of our community and the small number of people we are referring to, it is all too easy for individuals to easily become identifiable. This is a reportable disease, just like measles or HIV. We have to treat the information with the same level of sensitivity because it is about our friends, neighbours and loved ones.

According to worldometers.info, Bermuda is now in the top 12 countries for testing per capita.

Unfortunately, due to our demographic characteristics with an older population and higher rates of chronic diseases, we do have a population with higher risks due to COVID-19. This is reflected in our mortality rate, which is why preventive measures are even more important in a community like ours with so many people who are clinically vulnerable.

However, I want to emphasize that even if you have been tested – and you test negative – that doesn’t mean you can’t get the virus; it just means that you don’t have it at that point in time. To stay COVID-free, you MUST practice physical distancing, wash your hands and wear a mask. Having a test does not mean you can stop the preventive measures.

Last week we introduced the public to HealthIQ…the Health Council’s simple online tool that will help us as a community in our efforts to progress from phase one through phase four of COVID-19 restrictions.

In the past two days, the Health Council have received over 1000 unique person reports with two potential COVID cases on HealthIQ.

Each member of the public is encouraged to go to HealthIQ.bm and enter information about how they are feeling. In addition to tracking our community’s health status and symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19, the tool will help our public health teams to identify risks and resources needed to keep our communities safe.

As I wrap up, I want to thank the operators at the COVID Helpline who have fielded more than five thousand calls from members of the public since March 19. This is a resourceful and dedicated team that has been assisting the public throughout this difficult period of rapid change. I salute the Helpline workers for the vital role you continue to play.

And, finally, as this month is International Nurses Month, I want to thank all of Bermuda’s nurses for your hard work and sacrifices made, particularly over the last few months which have been tough for nurses and healthcare professionals alike. Please know that we appreciate you. I appreciate you. And the entire community is grateful for your service.

Thank you Minister.

Before Minister Caines speaks, I would like to remind all persons that screening tests of essential workers continues at Southside. If you are a healthcare professional, work as a private home health aide, work in a grocery store or restaurant or if you are a government worker you should go to the drive through testing facility at Southside, which is located in the parking lot of the old White’s Supermarket.

Appointments are available daily from 2 pm – 7 pm.  Drop ins, though discouraged, may also be accomodated. Please go to the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm, for the link to book an appointment.

The Minister of National Security will provide details on the elevated enforcement measures stemming from the incidents over the weekend and additional information regarding the Ministry of National Security. Minister Caines.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY’S STATEMENT

I know many of you, like me, were concerned by some of the behavior demonstrated over the weekend where a few individuals simply did not follow the guidance and health protocols as set out in the regulations.

People were not observing physical distancing, they were not wearing face coverings and they were gathered in crowded groups in some instances. This Government indicated that if individuals, businesses or organisations could not adhere to the guidelines, then we will take the necessary steps to enforce the regulations. We are urging individuals to please act responsibly.

This evening, my update regarding the BPS/RBR is as follows:

  • The BPS and Regiment continue to be deployed across the island following the end of Shelter in Place. Over the weekend Community Advisory Points were set up at key public space locations to continue working with the public to provide advice and guidance on the amended regulations. Joint patrols took place on our beaches and parks to ensure physical distancing was in place. Several visits were made to business premises, including restaurants to monitor compliance. The BPS Roads Policing Unit were also active to monitor reported incidents of speeding and to prevent drinking and driving related activities.
  • As I said earlier, several incidents of behaviour, where non-compliance with the emergency powers regulations were observed. The BPS are now investigating these matters. However the feedback from the public condemning this behaviour shows the positive engagement we have within our communities. Bermuda, this type of behaviour puts communities at risk of COVID-19 transfer. We do not want to criminalise people but enforcement action will be taken if people do not follow the regulations. More notably if this behaviour causes community transfer this may result in the Country returning to Shelter in Place.
  • As a reminder, we encourage anyone to report any breaches of the regulations to the BPS. If the incident has taken place already, please do this via the relevant online form on the BPS website. However, if a serious breach is taking place please contact 211 for the police to respond.

Over the weekend the Royal Bermuda Regiment supported the BPS in patrolling beaches, parks and playgrounds conducting public reassurance visits and advising the public of the updated guidelines. RBR soldiers patrolled a total of 48 public areas over the weekend, and verbally engaged with 891 persons. Most gatherings or clusters of people were 3 – 7 persons. There were some larger groups identified where the RBR politely enforced physical distancing requirements. Additionally, patrols were extended to include permitted businesses and restaurants. I think it’s important to take a moment to remind the public about the guidance for restaurants. Section 12 of the Emergency Powers Regulations states:

  • Opening hours are from 7am to 9pm.
  • Collection of orders only – this means takeout service and no eating in.
  • Only one customer allowed inside to pick up the takeout meal.
  • Ideally customers should call their order in and pay with the order by credit cards to save a hand to hand transaction.
  • Delivery services are also running from restaurants.

There are also some gas stations which offer a food take out service. The guidelines for the food service aspect of these establishments should follow the food take out protocols of restaurants. So again:

  • Opening hours of 7am to 9pm only.
  • Collection of orders only – food should be ordered ahead for take-out service.
  • Only one customer at a time is be permitted to enter the premises to collect or pay for a food order.
  • Dine-in services are prohibited.
  • Self service offerings such as coffee, soup, hot foods and buffets, should not be allowed. This is to avoid people congregating and also to avoid cross contamination via surfaces / equipment / utensils etc.
  • Strict physical distancing must be maintained between staff members.
  • Strict physical distancing must be maintained between customers.
  • Management should monitor staff to ensure regular and adequate hand washing / strict adherence to personal hygiene in order to avoid cross contamination / cross infection.

Turning to the Government managed quarantine facility:

  • There are currently 97 persons in the facility.
  • Today 7 persons were tested.
  • On Thursday another 80 plus persons will be tested.

And lastly, regarding the Customs Department, the Hamilton Custom House is closed to walk-in customers until further notice. Customs no longer accepts paper customs declarations.

Customs declarations may be submitted normally by the following electronic means:

  1. The Customs Automated Processing System (CAPS) using the Customs File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site; or
  2. Using the Customs Web Trader service.

Scans of supporting documentation should only be sent in response to a Customs query. You must apply for a CAPS ID Number if you are making electronic submission. For more information on who needs a CAPS ID Number and how to apply for one, visit the Government Portal: https://www.gov.bm/customs-automated-processing-system-caps

Customers who are unable to make electronic submission themselves should use a customs clearing agent to make the customs declaration for them. Duty payment should be made by Bank-to-bank transfer. For guidance on how to make bank-to-bank transfers you can also visit the Government Portal at https://www.gov.bm/how-make-payments-customs. If anyone has any Customs related enquiries they can email customs@gov.bmThank you.

Thank you Minister.

In a follow-up to the comments which the Minister has given, I’ve been asked by a few people on line to explain what gatherings of no more than ten means.

It is rather simple. It means no more than ten people can be in the same place, and if there are ten or less persons in the same place, they must be, according to the rules, exercising physical distancing. Six feet or more apart, each person must make sure that they wash their hands frequently, with no hand shaking, hugging or kissing. It is important to reduce transmission risk that everyone at the gathering should wear a mask for the entire time that they are together, especially if they are not from the same household.

Having said that, if you don’t have to gather, then you shouldn’t. Our goal is to reduce the number of people in the country who contract this virus. As a country we will not be healthy or wealthy if we treat this virus as a joke.

I was appalled to see photos of persons that I know live with seniors, this weekend gathered in groups with others who were not wearing masks. Not only are you putting yourself at risk, you’re putting your family at risk, and that is not wise.

There is a lot of talk about masks. And I’ve had people sending me old social media videos about masks not being recommended by the international organizations. The fact is that this is a new virus and information changes quickly. The old information is that masks were not recommended to be worn. That is old information, and all of the international bodies are now recommending that in cases, where social distancing cannot be achieved, that you wear a mask. And as the Minister of Health has said on numerous occasions, you wear a mask to protect me, and I wear a mask to protect you.

You also heard from the Minister of Health today, that the vast majority of persons who were caught in our screening exercises, both at some of the rest homes, and also on the air bridge flight, who tested positive were asymptomatic. What that means is that they did not have the traditional symptoms of a fever or a cough. They had no symptoms whatsoever.

And so that is why it is important, and I heard people giving comments such as; the guidance does not say that people who are uninfected should wear masks. That is precisely the point. We don’t know who may be infected, and the evidence shows that there are a large number of persons who are infected, who do not know they have the virus, and can transmit it to somebody else.

That is the reason why, if you’re in groups of persons or, for instance when you’re entering buildings, you are required to wear a mask, so you do not spread this disease to other persons unwillingly. This is not something that we are implementing because we think these sets a good fashion style. We are implementing it because it is necessary to save lives.

On another note, we continue to get queries and concerns about landlord and tenant issues. I just want to repeat some guidance, which was previously given by the Government. We’re encouraging landlords to assist tenants experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. We ask that landlords consider realistically assessing their own financial situation, and obligations as to how you may be able to assist your tenant. Making sure that you speak with each tenant individually, if you’re renting to more than one tenant to assess each tenant’s situation on a case by case basis.

Taking into account the current ability of a tenant to pay, and the history of the tenant’s payment record. Landlords are also requested to have compassion for tenants who do not have family support on the island, and are not eligible for financial assistance, but may be able to claim unemployment benefits, and may have been late in receiving those particular benefits.

We certainly encourage tenants who have the ability to pay their rent to please do so in accordance with their current rental agreements If it comes time to go before the courts, and it is shown that you have had income and were able to pay your rent, then I’m quite certain that the courts will look at your situation in a less favorable perspective.

Changes to a lease must be documented and acknowledged by both parties on the agreement reached, including whether any reduction in rent is temporary, or if the rent reduction is to be deferred to a later time, when the tenant may have more of an ability to pay. In addition, any agreement reached to amend payment terms should be reviewed on a monthly basis, valid for up to 90 days.

Working in collaboration with the Real Estate Division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, the COVID-19 landlord / tenant addendum agreement guidelines as well as a COVID-19 rental relief form has been developed to support discussions around adjusting rent payment during these uncertain times and can be found on the Government website at coronavirus.gov.bm, and just click on COVID-19 forms.

The Unemployment Benefit Programme has had its successes, yet we cannot celebrate until every single Bermudian that is eligible for this safety net has received the support they so desperately need.  Today, Minister Foggo  has joined us again and will provide an update on the Unemployment Benefit Programme

MINISTER FOGGO’S STATEMENT

Last week some 2,500 applicants who have not previously received the payment of their benefit before were paid together with those that have been paid previously and were still eligible.  The total paid last week was $7.2 million.  Since the launch of the fund on the 25th March 2020, some 7,500 have been paid the benefit totalling over $ 15 million.

My colleagues and I on a daily basis hear heart wrenching stories of Bermudian families who are struggling to put food on the table, let alone pay their utility and other bills.  We hear you.

The Minister of Finance last week amended the regulations for the unemployment benefit to expand those who qualify to include those self-employed persons who were not previously registered with the Office of the Tax Commissioner. They can now apply for the benefit after registering with the Office of the Tax Commissioner and will be eligible for a benefit of $300 per week for up to 12 weeks.

I am aware of the frustration of some, who are not self-employed, who have applied and have not received their benefit yet.  There are more than 90 people from multiple government departments working to process outstanding payments. More persons were brought on last week and we will keep on working until all persons who are eligible receive the assistance they require.

As I mentioned last Monday, if you applied for the benefit on or before the 6th April and at the end of last week had not received any benefit, or been advised that you are ineligible, then you should contact the call centre for assistance.

We have updated the call center to ensure that calls are routed to the next available customer service representative.  Please call 297-7714 and 297-7716 during normal business hours which have been upgraded to handle the volume of calls.

The Unemployment Benefit Form can be found at www.gov.bm.  Emails can also be sent to unemploymentbenefit@gov.bm for assistance.

I commend those businesses that have stood by the employees during this very difficult time.  A number, despite having little or no income during the stay in place period, have kept their staff on the payroll and their employee’s health insurance in place.  These companies have put their employees first and I wish to sincerely thank them for this.

Finally, with the Shelter in place ended we are seeing some residents going back to work.  If you are back at work and had applied for the unemployment benefit, then you must notify Workforce Development and can do so by email to unemploymentbenefit@gov.bmincluding your name, social insurance number, date of birth and the date that you began work. Thank you.

Thank you Minister Foggo.

The government has authorized Travel Edge to operate a second charter flight to bring Bermudians home from the United States.  The flight will operate from Atlanta on May 15, if there is enough interest. Passengers on the flight will be required to quarantine at a government facility for 14-days at $100 per day on arrival in Bermuda.

Travel Edge requires 90 confirmed passengers in any combination of inbound and outbound travel to make this work.

If you are interested, you should contact Travel Edge at info@traveledge.bm. If you have previously registered your interest on the government website, we will ensure that you receive the information about this charter flight.

This morning the government expanded services that are available to the public. These services include the Transport Control Department, the Office of the Tax Commissioner, and ground floor cashiers in both the Government Administration Building and the Dame Lois Brown Evans Building.

The Transport Control Department was open for most business today. While there were long lines at one point this morning, overall, today went well at TCD. There was one element of confusion with respect to the collection of vehicle registrations by those persons who licenced their vehicle online while TCD was closed. Those who used the eTCD system and elected to have their items picked up, versus them being mailed can collect their registration at the National Sports Centre pavilion.

To assist with physical distancing, TCD is asking everyone to go the pavilion using the same system used for grocery shopping days. So, if your last name is:

A – F: your day is Mondays and Thursdays

G – Q: Tuesdays and Fridays

R – Z: Wednesdays and Saturdays

For those persons whose last name is R – Z and you wish to collect your registration on Saturday, please visit TCD offices on North Street, not the pavilion on Saturday.

All customers going to TCD on North Street will be served on a first come, first served basis. However, it is important to know that you can avoid all lines by using the etcd.gov.bm website and choosing the option to have your vehicle registration mailed to you, versus you picking it up.

To give an update on the delivery of mail: home delivery has been occurring every week Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This will continue for the next few weeks. All post boxes are accessible to the public at this time. Starting tomorrow parcels can be collected from the General Post Office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Public access to Government offices, however, will be limited and there are a number of new procedures in place for anyone who has to go into a Government office; specific locations may have additional criteria in place.

Before entering any Government building, a Government official will request that all persons have their body temperature taken with an infrared (touchless) thermometer.

To enter Government buildings, everyone must wear a face covering. Those without a face covering will be refused entry.

Hand sanitizer will be set up at each entrance. Everyone must sanitize their hands before entering the building.

Regarding the use of elevators, depending on size, only one or two people may ride in an elevator at the same time. There will be signs outside each elevator indicating how many persons are allowed in at the same time. However, to encourage physical distancing persons are encourage to use the stairs.

To assist with physical distancing outside, there will be there will be markers identifying breaks between six feet. Government officials will be located at doors and there will be signs at the front of each building to let you know what you should and shouldn’t do while in the building.

Earlier today, discussions were held with our union partners on the economic situation facing our country and how together we can act as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and do our part to save jobs, help those in need and save tax payer dollars. Within government, we have already identified $65 million dollars in taxpayer savings and we are working collaboratively with our union partners and we expect to find even more.

These talks were fruitful and I am convinced that we understand the need to find solutions that will benefit all.

Yet as we look to our public officers for sacrifice and solutions, all too often social commentators look solely to them to bear the burden of sacrifice, while those who can afford to sacrifice are rarely asked to do so.

Our public officers have often been scapegoated, abused, and disrespected and portrayed as the source and solution to most of our problems.  The Government certainly does not accept that. In fact we reject that mindset entirely. We know the sacrifices they make, and the tireless work that many of them have performed, especially in the last few months, as this country has battled this pandemic.

As we are in this together, sacrifice will be discussed with all, worked upon by all, and made by all. Not just those at the lowest end of the economic scale, and just not by public officers. It makes no sense to ask persons to take cuts to their wages when people do not get cuts to interest rates or cuts to their power bills. So to be clear, fairness is needed across the board, and this government will ensure that all are to be a part of the equation.

As we close tonight, I want to focus on the people who did their part in the early days of Phase One to try help our country move forward and closer to the next phase to reopening of our country and our economy.

If you serve on the frontlines as a medical professional battling COVID-19 and caring for its victims;

If you serve on the frontlines in maintaining law and order;

If you are helping to keep our people fed, or reopening your business, following the rules and ensuring people maintain their strict social distancing;

Or if you simply played by the rules, maintained physical distancing, limited gatherings to 10 or less people and only left the house when necessary.

Thank you.

You are the ones who, despite the actions of a selfish few, will help move all of us to a closer normal return.

Bermuda we can get through this. And we have come too far together, to fracture and crumble now. I know that there may have been a lot of pent up frustration and energy, after being inside of your homes for four weeks. However, it is important that as a country, we do better, we stand stronger, we hold each other accountable, and obey the law so that together we can see our lives and our collective health, improve.

This is not forever, but the longer it takes for us to get our act together, the longer it will take for us to come out of this. Thank you, and I’m happy to take any questions that you may have.

Press Conference May 1, 2020

COVID19 Update

 

Good afternoon.

Today, people around the world are observing International Worker’s Day, also known as Labour Day or May Day in other jurisdictions. Though in Bermuda we celebrate Labour later in the year, I want to acknowledge the workers of Bermuda and the global struggle for better work conditions, better wages, and better lives for all. I commend our Island’s unions and their members for the contributions you have made over the years, and the contribution you continue to make for the betterment of our community.

From the start of this national health crisis, we have sought to be as bipartisan and inclusive as possible, as we believe that not only do many hands make light work, but many minds, working together on our collective problem is likely to produce better outcomes for all. COVID-19 does not care if or how you vote and at this time, neither should we. In perhaps what is a first in modern Bermuda history, I am joined at an official Government press conference by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Craig Cannonier who will be addressing you as well as the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education. The Minister of National Security, without his dog this afternoon, is also here to answer any questions you may have regarding the enforcement of our rules in phase one.

First, I would like the Minister of Health to provide an update on COVID-19 cases in Bermuda and the work being carried out by the Ministry of Health.

The Minister of Health’s Statement

Today there were 207 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda continues to have 114 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 60 active cases, of which
  • 44 persons are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 16 persons are hospitalized
  • a total of 48 have now recovered, and
  • the total deceased is now 6.

I realize some members of the media have a great appetite for intimate details about patients, including how many are on ICU and on ventilators. These are small numbers of people who can easily become identifiable in our small community, so I ask you: if it were your loved one, would you want their information discussed in the press? Probably not. I know I would not want it for myself. So, while I can tell you that there are 4 COVID patients on ICU currently, this is not a figure we will report routinely out of respect for those 4 patients and their families. I ask that you to refrain from seeking further details on such small numbers of identifiable people.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 95 years. The age of persons hospitalized ranges between 57 and 91 years, and the average age is 76.

Just under 2,800 (2,791) people have now been tested for COVID-19. This represents 4% of our population and it is an excellent rate compared to the region overall, placing us among the top 10% in the world. Aggressive testing will continue next week, prioritizing physician referrals, contacts, nursing homes and essential workers including public officers. The drive-through will operate daily from 2pm to 7pm.

As I have mentioned before, the island’s increased testing capability means not only that more people can be tested, but also that we can retest people who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure that they no longer carry the virus.

I am sure many of us are eagerly awaiting the lifting of sheltering in place tomorrow. But, please, as the Premier and I have already said, this does not mean that everything goes back to normal ….we are not out of the woods yet…and testing does not make us safe!

I’m increasingly worried that I hear people of all ages – young and older – are already planning parties and gatherings. Please don’t. People still need to avoid moving about and congregating with different households as much as possible. The fact that we have more freedom of movement now, does not mean that we can move freely as if COVID-19 did not exist.

COVID-19 is still with us and will be for the foreseeable future. So avoid gatherings, avoid mixing households, and avoid moving around unnecessarily.

The more we move around, the more we expose ourselves and others. The more people we have contact with, the more risk of contracting COVID or transmitting it to others.

So do not see the end of Shelter in Place as a green light to party. It is merely an amber light to proceed with caution… physically distant, masked and in small groups.

It’s probably worth noting that we are shifting our language from ‘social distance’ to ‘physical distance’.  This is to emphasize the protective measure that staying six feet or two meters apart offers in preventing COVID spread. Likewise, wearing a face mask and minimizing congregating and movement serve to create physical distance between people to prevent transmission.

The point is to be physically separated, not socially isolated. This is important as we move through our gradual phases of re-opening and transitioning to a new normal.

The Premier has already outlined the precise stipulations of how we will proceed in Phase 1 of the reopening…and hopefully everyone has had time to absorb that information and will abide by the restrictions. How will we know if you aren’t? Among other things, we would see a rise in hospital admissions for the virus or signs of community transmission, which the island has avoided so far. If this happens we would have to start looking at suppression measures, including recommending a return to shelter in place to bring COVID under control once again.

As we start to remove our movement limitations, I would like to remind the public that it is Vaccination Week in the Americas.

Unfortunately, we do not yet have an effective vaccine for COVID-19 and, until a vaccine for COVID19 is available, immunizations can and must be delivered by our health services alongside the response to COVID-19. Here’s why:

First, we must vaccinate to protect our health workers, the elderly and vulnerable populations from other respiratory infections, such as influenza and pneumococcus, which can lead to more hospitalizations and may be harder to diagnose in the context of COVID-19.

Second, if we fall behind on routine immunizations, particularly for children, we risk outbreaks, thus overwhelming hospitals and clinics with preventable diseases in addition to COVID-19.

The impact on our health systems would take months or even years to reverse. Remember, ICU capacity is among the factors that would determine if our hospital could cope if COVID-19 cases were to increase sharply.

COVID-19 is putting our health systems to the test. Going forward, the challenge is to ensure that our health systems deliver on our priority health programs, even while responding to COVID-19… which is why we also want to continue to encourage persons with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) – such as diabetes, hypertension and COPD – to manage their conditions as much as they can so they do not end up in the emergency room.

In addition to physical distancing to prevent COVID, technology is going to be a big part of how stay informed and monitor our health. In this vein, I’m pleased to highlight the Bermuda Health Council’s establishment of an online health monitoring tool called HealthIQ.

The Health Council worked with young local talent, Gabriel Jones who is an 18 year old Saltus student, and a seasoned software engineer, Lee McArthur, to launch HealthIQ which will help us, as a community, to track symptoms based on COVID criteria. It will also provide users with individualized information and follow-up by professionals based on various risk factors (such as being medically vulnerable), and track trends and gaps so that we can better identify places where partners like donors and the Third Sector can focus resources.

This data is very important as we plan for and transition from Phase I, to Phase II, Phase III, and Phase IV.  This data will make sure we are informed so that we do not skip vital steps in our recovery and are not forced to start back from square one.

By having this critical data, the Health Council will be able to support the Ministry’s Incident Command Team and the contact tracers in their work to identify and contact persons if they are feeling unwell and provide support and advice on what to do.

HealthIQ will also provide the island with more insight into where potential cases of COVID-19 may be and give us a proactive way to address them… giving us tens of thousands of eyes so that we can all stay safe.  As we have seen in other countries such as South Korea, the more information known about the community, the better decisions the population can make about their movement and the public health measures they must adopt.

We are asking that each household go to healthiq.bm and enter your information immediately and update it often. This is especially important as we all start to head out of our homes more.  We need all 64,000 represented in this data so all of our 64,000 can move forward. Give yourself and your community a better understanding of how we’re all doing.

As I wrap up, I would like to remind all food businesses that are opening tomorrow that they must ensure that the premises are fully cleaned and pest-free before opening. A guidance note in this regard can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm.

In closing, I would like to remind you to continue with physical distancing (keep six feet between you and others), wear a mask in public places, practice respiratory hygiene, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for no less than 20 seconds.

Thank you very much, Minister of Health. I think that it is refreshing to note that as you said in your comments that Bermuda as a percentage of population tested is now in the top 10% of the world. That is a massive accomplishment over the last weeks where we’ve been able to ramp up our testing capacity, and I am grateful for the efforts of all persons who have been involved in that particular effort.

As Minister of Health ended on the technology solutions that are going to be launched to assist us in our battle with COVID-19, I do want to expand a little bit on those particular matters as some of these also live with myself as Minister responsible for technology for the Government of Bermuda.

I just want persons to know that we are evaluating a wide array of options, and our goal is to leverage technology as a tool to assist in reopening our economy as quickly as possible, while minimizing the risk of the spread of this virus. Managing this is certainly something that is complex, and we need to make sure that we can use technology to effectively: understand and evaluate trends of symptoms that could indicate a further spread; understand the movement flows and congregation of people as an aggregated group, not as individuals to better understand the risks; to continue to aggressively test our essential workers; and to make sure that when, in any case that there’s a positive case, we can assist persons in identifying their contacts, so that we can isolate those cases and ensure that those persons can also be tested.

What is most important from a technology perspective, is the anonymous interactions that we are exploring potential community technology solutions to address and where cell phone based apps can help. But, they also require a large segment of the population using them to be effective. Therefore, it is essential that we focus driving that level of confidence in any choice that the Government makes going forward. Any solution must put privacy first. If not, it will not be successful.

Beyond that, we are looking for solutions that are cost effective, have active development communities, have a limited requirement for technical resources, and are compatible across all jurisdictions, as we look to eventually open our borders. While some countries like Singapore and Australia have rushed to launch apps, there are well-documented challenges. Others are waiting on Apple and Google, who have announced API’s that will allow for more efficient apps to be developed, which will put less burden on individual’s devices, and also encourage greater participation.

We are exploring a number of key areas to address these challenges and have actually completed some of them. First, is a self-centred reporting tool, being launched by the Bermuda Health Council, which the Minister of Health just addressed. Second, is the record-keeping solution to assist the efforts of the contact tracing team, which is the Go.Data platform, which the Minister of Health has also said has been brought live. Third, is a GPS location tracking app for essential services workers who interact with at-risk individuals to quickly recall where they went and who they interacted with, should they become affected. That is something that will be able to be piloted next week. And then finally, a Bluetooth contact tracing solution to better manage anonymous interactions.

Here’s what’s important. It’s important that we recognize the difference between the two apps: the GPS apps can tell you where your phone is or was at a certain point in time, the Bluetooth apps can tell you how close your phone is to another phone that may be running the same app.

These sorts of technology solutions are not magic fixes. They are tools that can be leveraged by our teams to better provide insights to support their particular efforts. We continue to explore and evaluate the possible solutions, so that we can fulfill our goal of opening our economy as quickly as possible while mitigating any risks, and certainly technology that can help us track and trace will be a key tool in that endeavour.

However, it is essential that persons in Bermuda understand that these solutions are being evaluated carefully. As we need your participation in order for this to be a success, we are not rushing to any solution and we’re only going to implement a solution that can be certain that can protect individuals’ privacies. We are working as quickly as possible on these particular solutions, and we’ll be pleased to update you in the future. Right now, the team consists of Dennis Pitcher who is the Chief FinTech Advisor, Martin Walsh who is working in the Information Development team inside of the Government, and we’re also working with overseas universities, and a place to look to pilot a particular application here in Bermuda. So that is the update for that.

Now I will say that before we go to the Minister of Education, as shelter in place ends tomorrow we will enter Phase one of the careful reopening of our economy. This is important to get our country moving again and getting some persons back to work. While schools will not be reopening at this phase in the process, we recognize that we cannot send our people fully back to work if our students are unable to return to school. Today, the Minister of Education will provide an update on Education and the work ahead. Minister.

The Minister of Education’s Statement

In our efforts to keep the general public informed and specifically our entire education family, this evening I am providing updates on both Department of Education and Bermuda College matters, for our students, educators, and parents and guardians.

Prior to the updates, let me say that today is Principal Appreciation Day! At this time I want to acknowledge and thank all of our educational leaders in both the private and public school systems for their commitment to the education of our children. Their leadership is applauded through this unprecedented time, and we say thank you!

I will begin with sharing brief updates for the Department of Education covering:

  • Remote Learning
  • Provision of Laptops
  • Preparation for School Reopening
  • Graduation Requirements
  • Student Transcripts

Remote Learning

On Wednesday this week the Hon Premier announced in his Press Statement that after the lifting of the Shelter in Place, all schools will remain closed. This means that next week our schools will continue with remote learning until the decision is made for schools to reopen. I applaud the trojan efforts of our principals, our teachers and staff as they deliver remote learning experiences to our students.

I have seen several videos and WhatsApp meesages that are being circulated and I must say that there are many amazing learning experiences happening for our students at all levels of the Education System. Using Zoom as the major technology tool, schools are holding weekly student assemblies and in some instances are students are leading out, morning meetings are held as well as circle times with students. Teachers are delivering lessons in real time. They are also sharing pre-recorded lessons and providing a variety of stimulating activities for all subject areas, including science experiments.

Students are receiving small group instruction; with Learning Support teachers and Reading teachers joining in sessions with their students during their class or individually scheduled time. Students are uploading videos, pictures and other evidence to confirm what they are learning and what they can do.

Students are also receiving services from educational therapists, para educators and school counsellors. I am pleased that some of our parents are engaged in conferences, MTSS Sessions, and some parents have participated in Zoom chat and chews. There are some principals who are teaching classes; and one principal has even launched a Youtube video for read aloud time with students.

As we close out the month of April, which was autism month, I commend the teachers in our pre, primary, middle and senior schools who deliver the Autism Programme for our students with autism. They too are using Zoom to provide interactive lessons and appropriate sensory activities for our students.

As parents adjust to the steady demands of remote learning, providing support is critical. I extend my gratitude to Mirrors who is assisting with coordinating donations for laptops for students; and with supporting parents through their Parent Connect Programme. Parents who are seeking support with navigating Zoom and the remote learning experience can use the Bermuda Public School System (BPSS) Family’s electronic feedback form to access the support. The link to the form will be sent to parents again next week.

Laptops for Teachers and Students

Last week the Department of Education’s IT team prepared laptops donated by PWC for distribution to some of our teachers. We are very much grateful to PWC for the donation of 90 laptops These were delivered this week to 59 teachers with the assistance of staff from the Ministry of Public Works. The delivery of the remaining laptops will continue next week.

I also extend my gratitude to the Bank of Bermuda Foundation for providing laptops to some of our students and teachers valued at rougholy $34,000. There were 21 students at The Berkeley Institute, and 10 students and 7 teachers at the Dellwood Middle School who have received Laptops.

Let me acknowledge CEO Mr. Frank Amaral of One Communications Ltd.  Mr. Amaral contacted CedarBridge Academy to offer  free WiFi hotspots for students without internet. These devices will enable students to  participate in the school’s remote learning programme for the remainder of the online learning experience.  One Communications Ltd. has provided over 60 devices for public schools, with CedarBridge Academy receiving 22 devices for senior school students.  I thank Mr. Frank Amaral and One Communications Ltd. for their generous donation and support of students in the Bermuda Public School System.

Also, Bermuda-based Legal & General Reinsurance will be launching a ‘Lighthouse Connect’ fund to raise monies to purchase free laptops to public school students. Legal & General have already provided an initial contribution to the funds. The laptops will be procured in stages as funds are raised; and the distribution of laptops will then be managed by the Mirrors Programme in conjunction with the Department of Education. We thank the CEO of Legal & General Reinsurance, Mr. Thomas Olunloyo.

The generous donations from PWC, the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, One Communications Ltd. and, Legal & General Reinsurance will certainly strengthen the remote learning programme and ultimately benefit all of our students and teachers.

Preparing for School Reopening

Although there is no fixed date when our schools will reopen, there is still the need to be positioned and ready for effective delivery of classroom teaching and learning. Therefore, technical officers in the Department of Education led by the Commissioner of Education have had several planning meetings preparing for the reopening of schools. Department staff are working closely with Ministry of Health representatives who have provided extensive guidance and technical support on health and safety protocols that must be implemented when schools reopen.  A draft plan of considerations for reopening schools was developed with components detailing the various protocols required. On Wednesday this week, we held a meeting with all three Union stakeholders (the BIU, BPSU and BUT). We were very pleased that the President of each Union participated. There was much exchange including comments, feedback on the draft plan and recommendations for improvement. The componenets of the draft plan was also shared with our school leaders at a meeting held yesterday. The information received will help in finalizing the school reopening plan.

Graduation Requirements

We have received questions from our students and parents about graduation requirements and obtaining school transcripts for university, scholarships and awards applications.

At this time, I want to personally inform our S4 senior school students, our parents, and the educational community that I have agreed to the recommendations made to revise some of the requirements for our High School Diplomas, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. These changes will affect both the Bermuda School Diploma (BSD) and the Bermuda Alternative School Diploma (BASD); and, are applicable only for the June 2020 cohort.

Our senior school students transitioned to remote learning on March 19th as a result of the closure of schools. Additionally, the shelter in place impacted many students’ ability to complete all the requirements for graduation which included the required hours for community service, co-curricular hours, and work placement activities.

Therefore, I have agreed that the minimum requirement for community service, co-curricular activities, and work experience will be waived where normally applicable. All other graduation requirements will remain in place.   That is, for both the Bermuda School Diploma (BSD) and the Bermuda Alternative School Diploma (BASD), students must still meet the minimum requirements for course credits, the grade point average (GPA), and school attendance.

The revisions to the diploma requirements apply only to those criteria impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. I am satisfied that the revisions are reasonable and will not compromise the academic standard or currency of each diploma. I thank our senior school Principals and staff for their collaborative efforts to facilitate remote learning for our students. I also wish our S4 students well in their efforts to meet the requirements for their respective graduation diploma.

Transcripts

Also, as our students prepare for after high school experiences, I want to ensure that they are clear about the process for securing transcripts.

Each senior school has a designated member of staff who is responsible for responding to requests for transcripts. As a first step, students are to email requests for transcripts to:

  1. Ms. Nicole Crockwell at The Berkeley Institute; and,
  2. Ms. Shampagne Cann at CedarBridge Academy.

Once the transcript verification process is completed for a student, staff members, at each of the respective schools will complete the transcript request form and submit it to the Department of Education.  Once received by schools, transcript requests will be completed within 5 business days.

Former students of the Bermuda Public School System who require transcripts will need to complete the relevant form which can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website at www.moed.bm.  Requests for transcripts from former students will be filled within 3 business days.

Before, moving on to the Bermuda College, I would like to provide a brief update on the Ministry of Education scholarships and awards offerings, to let applicants know that the deadline has been extended to Thursday May 7th.   I know that many of you are operating under difficult circumstances, but I encourage those who are pursuing post-secondary education to find the time to complete their applications.  Upon reviewing the number of applications received this morning, we noted that the number of applications submitted is lower than last year for all categories, with the exception of two. So, with the extended deadline, this gives time for applicants to still submit applications. Anyone with questions or concerns should email scholarships@moed.bmfor assistance.

Thank you to those who completed our scholarship survey and shared how COVID-19 has impacted planned studies and/or your ability to complete scholarship applications. We received 108 survey responses which are currently being analyzed.  The results will help us to better support applicants and our upcoming scholarships recipients.

I now turn to the Bermuda College updates as impacted by COVID-19. 

On March 23rd, just after the first positive case of the virus was reported in Bermuda, the Bermuda College closed its campus and moved its classes online, while its employees began working remotely from home.

However, during the past 5 weeks, some of the creative and innovative activities that have been occurring include:

  • Virtual science labs and field trips,
  • Culinary arts students conducting labs in their own kitchens supported virtually by their instructors, and
  • Zoom lectures, group discussions and musical performances.

Students in environmental studies even sponsored an online “Trashion Show” using completely recyclable materials.  To continue unparalleled support of students, counselling services, academic advising, and tutoring have all continued virtually.

Let me extend my gratitude to the faculty and staff at Bermuda College who have ably risen to the challenges of reverting to an e-learning platform with little notice, and who have innovatively facilitated the success of student learning.

Unfortunately, like many of its overseas counterparts, Bermuda College has decided not to hold a Commencement ceremony this year as a result of COVID-19.   They will be celebrating the Class of 2020 at a future date. However, the College will be putting a plan in place so that graduates can collect their certificates, diplomas and Associate degrees on May 28th 2020.

Summer School at the Bermuda College, that was due to start on May 18th, will now start on June 1st and all courses will be on line.  The course schedule for the academic and professional development courses will be available on the College website, www.college.bm on May 5th.  This is an opportune time to learn new skills, expand your resume, and develop your personal or professional worth.  With its international accreditation, students from overseas institutions can also take summer courses to decrease their course load for the Fall term.  We encourage students and adults alike to discover new course areas such as FinTech, data analysis, project management and managing remote teams, that are particularly pertinent during these times.

I am particularly pleased to note that the PACE Division will be offering the Certificate for Nursing Assistants programme online, which is both timely and relevant because of the critical and immediate need for healthcare professionals.

As a way of assisting the community during these unprecedented times, Bermuda College is also inviting the community to take advantage of its online training resource, Hoonuit (pronounced Who Knew It).  There are a wide variety of tutorials available covering: software and technology, goal setting, time management, and teaching and instructional resources. This resource will be offered to the community at no charge from May 5th until September 1st.  The registration form will be available on the Bermuda College website on May 5th.

Finally, Bermuda College is considering various options for the next academic year and will be making a decision about its Fall semester courses in early June.  For further details on programmes and courses visit the Bermuda College website at www.college.bm.

As I close, I commend the Bermuda College students on their hard work in adapting to remote learning under these circumstances, and encourage them to continue their studies in the Summer and/or Fall. I want to also thank the Bermuda College employees for all that they have been doing, and are doing to ensure tertiary education continues during this pandemic.

Thank you very much, Minister of Education. As mentioned previously we are joined today by the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Craig Cannonier. During this period of national crisis, it’s important for the people of Bermuda, to know, feel, and understand that both sides of the political divide are working together for the good of the country. Following our meeting on Monday, I’ve invited the Opposition Leader to say some words to Bermuda. Opposition Leader.

The Opposition Leader’s Statement

Thank you very much premier and good evening Bermuda

I want to give great thanks for the opportunity that we have this evening to sit at the table in a bi-partisan approach to a virus that seeks to annihilate us.  One of the things that I am clear about concerning this virus is it’s after our most precious resource, and that is you Bermuda.   What I am clear about this virus is that it also seeks to destroy our economy.  What is has clearly highlighted however, is our need for each other.   And so again I thank the Premier again for this opportunity, because only together will we get through this as best we can.

My presence here this evening marks the Premier and my self’s commitment to seek every opportunity we can to seek to fight this virus.  Clearly you have seen that we are in uncharted waters and so leadership many times will not be spared the scathing of criticism but what is clear is that we, as a people, must stick together to eradicate this very thing called COVID-19 that seeks to destroy each and everyone of us. So again I say thank you to the conversations, to our Premier, for the conversations that we have had; I would like to say thank you to the cabinet  and the opportunities and agreeing that I could sit at the table to show you Bermuda that there is hope at the end of this tunnel that we can come together and fight this thing.

This COVID has caused us to question our politics, it has caused us to question our economy and it has caused us to question our priorities.   And so as the Premier and myself continue to walk through and have discussions, we many not always agree, but what we have agreed to do is ensure that the line of communications is open and that we will do everything possible to create an environment of safety and to lessen the pain that we are going through.

I have had the opportunity and have spoken to the Premier about the fact that I am out on a daily basis delivering meals, and it is clear that this virus has pointed out that we have some challenges that we must face as a people.  We have far too many people still hurting and together, I believe, that we will find the solutions to ensure that anytime that anyone is under threat that it will get a bi-partisan approach to dealing with these situations.

And so to our emergency services I want to say thank you; the conversations that we have had have been great.  And I know it is not always easy when we are serving one another.  We can be pretty tough on one another at times.  I recognize that there is true real fear out there because lives are at stake.  And so together I believe and I know that we will solve the challenges that we face.  We must continue to aggressively quarantine, test and trace and as the Health Minister has said, in addition to that, we must follow the guidelines that have been set out before us.

If is required in an environment to wear your mask, YOU MUST WEAR YOUR MASK.  If it’s an environment were you must wear your gloves and you must socially distance yourself  YOU MUST FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES.   It is our future that is at stake.  And so once again I am grateful, I don’t want to take up too much time as we move through.  We have regulations that we are about to go through this evening, but I want to thank the Premier and Bermuda, you, for the calls and the conversations and the questions.  I am sure the Premier is scratching his head some nights when we are up at mid-night and I forcing through and pushing through questions to him, there is truly an effort being made to get to the resolution of getting Bermuda back to its normalcy as best as possible.

But bare this in mind, Bermuda and the rest of the world will not be the same after this virus.  The new norm will not be before January, it will change.  And I am here to support every minister and the work that they do, the cabinet and the Premier as we move forward.  Asking questions, and many times tough questions, but they must be asked because the benefit of Bermuda truly resides in us working together.   Thank you Mr. Premier.

Thank you, Opposition Leader. I do know that there are a few persons questioning why I’m wearing red today. No, it was not at the invitation of the Opposition Leader. It was actually the invitation of the President of the Bermuda Public Services Union, as Red is the colour for International Workers Day. So I don’t want anyone to be confused there. But thank you, Leader of the Opposition, we are working together and we’re going to continue to work together. And as we have laid out, trusting each other is not the easiest thing to do, but the country needs to see that we can work together during this very difficult, challenging time for the country. And I think that we are making progress in that regard.

Shelter in place ends tomorrow at 6 AM, and we move into phase one. How long we will be in phase one and how long it will take us to move to phase two will be up to each and every one of us adhering closely to the guidelines and keeping each other accountable. To allow for more substantive questions from members of the media, the Physical Distancing and Closure Schedule has been handed out and has already been posted on the internet, in addition to the new regulations which will govern this shelter in place period. Following conversations with the Leader of the Opposition and also His Excellency the Governor, these Emergency Powers Regulations will be tabled in the House of Assembly when the House of Assembly meets virtually on Friday. It is likely that we will also debate those matters that Friday, or possibly at the next sitting, but it is important that we maintain the level of parliamentary scrutiny. And we want to make sure that we can go through these things together.

As I have already outlined, in phase one it will no longer be illegal to visit another household. However, it is strongly encouraged that persons do not visit other households. Remember the more closely we adhere to the guidelines, the faster we can safely move to Phase 2. A curfew will remain in place between the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM. During that time, it is illegal for you to be in a home that is not yours.

Gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 persons. This is outdoor gatherings and indoor gatherings, including private homes. It is not the time to host parties, as it is an offense to host a group or gathering of more than 10 persons.

Permitted businesses will be able to remain open between the hours of 7 AM and 9 PM. Permitted businesses are the only businesses that are allowed to have customers inside of their business, and those are: retail grocery stores; pharmacies; banks; gas stations; office of a registered health professional, clinic, hospital, or other health facility; a pet shop with the permission of the Minister of National Security; or laundromat with the permission of the Minister of National Security. Grocery stores, gas stations, and pet stores remain open under the current conditions of lettered days of shopping and those things will be continued to be prescribed with minor modifications to Sunday shopping.

During phase one, bars and clubs; beauty salons, spas, barbers; cinemas, concert halls, theatres; gyms, sports clubs; restaurants for dine in; and swimming pools in hotels, guest houses, and other vacation rental properties will be closed.

Retail businesses and restaurants will be permitted to open between the hours of 7 AM and 9 PM with conditions. When it comes to retail stores, customers shall not be permitted to enter the premises. When it comes to restaurants, only one customer at a time shall be permitted to enter the premises in order to collect or pay for an order and dine-in services are prohibited. Retail stores and restaurants are permitted to make deliveries between the hours of 9 AM and 9 PM and deliveries can be performed by delivery vehicles from those companies, by taxis, and/or other public service vehicles. When it comes to fishermen and farmers, licensed fishermen may sell fresh local fish and registered commercial farmers may sell fresh local produce roadside on Monday to Saturday only, subject to the supervision and permission of the Minister of Home Affairs. These persons may also make deliveries to customers.

Playgrounds and outdoor exercise equipment in public parks shall remain closed to the public. This is important as we do not have the cleaning regimes in place yet for those particular items and therefore, although it is very tempting to allow children to go to playgrounds, they are closed at this point in time. As is the outdoor exercise equipment in the public parks. However, they can run around in the public parks, they can go and run around on the beach, as long as they are maintaining physical distancing.

Regarding boating, boating activity is allowed. However, there are restrictions. Boats cannot have any more than 10 persons on them and boats cannot have persons who are from more than one household on a particular boat. That is specifically expressed inside of the regulations. Additionally, rafting up to other vessels for leisure is prohibited under the regulations as is prescribed. So this weekend is not the time, even though the weather is bad. This weekend, during the week, or next weekend is not the time to try to have that party on the water. We are not there yet.

Construction, mechanical, landscaping services, and other trades can reopen with strict physical distancing. Guidance will be released which will require all employees and customers to wear masks. Any business or job site not adhering to that guidance will be closed.

The Public Service will continue to work remotely, but limited public-facing services such as cashier counter services will reopen on Monday, May 4 for such areas such as TCD, the Office of the Tax Commissioner and the Cashiers on the ground floor of the Government Administration Building, and the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building. The Head of the Public Service has advised that Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments have developed plans for the phased expansion of Government services commencing Monday, May 4. These plans will see Public Officers who are not able to work remotely returning to their workplaces under physical distancing guidelines. In some instances, this will require Public Officers to work in rotation. There will be limited public access.

Government’s union partners have been engaged for their input, as well as to discuss any proposed plans with them. The priority is to ensure that necessary precautions are in place to keep Public Officers safe and healthy. Department heads are now discussing their revised operating plans with their staff.

Laundromats will continue to operate under the current restrictions, and they will be able to operate between the hours of 7 AM to 9 PM.

The new laws still requires employers to allow their employees to work from home if they are able to do so. Businesses that are requiring workers to come into the office when those workers aren’t able to work from home, outside of what is stated in law may be reported to the police on 211, and are subject to penalties under the law.

Parks, beaches, and the railway trails will reopen. Persons may use the outdoor facilities of a sports club, such as a golf course, tennis court, or a sporting field, provided that appropriate physical distancing is maintained at all times and any groups do not exceed 10 persons. There are no contact sports that are allowed.

Limited public transportation is set to resume next week, and the schedule will be advised in the current days by the Minister of Transport.

Church buildings will remain closed for regular services. However, members of the clergy shall be permitted to enter a church or other religious establishment, providing that appropriate physical distancing is maintained for these two things: private prayer, which is a maximum of five persons; and in order to broadcast a service via electronic means, which will include a maximum of 10 persons to conduct the service and to facilitate the broadcast. That second portion represents no change than what we’ve been under for the past four weeks.

We are planning to take a very slow and phased response to re-opening the island which will require constant monitoring of any particular increase of cases. If we see a significant increase in cases based on comparisons with our modelling or if we see that people and businesses are not complying with the conditions of Phase One, unfortunately more intense public health measures will have to be implemented. And I plead with all persons in Bermuda, do not force us to go in that direction. There are persons inside of our economy who are hurting, who want to get back to work. And it is collectively all of us working together, which will ensure that we can do that.

We are in this together and for most of this journey, we have stayed together united in one purpose, united in one vision, and united in one objective. I’m very proud of the work that each and every Bermudian has done in your way to get us to where we are, to the ending of shelter in place. As we have reached across the political divide, I am tonight reaching out to everyone in Bermuda for your help. Together we came through shelter in place and together we can come through phase one, and beyond into a new normal: where we can return to work, children can return to school, and our lives can return to some semblance of normality.

Please keep the family of those who have lost loved ones to this disease, and those that are battling with it as we speak in your prayers.

Finally tonight, I know that there are those who feel that their work and contribution to our efforts have not been recognized. With the sheer number of workers, organizations, bodies, and people involved it is almost impossible to thank everyone without leaving someone out.

This does not diminish your worth, your value, and your contribution in any way. If you or your colleagues feel that you have not received the recognition you deserve, if you feel that your name has not been called and it should have, I am truly sorry. As the Reverend Jesse Jackson once said, “Charge it to my head and not to my heart,” for while in positions and situations of fatigue and stress, our minds may sometimes fall short, but each and every Bermudian, every essential service workers, everyone from health care professionals in the hospital, to the doctors’ offices, and the frontline, all of our essential services, all the persons that are keeping the Government continuing to run, the third sector services, the persons who are out delivering food to our seniors and vulnerable populations or checking on all those persons, you are thanked from the bottom of my heart for everything that you’ve done to get us to where we are today.

When this is over, we will all have a time to collectively celebrate, but we have a lot of work to do before we get to that point. So today’s press conference has been long, there has been a lot of information, and we’re looking forward to answering any questions that persons may have. Please note that the Government website, coronavirus.gov.bm has been updated with the Physical Distancing Guidelines and the Closure Schedule. In addition, the new regulations which have been sent to the Governor for his publication will also be put on the Government website bermudalaws.bm so all persons can see exactly what regulations are in place for this next phase of operations. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.