July 28 Press Conference Update

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 28 2020

 

Good afternoon Bermuda. Welcome to tonight’s COVID-19 press conference. Joining me today are the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, and the Minister of Public Works, the Hon. Lt Col David Burch.

We will start our press conference this evening with remarks for the Minister of Health, on the latest update regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Minister of Health.

Minister of Health

Today there were 555 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and 2 were positive for COVID-19. Both new cases were imported on the Delta flight from Atlanta on 27th July 2020.

Bermuda now has 156 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 6 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring, and
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 141 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 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.

Overall, 54% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 6% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 52 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

As we enter the Cup Match weekend, some of you may have travel plans for the holiday period…I would urge those individuals – and ANYONE considering travel over the next few weeks – to read the Ministry of Health’s Travel Advice for Residents, which is currently posted at coronavirus.gov.bm.

To be clear – in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health advises that Bermuda residents should avoid all non-essential overseas travel until further notice.

Keep in mind that many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions, and new restrictions may be imposed with little warning. Therefore your travel plans may be severely disrupted and you may be forced to remain outside of Bermuda longer than expected, incurring additional expenses.

If you’re thinking about travelling off of the Island during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should consider the following:

  • Anticipate a greater risk of exposure if travelling by public means (bus, train, or airplane) and take enhanced measures to protect yourself such as wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often.
  • Explore with your employer any quarantine restrictions that you will be required to adhere to in your workplace upon you return.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient finances and necessities, including medication, in case your travels are disrupted.
  • Understand the risk of your safety and security abroad.
  • Make sure you are up to date on measles, mumps, and seasonal flu vaccinations.
  • Ensure you pack extra alcohol-based hand sanitizers and non-perishable foods; and be prepared to clean and disinfect your travel lodgings.

If you must travel during the COVID-19 pandemic there are certain things you must do during your trip. This includes the following:

  • Avoid large crowds or crowded areas;
  • Avoid contact with sick people, especially those with cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer;
  • And wear a mask in all public settings.

Upon return to Bermuda, you must comply with all testing and quarantine requirements. You will find the latest information by clicking the “travellers” tab on coronavirus.gov.bm. If you cannot get a COVID test in the country you are visiting, you will be required to quarantine for 4 days on your return.

There are also specific Return to Work standards which employers and employees should follow; these can also be found on the coronavirus.gov.bm page. They group employees into one of three workplace settings – low risk, medium risk and high risk, which then dictate how an employee should proceed when returning to work after travel.

Returning residents who work in high-exposure risk settings must quarantine for 14 days and have a day-14 negative test for clearance to return to work. This would apply to workers with close, sustained contact with the public and include institutional settings. For example:

  • Care homes;
  • Patient care settings;
  • Corrections;
  • And Health Professionals.

This is because institutionalized settings have a higher density of populations, closer interactions where it is difficult to physically distance and, in some, more vulnerable populations. Therefore the risk of COVID-19 spread is higher in these settings and the Gold standard for COVID-19 prevention should be instituted.

For those who work in Medium risk settings such as retail stores, construction sites, police, public transport and schools and camps, they have two options. They can either adopt a 14-day quarantine until day 14 test results return. Employees can work remotely if possible. Or they should wait for three negative test results before the employee returns to work following the travel.

These settings can implement physical distancing; however, a balance between testing and reconfiguring the work environment can provide some safety when returning to work. Three negative test results within an incubation period for COVID-19 provides some level of assurance.

For those who work in low risk settings such as remote workers and office workers without frequent close contact with others, return to work requires compliance with the normal traveler quarantine and testing regime, as they can work remotely and would not be of increased risk of exposing their colleagues or the public. These workers do not have close, sustained contact with other persons and therefore are of low risk to transmit the virus.

As always, before I step away from the podium tonight, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, avoid congregating in large groups, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

I want to stress that plastic face shields are no substitute for a mask. Face shields may be worn in addition to – but not instead of – a mask. Recent studies have shown that face shields do not protect you or others from COVID-19 as well as a mask.

While on this topic of mask-wearing, I want to remind all summer camps that adults and students over the age of 10 must wear as mask if they are not physically distancing (more than 6 feet apart) from others while inside.

Also, I wish to remind diners and restaurants that there is still a maximum of ten diners allowed per table and that there is a continuing requirement for them to wear masks whenever moving around the restaurants or not at their table. These rules are enforceable by law and apply equally to bars, clubs and liquor license establishments.

I know this Cup Match holiday weekend will be completely different from anything we have enjoyed in the past – no game, no large gatherings with family and friends – but I truly hope that each of you finds joy and a chance to connect with those you love over the next few days. It will be different, but it can still be fun; it can still be meaningful…Cup Match can still be whatever it always was to you.

Thank You. Happy Cup Match. Stay safe and please practice SafeSix… keep six feet apart or wear a mask!

Thank you Minister Wilson.

Before I go to the next minister, my office has received a number of questions surrounding the ending of the Unemployment Benefit to people who aren’t able to work through no fault of their own, as a result of COVID-19.

The first question is about the schedule of payments. The next payments will be made at the end of next week, and there will be no payment made this week Friday. The Benefit ends after a maximum of 18 weeks of payments. This is made up of the original 12 week benefit, plus the initial four week extension, and the further two week extension announced last week.

Individuals started to receive the Benefit at different times. Therefore the end times will vary. However persons who received the benefit at the first week will be eligible for the full 18 weeks.

You do not have to reapply to receive the two week extension. And this extension was granted to give those who came onto the Benefit in the very first weeks, the ability to apply for financial assistance, and to give them time to submit their application and so their application can be processed.

Applications for financial assistance can be found in the lobby of Global House at 43 Church Street. Once the application has been completed. It can be returned to the secure dropbox, also located on the ground floor of Global House.

So far, just over 100 people have submitted an application for financial assistance, who were on the Unemployment Benefit. It is important to note that not everyone who is on the Unemployment Benefit will be able to qualify for Financial Assistance. For those persons who apply for Financial Assistance, and do not qualify, the government is developing a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit. The Minister of Labour will release the details of this Benefit next week.

It is critically important that everyone is aware that you must apply for Financial Assistance, so you can go through the assessment process. If you do not qualify for Financial Assistance, you will then be able to qualify for the Supplemental Benefit but you must go through the process to ensure that your needs are accurately assessed.

Many in Bermuda are starting to prepare for the two day Cup Match holiday. I now invite the Minister of National Security to give an update on what her ministry is doing to prepare for the holiday. Minister Ming.

Minister of National Security

Good evening Bermuda,

This weekend provides an opportunity for the island to come together to celebrate our Emancipation heritage once again.

Even though we won’t be celebrating via the Annual Cricket Classic this year, it’s still a holiday. And it’s our expectation that many of our residents will be heading to our beaches and parks and spending considerable time on the water over the long holiday weekend.

I would like to reiterate that our joint community engagement teams comprising of the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment will be actively visible over the Cup Match holiday.

Please note that the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) has a robust policing plan in place in order to ensure public safety.

With the expectation of large gatherings, they will be present at beaches such as Horseshoe Bay Beach, Clearwater Beach and other frequently attended beaches and park areas.

On the topic of events and gatherings of more than 50 individuals, we continue to urge those in attendance to adhere to the guidelines.

At all times, please practice the appropriate health and safety measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing and proper hand hygiene.

We are also urging the public to use common sense when it comes to alcohol consumption over the holiday period.

As you know, the BPS will be conducting Road Side Sobriety checks across the island over the holiday weekend.

As it relates to recreational boating over the holiday, the BPS and the Coast Guard will be present on our waters to ensure that the marine environment is as safe as possible.

The Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Reserve comprising of Police Officers, RBR soldiers, and Reserve Police Officers will be operating 24-hours a day across Bermuda’s waters, including up to 12 miles from shore.

Regarding the COVID-19 regulations, boaters should be aware of the following:

  • Social distancing on boats must be adhered to;
  • Raft-ups are allowed….  BUT, the right precautions MUST be in place such as the wearing of masks if 3-feet of distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Raft-Ups must not exceed 50 people.

Some general water safety points to know:

  • File a Float Plan with a friend or the Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre before leaving shore;
  • Boaters must have the appropriate safety equipment on board such as life jackets; a working VHF radio and navigation lights;
  • Boaters should not exceed the 5-knot speed limit;
  • Alcohol consumption – As a reminder, operating a vessel under the influence is prohibited;
  • Music – The public is reminded to be courteous to other recreational boaters when playing loud music on the water;
  • Jet Skis – Over the Cup Match weekend, in accordance with the Marine Board Notice 2020, jet skis are prohibited from entering the areas of Paradise Lakes and Mangrove Bay.

To quote aspects of the notice:

Any person operating a personal watercraft, commonly known as a jet ski, is prohibited from entering these areas of water, between 5.00 am Thursday 30 July 2020 – 11.00 pm Sunday 2 August 2020.

The areas include: Paradise Lakes, including all waters between Hawkins Island, Nelly Island, Ports Island, Long Island, Beta Island, Gamma Island, Delta Island, Epsilon Island, Zeta Island, Iota Island, Eta Island, Marshalls Island and Fern Island.

Additionally, the areas of Mangrove Bay in Somerset, Watford Bridge King’s Point, Somerset Long Bay, Cambridge Beaches in Somerset, and Daniel’s Head to Flora Point are also off limits to jet skis.

Ultimately, we wish to ensure a safe and peaceful time on the water for recreational boaters.

Anyone violating these regulations could face prosecution.

If anyone wishes to report a breach on land or water, they can do so by calling 211.

I wish to make the public aware that, in the event that we do have any anti-social behaviour or violence of any kind, the Gang Violence Reduction Team and our Coordinated Crisis Response Team will be on standby this Cup Match weekend to mitigate any matters.

Moving on from Cup Match expectations, I would like to take a minute to highlight and remind the public as to the guidelines for indoor dining, please remember that:

  • All staff must wear masks at all times
  • Guests must wear face masks whilst waiting to be seated and other times when not at their table
  • Physical distancing should be maintained at least 6 feet when queuing
  • Guests must use hand sanitizer or wash hands before entering establishment
  • Clear signage must be provided at the entrance to the establishment and within the premises in relation to regulations, face masks being worn, physical distancing, hand hygiene
  • A copy of the guidance document must be prominently displayed within the establishment
  • The establishment must have systems in place to ensure physical distance in restroom facilities as well as a robust cleaning regime
  • Contact tracing measures should also be in place to ensure adequate tracing in the event of an outbreak, measure such as: tables should be numbered, servers name visible, and details of each diner should also be recorded including date of visit, name, address and contact information.

These contact tracing procedures have been implemented as they are an essential part in combatting any outbreak from a communicable disease. Remember we are still battling COVID-19 on the island, it’s essential that we have procedures in place to assist with tracing any occurrence of an outbreak.

It is going to take every one of us to do our part and assist where we can.

If you visit any establishments and/or observe behaviours where the COVID-19 guidelines are not being adhered to please mention it to them and also follow up by calling 211 as well.

We have weathered this virus quite well thus far and it is my hope that we will not see a spike in cases after the holiday is over.

Finally Bermuda, I wish all of Bermuda a safe and happy 2020 Cup Match, Emancipation Day and Mary Prince Day holiday.

Thank you.

Thank you very much Minister Ming.

I will now ask the Minister of Public Works to give an update on what beach goers and campers need to know to be safe this holiday weekend.

Minister of Public Works

(To be added at a later time)

Thank you Col. Burch.

It was great to join you earlier today for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ottiwell Simmons International Arbitration Centre. And as you mentioned, its projects like this, that will ensure Bermudians are able to get back to work, as we work to rebuild Bermuda’s economy.

As we look at more seats becoming available for travelers to the island, as airlines increase their flights, more hotels will begin to open and the number of hotel rooms available will increase. Therefore, providing more opportunities for Bermudians to return to work.

It is anticipated that by the end of August, the number of hotel rooms will almost triple from 345 to 948. This is good news for the employees at the hotels that are planning to open and the government will continue to work with our hoteliers to provide the support required for their employees during this time of transition.

As we head into the Cup Match weekend, I just want to pause and reflect on the significance of the holiday. The first day is Emancipation Day, recognizing the abolition of slavery in Bermuda. This year, for the first time we will recognize the second day of Cup Match as Mary Prince Day.

Mary Prince is a Bermudian national hero. A Black woman whose definitive narrative, revealing the harsh injustices endured by black people in Bermuda in the early 1800s, formed a critical contribution to the movement for the abolition of slavery.  We honor her for her bravery and her courage and we’re proud that we celebrate Mary Prince Day for the first time this year.

As we talk and reflect on the holiday. I often speak about the new normal and many of us will be practicing it this weekend. While we celebrate and reflect this weekend, we must also be mindful of the tough times that are to come. The struggle that will test us as a country.

It is important that as your Premier, and your government, we are real and honest with all Bermudians. The new normal will not be just about social distancing. It will be about how we collectively cope during a period of great economic challenge. It will be about how we all play our part to participate and be productive in our economy, wherever we can.

It will be about how we save and invest in each other. It’ll be about how we work to be our brother and our sister’s keeper. And it will be about how we look out for those who are less fortunate than us, and strive to assist those will be challenged over the next few months.

I make no bones about it, we are certainly going to be in for a period of economic difficulty. So our celebrations must be tempered with reality of what is to come. As I’ve given the assurance at many times, the government will not abandon people,

Just like we innovated as a people to stay ahead of the virus, we must collectively be as innovative to thrive as we work together to build our economy. It’s important to note that the government cannot do it all by itself. It’s going to require a collective effort of all persons in this country, moving and rowing in the same direction.

So though I’m concerned of the challenges ahead, I have no doubt that if we remain united, as a country we will be able to prevail. Let us carry the spirit of unity into this holiday and beyond, as that is the only thing that will ensure that Bermuda can emerge from this upcoming period of economic challenge as a stronger and more united country.

As I conclude my formal remarks, I want to make sure that we continue to take precautions, as we enjoy this holiday weekend. Physical distancing, wearing a mask and appropriate hand hygiene are a must.

With the announcement of the two more important cases from a turning resident, COVID-19 is still very much a factor in our daily lives. We must remain strong, vigilant and united as a country, to keep this virus at bay, so that we can continue the work to rebuild our economy. With that, I’m happy to take questions from members of the media here this evening.

COVID-19 Update July 23 2020

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 23 2020

 

 

Good afternoon, Bermuda.

Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, and the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Jason Hayward. I welcome Minister Ming to her first press conference.

I’m pleased to join you again today as we continue to update Bermuda on the matters surrounding your government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the work that we are undertaking to ensure that we can repair the harm to our economy that this once in a century event has caused.

We will start this evening with an update from the Minister of Health. Minister.

Minister Of Health’s Statement

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 362 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda now has 153 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 5 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring, and
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 139 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 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.

Overall, 54% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 4% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 49 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

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

I know there have been many questions about the results we reported as pending last weekend. These were ultimately confirmed to not have been cases and I want to assure the public that this is simply part of our stringent protocols to control COVID-19.

As part of routine quality control measures, results are considered in terms of the present medical history and epidemiological pattern and, if there is any doubt, we isolate and re-test.

Our regime uses highly sensitive tests which can pick up transient positives in asymptomatic individuals. These may have a viral load that is sufficient to be detected but warrants further investigation. Upon the re-testing of these cases, originally flagged as positive, we were able to confirm that these persons were not active carriers of the virus.

Affected individuals were informed and released from isolation and quarantine. However, I totally understand the distress this caused individuals who had to be pre-emptively isolated. While not pleasant, this is course of action is better than the alternative – having potentially positive persons freely interacting with others inadvertently spreading COVID in the community.

I have to applaud the Public Health Emergency Response Team at the Ministry of Health together with the Bermuda Hospitals Board, who took immediate action to identify and isolate all risks. Not only is our testing regime exceedingly rigorous, but our ability to rapidly take public health action to isolate cases and prevent spread truly showed its muster with this incident.

The handling of this situation is a testament to the rigour of our testing system and the efficiency of our public health capacity.

In addition, I’m delighted that BHB has now developed COVID-19 testing capability as well. This added capacity is very welcome as we gear up anticipating to be doing around 1,000 tests a day as of August with the increased flight volume and our stringent testing regime.  BHB has been working on this for a couple of months so it could not have come at a better time!

Members of the public may have noticed the number of tests carried out daily by the Ministry of Health continues to rise significantly; due, in part, to the implementation of pop-up testing and, more recently, with the opening of our borders to commercial flights.

This has taken a tremendous amount of planning by teams in Ministries across the Government. Meetings take place daily with a core group of individuals who troubleshoot any issues, identify solutions and keep track of current and future needs; pre-empting any possible issues, misinterpretations or policy tweaks. It is thanks to them that we have been able to successfully action this enormous undertaking.

In particular, I want to give a massive shout out to our testing teams who have been swabbing and processing over 500 tests a day, with those at the airport and at the pop-ups testing hundreds of travellers in just a couple of hours. Their energy, enthusiasm and dedication to public health is beyond compare and I want them to know I deeply appreciate their efforts – the country owes you a debt of gratitude as you help to keep us safe from COVID-19.

As always, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, avoid congregating in large groups, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

It is more important than ever that we not take our collective eyes off the ball, for even a moment. If we do, that could lead to increased numbers of patients requiring hospitalization, critical care and, at worst, more fatalities. We are a tiny island and despite very good healthcare service delivery, it would not take much to overwhelm our health system and the hospital.

While COVID did enter some of our care homes, unlike other countries our teams did a phenomenal job containing outbreaks and preventing the sorts of outcomes we saw elsewhere. Yet, despite this, 30% of all cases and 30% of all deaths were related to care homes which is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of this population. We cannot slacken our standards to protect our seniors.

We all have a huge responsibility to care for each other and to protect our vulnerable community. We are our brother’s keeper and have an enormous responsibility to each other, to support and help each other and to protect one another.

Physical distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene are proven protective mechanisms and we need to be constantly on our guard to ensure that we are maintaining these clinical standards for the foreseeable future.

Nobody knows for sure what our future holds and we have to be cautious and safe in how we act today.

As a Government, I can assure you we are doing all that we possibly can to protect you. However, it is essential that we all remember that, ultimately, it is our individual contributions that will go the furthest in determining how we, our families, and our country fare.

Thank You

Thank you Minister of Health.

It cannot be understated how well the country has responded to the threat that this pandemic has posed. I would again like to thank the teams at the Ministry of Health, who have worked flat out for the last six months.

The reopening of our borders have meant more testing. A few months ago we set a target for 200 tests a day. For the last week we’re now averaging 450 tests a day. As the airport has more flights that will be more testing is required.

It has been an incredible effort that has been mobilized to keep our country safe. We should all be proud of the work that is being done from our port health workers, to the testers, to lab technicians, to contact tracers, and the team at the Department of Health.

We are proving to the world that you can reopen your borders with strict controls, while keeping your country safe. While we see the pictures about other countries who have long lines for testing or read the news stories of other places in the world where they are going back into stricter control measures, such as lockdowns and curfews, Bermuda has and continues to do well.

It is important that we keep our guard up. I’ve been asked many times on social media about the number of tourists being tested versus the number of Bermuda residents. Currently, the system is not set up to quickly separate that information. However, the Minister and the team at the information technology office inside of the Government of Bermuda are working on upgrades the system which will enable us to report those results.

I now invite the Minister of National Security to give an update from her ministry. Minister Ming.

Minister of National Security’s Statement

Good evening Bermuda,

First and foremost, I wish to extend my thanks to all those who have offered well wishes since my appointment as Minister. I also wish to express my appreciation to the Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr. Danette Ming and all those in the Ministry of National Security who have extended their support in updating me on all the critical matters happening in the Ministry. I’ve come to appreciate that this is an extremely significant Ministry, charged with ensuring the protection and security of our borders and the public safety of our residents.

The commitment never ceases, and I am very grateful to the entire team in the Ministry who work daily to keep our island safe.

With that, I wish to provide a general overview of the public safety preparations underway for the Cup Match holiday. Typically, the holiday weekend provides an opportunity for the island to come together to celebrate our heritage and our sporting traditions. This year however, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to reassess how we conduct our gatherings.

Even though we won’t be celebrating the Annual Cricket Classic this year, it’s still a holiday.

And it’s our expectation that many of our residents will be heading to our beaches and parks and spending considerable time on the water over the long holiday weekend.

In that regard, the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) has developed a robust policing plan in order to maintain public safety.

We want to ensure a safe and peaceful holiday and the BPS is working in partnership with the Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR), the Coastguard, the Department of Parks, St. Johns Ambulance, the Road Safety Council, the Water Safety Council and CADA.

With the expectation of large crowds at our beaches and parks, the BPS and the RBR will have a visible presence at Horseshoe Bay Beach and Clearwater beach advising the public to maintain physical distancing.

The BPS will also be deploying drone assets to monitor large public areas such as beaches and parks.

As announced last week by the Minister of Public Works, Lt. Col. David Burch, with the lifting of the curfew, camping and boating are permitted.

We encourage persons to please practice the appropriate health and safety measures.

We are also urging the public to use common sense when it comes to alcohol consumption over the holiday period.

As you are aware, the BPS will be conducting Roadside Sobriety checks throughout the island.

Quite simply – don’t drink and drive, and above all, have a plan to get home safely.

As it relates to recreational boating over the holiday, the BPS and the Coastguard will be present on our waters to ensure that the marine environment is as safe as possible.

In particular, the traditional popular gathering that takes place at Mangrove Bay on the Sunday following the holiday, will be monitored closely.

On the topic of events and gatherings of more than 50 individuals, I can confirm that the Ministry has received a number of applications for exemptions for the holiday period. They are under active review and we are in consultation with the Ministry of Health.

We expect that any event that is held, whether it is a gathering of 50 persons or an approved gathering of more than 50 persons, we still urge those in attendance to adhere to the health guidelines in place.

These are for your protection and for the protection of your loved ones.

We continue to review and refine the guidelines as it relates to event exemption guidelines.

Lastly, typically our Cup Match holiday is a festive period. Even against the backdrop of COVID-19, we expect that members of the community will seek to enjoy this national holiday to the fullest.

Bear in mind, though, the public safety precautions in place by the BPS and its partner agencies, are designed to ensure that any festivities remain safe and free of anti-social behaviour.

Let’s all work together to make sure that the 2020 Cup Match, Emancipation Day and Mary Prince Day holiday can be remembered for the many enjoyable experiences – and not be marred by any major disturbances, gang violence, road traffic incidents or infringements of the COVID-19 regulations.

As the Minister responsible for National Security, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of our essential personnel, uniformed services and emergency agencies for their tireless work.

Thank you.

Thank you Minister Ming.

I know you’ve had to hit the ground running, but I’m confident that Bermuda will heed the advice which you’ve given to ensure that as we lead up to our annual holiday, the country will remain safe.

Now, I will ask Minister Hayward to give an update on the activity taking place within his ministry, including the details of the extension of the unemployment benefit.

Minister Hayward.

Minister of Labor’s Statement

Good Evening,

My remarks tonight will focus on updates in three (3) areas within the Ministry of Labour:

  1. the Unemployment Benefit;
  2. the Department of Workforce Development; and
  3. the 1 Year Residential Certificate.

Extending the Unemployment Benefit

The public is aware that the Government’s unemployment benefit which was extended from 12 to 16 weeks comes to an end on the 31st of July, 2020.  At that time, three thousand eight hundred and two (3,802) applicants will receive their last payment.  This number consists of:

  • two thousand eight hundred and seventy (2,870) Bermudians;
  • one hundred seventy two (172) Spouses of Bermudians;
  • fifty (50) Permanent Resident Certificate Holders; and
  • seven hundred (700) Work Permit Holders.

This will leave one thousand five hundred and fifty-five (1,555) individuals continuing to receive payments until their sixteen week period ends.

With the end of the Unemployment Benefit, there remain many in our community who are not yet on their feet and still require financial aid to provide the necessities of life such as food shelter and clothing.   To address this, those individuals who have completed the Unemployment Benefit and are still in need of financial aid will need to first apply for financial assistance through the Department of Financial Assistance.

It should be noted at this time that the Government plans to extend the unemployment benefit for an additional two weeks to allow persons the opportunity to transition to the new benefit.

From Monday, 27, July 2020, Financial Assistance applications may be collected from the Lobby of Global House, 43 Church Street, Hamilton. Should you be unable to collect an application, you must contact the Department to make alternative arrangements. For additional information, persons can call the Department of Financial Assistance Hotline at: 297 7867.

When filling out the application form, please note that the form must be 100% completed for the applicant to be considered for assistance. Once all the required information is on the form, they must be submitted in the mailbox located in Global House.

The Financial Assistance process is rigorous and applications will be vetted and applicants will be notified accordingly.  Should your application for financial assistance be approved, you will begin receiving the approved monthly award payments.

For persons who are not eligible for Financial Assistance, the Government wishes to advise that it will introduce a supplemental unemployment assistance.  The Government will provide further details about the nature of this financial support in coming public announcements.   However, eligibility for this support will likely be as follows.  You must:

  • Be Bermudian or Spouse of Bermudian;
  • Be a recent recipient of the Unemployment Benefit Fund;
  • Have fully completed the Financial Assistance application process; and
  • Other criteria that will be shared in due course.

Persons who receive such a benefit must immediately notify Government when they commence any form of employment as they will no longer be eligible.  It must be stated, that the aid given is only a temporary measure to help persons through this difficult time.

Workforce Department Update

The Department of Workforce Development, provides assistance to individuals who are seeking employment by providing them with work readiness training, career guidance, scholarships and bursaries for retraining, and apprenticeship opportunities.  Due to the COVID-19 safety measures taken by the government, the Department had reduced its traditional activities to administer the Unemployment Benefit.

As we continue with Phase 4, the department has recommenced with various services.   Services and programmes included the delivery of the Summer Internship Programme (SIP) for fifty (50) High School students who received up to a stipend of $1,600 at the end of the four week programme.

Also ongoing is the ten-week Summer Employment Programme for college and university students which also provides work experience and a weekly wage of $600.  The programme has seventy-five (75) interns enrolled in it and lasts for a period of ten (10) weeks.

Job Readiness

In the area of Career Development, where officers engage with members on the public to provide job readiness support, the Department has begun meeting with clients virtually.  Clients are also seen in-office where necessary to assist with updating resumes and work with employers to ensure unemployed persons are considered for job vacancies.

Training Programs

In the Training Section of the Department, discussions have resumed with external stakeholders such as employers, industry associations and other industry educational partners, regarding existing and new training programmes.  The objective is to gauge the level of training, qualifications, and employment opportunities available to Bermudians.  Training Officers are obtaining feedback on recommended short and long term programmes and services that need to be provided in the Post-COVID-19 era in Bermuda.

Scholarship Awards

Additionally, the department has collaborated with the National Training Board Scholarship Committee to offer ten (10) scholarships in 2020 for students studying in the areas of:

  1. Hospitality;
  2. Information Technology;
  3. Healthcare;
  4. Vocational; and
  5.  Technical trades.

The scholarship awards are expected to be announced in the next month.

Training Scheme

The Department continues to work with the Office of the Tax Commissioner to offer the payroll tax exemption scheme, which provides relief for employers who are committed to training Bermudians.  To date, a total of eleven (11) companies and twenty-three (23) Bermudians have been awarded approval for training.

The Department is now implementing its strategic two-phase plan. The first phase aims to target industry sectors where there may be a reduction in work permit renewals, to identify opportunities to get Bermudians employed.

The second phase focuses on developing a talent pipeline for Bermuda by:

  1. anticipating the future needs of the various industry sectors;
  2. work collaboratively with industry partners to design and develop training programs and apprenticeships;
  3. provide the funding in the form of scholarships and assistance to those individuals seeking further education to enable Bermudians to have the skills to compete.

Ultimately, the plans focus on what is needed in this new era of COVID-19 to get Bermudians employed.

Also under the Training Section, the Department offers National Certifications, in four (4) designated occupations:

  1. Welding;
  2. Electrical;
  3. Automotive Service Technician; and
  4. Landscape Gardening.

The objective is to have all registered tradesmen in the four (4) designated occupations obtain National Certification.

Digital Nomads & Students

With that said, the Government recognizes the challenge with securing employment and we are working on quick wins that will help stimulate our economy and get our residents back to work.

To that end, it has long been recognized that there are persons who are location-independent, using technology to perform their job no matter where they are.  Such persons work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office. Remote working has been a growing trend for some time and is something the Bermuda Government has been examining as part of its technology-focused economic diversification strategy.

There are also many students in tertiary education across the world completing their classes online. By allowing Non-Bermudian Post-Secondary Students to complete their higher education from Bermuda represents an opportunity to build an international student community in Bermuda and enhance Bermuda’s digital perception by travelers worldwide, which will produce benefits to the local economy.

It must be noted that these trends have been further accelerated by COVID-19.

And so allowing these visitors to reside in Bermuda without seeking employment on the island will promote economic activity for our country without displacing Bermudians in the workforce.

To capitalize on this opportunity, starting August 1, 2020, the Ministry of Labour through the Department of Immigration will offer One Year Residential Certificates to allow persons such as Digital Nomads the ability to reside in Bermuda while working remotely, and Non-Bermudian Post-Secondary Students the ability to complete their higher education from Bermuda.

The Ministry will also adjust its policy for visitors to the island by extending the maximum period a visitor may stay in Bermuda from 90 to 180 days.

I am confident that these policy changes will strengthen our economy by:

  • increasing the residential population;
  • increasing economic activity;
  • providing greater job security for Bermudians; and
  • enhancing Bermuda’s image as a place to reside, visit, and do business.

All relevant documentation can be submitted along with the electronic submission form which will be available via the government portal on or before August 1, 2020.

Thank you.

Thank you Minister Hayward.

Last week, during the swearing in ceremony of Ministers Ming and Tyrrell, I indicated the responsibility for tourism would move to the Office of the Premier and has been added to my existing responsibility for economic development. I must restate, the need for the growth of tourism is more complex than ever and demands a renewed focus on the economic potential it represents for Bermuda. Bermuda, as a tourism destination, must become relevant again.

Next month commercial airlift capacity to the island more than doubles.  5,000 airline seats in July jumps to about 12,000 available seats in August.  On August 1, new direct service resumes on JetBlue from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport and Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Meanwhile,

  • British Airways increases its frequency from London by one day which means there will be three flights a week;
  • Delta decreases it’s daily service by one day to six flights a week; and
  • Air Canada continues to operate its weekly flight out of Toronto.

Tourism volumes this August are projected to be about 10% of what they were last year.  The Bermuda Tourism Authority has been working on an inside-out marketing campaign to generate spending in the tourism industry from residents, while at the same time inspiring travellers to think about Bermuda and then turn that thought into action.

One such promotion is taking place now.  The Bermuda Independent Retailer Month, which began July 1, is promoting the Bermuda-inspired retail sector to consumers around the world via the BTA’s digital channels.  Last week, 27 local retailers who offer click and ship operations, were profiled on the BTA’s social media.

Earlier today, an e-mail marketing promotion reaching more than 250,000 customers led with a push to Bermuda retailers in a further drive to stimulate their retail sales.

Between now and the end of the year, there will be additional promotions to stimulate spending in various sectors of the tourism economy including boating, restaurants, spas and tennis.  Additionally the Bermuda Tourism Authority will commence the promotion of staycations here on island, where they will profile the deals that are available and the hotels which are currently offering rates for locals.

The BTA and the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) have worked closely with the Minister of Labour, to get the message out about the one-year residency certificate, perfectly suited for remote workers, what I call digital nomads, and post-secondary students.

Minister Hayward announced the policy changes last week and gave some additional clarifications.  Since then, the BTA and BDA have worked to have the news story carried in key US media, starting with Bloomberg and then quickly spreading to others, including CBS news.

 

The form will go live on 1 August, the BTA and BDA will continue to promote Bermuda as a location from which to work. This government’s view is that if you can work remotely, which many people have been doing, why not work from Bermuda for the next year.

As I had said in an interview with one of the news agencies, it might be nice to live in a place where you don’t have to get into a fight at the supermarket because someone is not wearing a mask, as we are happily a universal masking jurisdiction.

I will also give a brief update on international mail service which although does not fall under the Office of the Premier, falls under the Cabinet Office.

The Bermuda Post Office reports with the increase in flights to and from the UK, mail, parcels and EMS are being sent to the UK, starting with this evening’s flight. Likewise, we started to receive mail from the UK on July 17.

There is still no mail between Bermuda and the US and at this point in time, we are not expecting mail to be transported until mid-September when American Airlines starts flying between Bermuda and New York and Bermuda and Miami.

However the Bermuda Post Office continues to explore all avenues for mail delivery between the United States and Bermuda.

Mail from Canada will start arriving in August.

There is another update that I’d like to give, and I’d like to commend the Deputy Premier for working with the Department of Planning which is under his responsibility. Last year, there was a clear drive to make sure that we make government processes more efficient, and one of those places where it was felt that government processes were not efficient were inside of the Department of Planning.

The Deputy Premier will soon be announcing that during May and June, a total of 53 planning applications are received and 81 were approved, resulting in a total estimated construction value of $46 million, while a total of 154 building permit applications were received and 114 building permits were issued, resulting in a total estimated construction value of $68 million.

What is important is that the Department of Planning continued to work during the period of restrictions, and it is key to note that planning application times in the Department of Planning have now been cut in half. They’ve gone from ten weeks to four to five weeks. And this is something that will certainly aid us as we look to continue to stimulate our economy, as we move forward to get more and more persons back to work.

So thank you, Deputy Premier for your work and thank you to the team at the Department of Planning for executing the government’s policy of making government more efficient.

On Monday at 7:30pm, the Minister for Community Affairs and Sports, the Hon. Lovitta Foggo and I will participate in a Cup Match Conversation hosted by Sean Tucker, the New Voice of Summer. It will be aired on Government’s Facebook page and on CITV. Sean will interview current and past Cup Match players together with Captains and Club Presidents. You can send your questions for the guests to Government’s Facebook page.

Before I will end tonight’s press conference I would like to speak about a letter that was sent me earlier this week.

Dear Premier Burt,

I want to let you know that there are two heroes working at the COVID-19 hotline, their names are Shirmelle Gomes and Tamisha Archibald. They are the most incredibly helpful, kind, patient and lovely ladies working at the call center, who went above and beyond to assist me this weekend with getting a travel authorization updated in the system when a dear friend couldn’t get her COVID-19 negative test result in time for the BA flight on Friday.

These two ladies were so patient and helpful with getting the new arrival date updated in the system, I am so grateful for their help and I thought you should know what an incredible team you have working under you. 

Also, we think you and your team are simply AMAZING and you have done a remarkable job protecting our country, THANK YOU we love you!!! 

Shirmelle and Tamisha are both Government Public Officers who have been assigned to the Helpline. As always, I extend my sincere appreciation to all those persons who are working on the Helpline. That Helpline which continues to be manned and that number is 444 2498.

I also want to express my appreciation to the emergency and essential workers throughout our country. Those as we already mentioned that are involved in our testing, but also those that continue to serve our people at the hospital and our essential workers. Especially to our first responders who are firefighters.

Minister Ming and had an opportunity to meet with the new executive at the Fire Services Association today and I can say the entire country owes them a debt of gratitude. They have been working long hours and they are always the first ones on scene, to make sure that they save lives and keep us safe. So to all of the men and women that are working in the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service I want to say thank you from the Government of Bermuda. You are doing an excellent job and you are being represented incredibly well by your new executive.

Tomorrow the House of Assembly will meet, with 16 items up for debate in our last session before the Cup Match holiday. There are a number of items that are there to stimulate our tourism market with amendments to the Tourism Investment Act, and two Tourism Investment Orders. One for the St George’s Club property, which will enable that property to renovate, and to reopen. And also Rosewood Tucker’s Point to enable additional development which is taking place at that property.

There will also be a number of social issues and changes, which will be brought to the fore and passed, including the expungement  of cannabis convictions for simple possession of cannabis, the modification of our jury selection regime to make sure that it is more fair and also the addition of luring as an offense under the Criminal Code. Which completes a suite of amendments and changes that the Progressive Labor Party has made in the area of child sex abuse, and also to make sure that we have mandatory rehabilitation for sex offenders.

Persons are able to tune in on parliament.bm, listen on 105.1, or you can also catch the House of Assembly on bernews.com.

Though, we as a country has done well. It is vitally important to remember that this virus can still impact our lives. Though, as the Minister of Health says, we only have five active cases, and those we think that we have caught them at our borders, we must stick to Public Health guidance that we have been given over the last few months.

We cannot, and we must not lower our guard. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of continuing to wear your mask, especially when you are indoors and you are unable to social distance when you are outdoors.

This together with exercising proper hand hygiene and physical distancing will allow us to continue to enjoy the freedoms we do now, while countries and islands around us are going backwards. Let us keep it up to move forward.

Next week is Cup Match week, and therefore we will not be here next week Thursday. However, your government ministers will giving you a final briefing before the Cup Match holiday next week Tuesday.

Before I take questions, I’d like to thank the wonderful Miss Carolann Simmons for this beautiful red and blue mask when she is supplied to me, which I’m wearing even though I’m looking out into a sea of blue and blue mask everywhere. With that, I’m happy to take questions from members of the media.

Government Weekly Press Conference July 16 2020

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 16 2020

 

 

Good afternoon Bermuda.

I hope all of you are doing well and enjoying the blissful Bermuda Summer. This afternoon I am joined by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Works.

As a country we have, for the most part, followed the rules, behaved appropriately, and contributed to our success in battling this pandemic. We could not have made it this far without unity, hard work and dedication.

It has not been easy . . . sheltering in place, curbside shopping, grocery days by last name, curfews, social distancing, face coverings and economic hardship. This has taken a tremendous toll on all of us. But as I have said before, collectively as a country Bermuda rose to the occasion, and we have shown ourselves to be an example to the world of how to manage and live with this virus.

While most of us have done well, by following the guidelines – we must remember that it only takes 1 undetected case to set us back. So while we have earned the changes that will be announced today – we must remain ever vigilant.

We will begin with the latest update from Minister Wilson on COVID 19 testing.

MINISTER WILSON STATEMENT

Today there were 363 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and two were positive for COVID-19. Both new cases were imported on the Delta flight on 15th July by returning residents.

It saddens me terribly to have to tell you that, unfortunately, one of the persons involved did not adhere to the required quarantine period and attended their workplace before receiving their arrival test results, which turned out to be positive. Consequently, the case management team is now contact tracing all the persons they were in touch with on island, in addition to the nearby passengers on the flight.

The advice for other passengers on the Delta flight 656 of 15th July is to proceed with extreme caution, follow the quarantine instructions you were given on arrival, monitor your symptoms, wear a mask at all times and keep 6 feet away from others. If you were sitting near one of the positive cases a public health officer will be in touch with you soon with instructions.

Bermuda now has 152 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 6 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring, and
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 137 have 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.

Overall, 55% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 4% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 48 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 18 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 1 are under investigation

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

I now have a few updates to provide you with as it relates to arriving travellers…

As the volume of travellers increases our testing teams and capability is becoming increasingly stretched. Therefore we are reviewing the testing regime to make adjustments based on public health risk and testing capacity.

Incoming travellers are tested on arrival at their port of entry. They then have to comply with further tests on subsequent dates. One change we are implementing is that the day 3 test will be moved to day 4.

As such, persons who arrive on the BA flight on Friday will have their follow-up test on Monday. This will apply to all travellers, whether visitors or residents, except for residents who need to complete their quarantine; they will be allowed to test on day 3, which is Sunday, in order to complete their quarantine period on receipt of their negative result.

We hope this will have a two-fold benefit of encouraging residents to obtain a pre-departure test (although not required) and also make the testing schedule less arduous for our visitors.

Second, we are aware of the challenges for travellers obtaining test results within 5 days and so, will be extending the period permitted to 7 days very shortly. It will be reflected on the website when this goes into effect.

Lastly, we are gearing up to assist the quarantine process with the Aqua quarantine bracelets. Travellers without a pre-departure test – that is largely residents – have to quarantine until they get a second test result on Island (currently on their 3rd day). The intention is that they will be fitted with an aqua bracelet until they obtain a negative result.

In addition, persons who do not have a pre-departure test will be asked to undergo a saliva test on arrival in addition to the nasal swab in order to assist us in validating the saliva tests so that we can deploy them sooner. This applies to residents as ALL visitors must obtain a pre-departure test.

Additionally, the requirement to undergo a Day 7 test will change to Day 8. This is safe from a public health perspective and it will help ensure that testing sites are not swamped on certain days.

Residents who refuse all testing must quarantine for 14 days; and very shortly will do so with an Aqua bracelet.

Our goal is not to add layers of red tape and complexity to the lives of incoming travellers, but to protect us all from a COVID-19 outbreak. Our number 1 priority at all times is – and must be – the safety of our island and the protection of seniors and other clinically vulnerable persons for whom COVID is a life-threatening risk.

Independent of today’s new COVID cases, over the past few days, there have been several enquires made by companies from across various industries with regards to staff travelling overseas and then returning to work. The main question being: When can they safely return to work?

The answer to this depends on a number of factors. In particular, it depends on if your employee works in a high risk setting such as one with medically vulnerable individuals or institutionalized populations, such as a healthcare setting, for example…

If so, then those employees may want to consider avoiding non-essential travel. Of course, this is not always practical and, in those cases where workers have family overseas, an ability to travel and see loved ones could have a detrimental effect on that individual’s mental health. In those cases, we have to ask ourselves ‘What is the safest way for these individuals to return to work after travel?’…

The gold standard is 14 days of quarantine with prescribed testing procedures to provide that extra layer of security. As a Manager, ask yourself, Could this employee work from home during these 14 days?

If they must return to work (with two consecutive negative test results), determine how they can minimize their contact with others as much as possible. Each employer must decide what this looks like for their employees. However, the Ministry of Health is currently in the process of developing further guidance on this issue, which will be disturbed shortly and posted to the Government website.

In closing, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, avoid congregating in large groups, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one…And, yes, this means wearing masks at work if you are in close contact with others, such as during face-to-face meetings.

As I have mentioned before, there are three preventative behaviours which HealthIQ looks at to assess how we are doing as a country in our response to COVID-19. Two of those three (mask wearing and physical distancing) are currently ‘in the red’…which means we need to do better if we want to keep ourselves and our community safe.

I think when COVID-19 first arrived in Bermuda, there were those out there who doubted the difference these seemingly ‘small’ measures could make to the overall picture…But now I think we can all see that they were, in fact, KEY to our success; not just contributory factors.

On a positive note, today we passed 10,000 HealthIQ users so we have reached the target to put that indicator on our scorecard in the green. Please continue to sign up on HealthIQ.bm and report your status regularly.

Today’s two new cases and the quarantine breach are a reminder to us all that we cannot be complacent. How we go forward now depends on you, Bermuda.

Thank You

Thank you Minister and thank you for the hard work that your team continues to put in.

It is important to note that out of the 6 imported cases that have arrived in the last 2 weeks since we have opened the airport all of them have been returning residents.

The story just shared by the Minister of Health is disturbing – as it means that our own don’t care about the impact that their reckless actions may have on ALL of our hard work over the past 4 months. We have been successful because we have not been selfish and have thought of the collective over our own needs. That must continue.

As the Minister of Health has indicated, the matter has been reported to the Bermuda Police Service for the violations of law. No one wants to punish anyone, but the rules in place must be followed for the safety of our country and for our economy.

As I have intimated, and as the Minister of Health has also said, due to the fact that we have been faced with returning residents not following the rules, the cabinet will consider revisions to requirements for residents returning to the country and may introduce quarantine requirements for returning residents who do not possess a valid pre-test. We must keep our country safe – and if we do not hear that sadly we may all have to feel.

Traveling to the United States is something that, given the situation over there, should not be done for pleasure, but should only be done in urgent situations. We will be revising the guidance to make sure that we minimize the amounts of imported cases which may be coming from returning residents. As the Minister said, the introduction of quarantine bracelets for persons who do not have valid pre-test to ensure that we can enforce the quarantine.

What I must say, is that is a responsibility of all of us Bermudians to do our job to protect our country. Visitors are coming in, and are following the rules, it is us that are breaking them and putting our country at risk.

I will now turn the mic over to Minister Burch who will provide the latest update on regulations and changes to restrictions, most notably the time when the curfew will come to an end.

MINISTER BURCH STATEMENT

Good evening.

I am happy to provide a further update on additional changes since the implementation of Phase 4 on Wednesday July 1st.  I will first cover those matters that fall under the Covid Regulations followed by those that fall under the remit of the Minister of Public Works.

There has been some confusion surrounding a number of issues during this journey through Covid – so I will attempt to address several of them tonight.

Firstly, consideration will be given to the following changes to the current PUBLIC HEALTH (COVID-19 EMERGENCY POWERS) REGULATIONS 2020.  The term Exceptional Circumstances is confusing and as we move further into Phase 4, the removal of this part makes it easier to vet applications as per the guidelines being developed. These guidelines along with the standardized application form will lay out what is needed to be considered for an exemption, thus removing the need for this part of the clause to remain.

(4) The Minister of National Security may, after consulting, the Minister of Health, grant an exemption (a “large group exemption”) permitting a group of more than 50 persons to assemble—

There have been a number of requests to hold functions with more than 50 persons and the term “exceptional” has led to confusion from the public and an inability to adequately consider those requests by the committee. I expect we will be in a position to confirm this change, publish the guidelines and launch the online application by next Tuesday – which will provide greater clarity to the general public.

With regard to the current curfew – as indicated last week that it would be reviewed weekly – the curfew will be lifted effective next Monday, July 20th with the proviso that all liquor licensed establishments will close at midnight.  This aspect of the new regulations will be reviewed weekly.

Clarification on the wearing of masks:

Masks must be worn indoors.   Masks must be worn outdoors if physical         distancing cannot be maintained.

Clearly there is a need to apply common sense – if one is driving in a car alone or with members of their household, riding a bike, walking alone – it is not necessary to wear a mask.

Simply put – if you are in close proximity to anyone outside your family – then a mask is required.  Many stores and businesses – like government buildings – now require a mask to enter their facility.

With regard to activities over Cup Match – overnight camping in Parks and on Islands will be allowed following the removal of curfew as well as over the Cup Match weekend.

All of the camp sites are being inspected over the next few days and applications for camping permits will be accepted from Monday, July 20th.

Specifically, for Cup Match campers and picnickers will be allowed to erect camping and picnicking equipment and property on Tuesday, 28th July however camping is ONLY permitted from Wednesday 29th July until Monday 3rd August 2020 as per the Public Health (Covid-19 Emergency Powers) Amendment Regulations 2020.

Gates will be opened on Tuesday 28th July 2020 so patrons will have the opportunity to get their equipment and property into the parks and beaches until 9:30pm on Wednesday 29th July 2020 after which time Park Ranger staff on duty will be locking the gates.

All equipment and property must be removed by Tuesday 4th August 2020 or it will be deemed abandoned and disposed of.

Maintenance staff will be collecting trash and cleaning bathrooms during the Cup Match Holiday and weekend.

Park Ranger staff will patrol the parks and beaches, enforcing the  Park Regulations and addressing any other incidents in conjunction with the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

Staff will be assigned to control traffic flow and parking at the following locations:

  • Horseshoe Bay
  • Warwick Long Bay West
  • Elbow Beach Tribe Road 4B
  • Clearwater Beach Park and Coopers Island Park & Nature Reserve.

Horseshoe Bay, due to the popularity on Emancipation Day Thursday 30th July 2020 will be managed as follows:

  • Department of Parks staff in conjunction with officers of the Bermuda Police Service, Royal Bermuda Regiment and St. Johns Ambulance will be on duty.
  • Traffic flow and parking will be controlled and once the parking lot is full access will be for dropping off only until spaces open up.
  • There may be times when the parking lot is closed to all traffic in order to clear any congestion.
  • Patrons are advised that the closure of Horseshoe Bay will be at 8:00 pm when patrons must start clearing the beach in order for the cleaning to begin for the use on Mary Prince Day Friday 31st July 2020.

Park and beach users are reminded not to park on double yellow lines or block the gates as they must remain clear at all times for access by Department of Parks maintenance & patrol vehicles, as well as emergency vehicles from the Bermuda Police Service, Royal Bermuda Regiment,  Bermuda Fire & Rescue Services, EMH and St. John Ambulance.

For safety the following will not be permitted:

  • No Bonfires especially within Coopers Island Nature Reserve
  • No excessively loud music playing
  • No Dogs on the beaches
  • No Horses on the beaches
  • No vehicles inside the parks after the gates are closed
  • Clean up your trash – leave the areas as you find them.

Vehicular traffic to Coney Island Park is restricted due to the structural integrity of the Bailey bridge and patrons must walk in.

The cooperation of the patrons using the parks and beaches over the holiday period is appreciated.

All of these measures are being relaxed because of our good behavior and following of the rules.  We are still in a pandemic but we also recognize that we must gradually relax the rules.

It is vitally important that in considering our actions going forward that we all must be cognizant and careful to make decisions that do not put our families and fellow citizens at risk regarding the corona virus.  Make no mistake that if we act badly then there will be no hesitation in recommending to the Cabinet that we return to an earlier phase to protect our country.

I expect we will be as responsible as we have been which has gotten us to our current state of general compliance.

Thank you, Premier.

Thank you Col.

The ending of the curfew represents not just a major landmark in the reopening of our economy, but it also will create more opportunities for employment.

Pre-COVID-19, few Bermudians under 50 had ever experienced a curfew and we had long taken for granted the freedom to move about the country when we want, and how we want. This is something that many of us will welcome but it must not be taken as a license to lose our minds. Simply put, DON’T TEAR IT! We have come too far to go back now!

Earlier today, I had the pleasure to announce two new appointments to the Cabinet. I would like to thank MP Renee Ming for accepting the role of Minister of National Security and thank MP Neville Tyrrell for taking on the role of Transport.

Over the years they have demonstrated the commitment, dedication and wisdom that will hold them in good stead as they take over two high profile and key Ministries. I’d like to again thank the former Ministers Wayne Caines and Zane Desilva for the excellent place they left their former Ministries enabling their successors to hit the ground running.

Tomorrow the House of Assembly will meet and we will be debating the following Bills:

  • Amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act 2020
  • Riddell’s Bay (Warwick Parish) Special Development Order
  • Amendments to the National Pensions Scheme (Occupational Pensions) and Related Regulations
  • Registrar of Companies (Supervision and Regulation) Act 2020
  • Ministers and Members of the Legislature (Salaries and Pensions) Amendment Act 2020
  • Public Service Superannuation Temporary Amendment Act 2020

We will also be tabling:

  • Trusts Special Provisions #2 Act 2020
  • Gaming (Transfer of Functions) Bill
  • Government Loans Amendment (#2) Act
  • Amendments to the Tourism Investment Act 2017
  • Tourism Investment (St. George’s Club) 2020

Over the next 2 weeks over 11 Bills will be debated and passed into law with the support of Members of Parliament. This extensive work load speaks to the hard work and dedication of the Government team in continuing to deliver – and doing what is necessary to rebuild our economy; for the people of Bermuda.

Despite the restrictions and challenges posed by COVID-19, our government has remained active outside of the management of the pandemic and we remain focused on the job at hand. We work tirelessly to keep Bermuda safe, and we will work equally as hard to ensure a strong economic recovery.

One key goal our government has had throughout the pandemic has been to support local and international businesses and ensure our companies can continue to conduct their operations while fully adhering to safety protocols to meet the COVID- 19 regulations.

We were recently able to demonstrate our ability to drive a business-friendly environment despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic.

Key leaders of Athene, one of Bermuda’s largest reinsurance companies, needed to travel to Bermuda to conduct certain meetings. Together, the Bermuda Business Development Agency, the Bermuda Airport Authority, and the L.F. Wade International Airport worked to enable Athene to come to Bermuda and meet on the island in June, while ensuring full compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

The Bermuda Airport Authority, and Cedar Aviation implemented strict measures and protocols to ensure the meeting could take place safely and successfully.

Before the L.F. Wade International Airport openned to international flights on July 1, the Bermuda Government adapted swiftly and pragmatically to address the individual requirements of companies that required on-island meetings.

Athene sent us a statement of thanks from its President Bill Wheeler, which stated, “We are grateful for the support we received from the Bermuda Government, the BDA and local agencies. Bermuda’s swift action allowed us to conduct local business while prioritizing the health and safety of all those involved and ensuring full compliance with all Bermuda laws and regulations. Thank you to Bermuda’s continued exemplary business friendly approach – even during these unprecedented times.”

The Bermuda Government is grateful for the support and commitment of our local and international business partners who continue to work with us during this period of global economic challenge.

I would also, as I close, like to again thank everyone in Bermuda for your words of encouragement, your emails of support and your prayers for our health, our success and the well-being of our families. It remains an honor and a privilege to serve our country during this time, and we thank you for all that you have done over the past few months to make our burdens lighter and this work rewarding.

Thank you

Weekly Government COVID-19 Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 9 2020

Good afternoon Bermuda.

Joining me for today’s press conference are the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson and the Minister for Public Works, the Hon. Lt. Col. David Burch.

I will start this evening by expressing the condolences of the Government of Bermuda to the family of Mr. Amon Brown who was killed this week during a domestic related incident. Our prayers and best wishes go out to Mr. Brown’s family, friends and colleagues.

There has been intense speculation and heightened media attention in the circumstances surrounding the event, which took place at Blu Restaurant. Some persons think that my decisions were harsh. Some think they were justified. Others think they did not go far enough. This job requires me to make tough decisions every day. And over the past four months, the tough decisions have been like ants at a summer picnic. Numerous.

However, it is a responsibility that I take seriously, and my oath requires me to execute them without fear or favor. That much being said, there seems to be a new effort to extract political advantage, while looking to besmirch the names of persons with headlines and rumour.

My wife had asked me to take a few days off this week, and so the Deputy Premier was expected or supposed to be here today. However, I’ve come in to answer questions that members of the media may have, so that we can draw a line under this saga and return to the important issues that our country is facing during a pandemic that will continue to affect our island home, both healthwise, and our economy.

Beyond the public face of politics which is played out in press conferences, in the House, Senate or on the doorstep, there is a personal connection that is formed between those of us who choose to serve our country in this way. Inviting two committed and dedicated Ministers of the Government to resign gave me no pleasure.

As I said in my statement on Monday evening, I am immensely disappointed in the events that led to this. However, as a country, we have worked too long and too hard over the past few months to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Bermuda and our demands for public compliance with rules and regulations mean nothing if we are not prepared to live by them ourselves.

I have spoken to both MP Caines and DeSilva and I am satisfied that they understand and accept my decision. Both men worked tirelessly during the months of the pandemic response to keep Bermudians and Bermuda safe and to support our economic recovery.  Their energy and zeal demonstrated a genuine care and concern for the people of Bermuda. I will remain forever grateful for their contributions. Because few know how difficult it has been for those of us in leadership over the past few months, but they know what it feels like.

I have asked the Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain to serve as the Acting Minister of National Security and the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Wayne Furbert to serve as Acting Minister for Tourism and Transport.

It is my expectation to ask the Governor to make new appointments to the Cabinet next week Wednesday. With those introductory remarks, I will now ask the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson to address the country. Minister Wilson.

Minister Wilson’s System

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 283 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 149 total confirmed positive cases. As of today we have 3 actives case in Bermuda, of which none are hospitalized. All cases were imported.

  • A total of 137 have 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.

Overall, 56% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 4% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 45 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 16 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 3 are under investigation

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

This week’s positive cases are a serious wake-up call that COVID-19 has not gone away. With our low COVID numbers, it’s perhaps easy to forget that we are living in the midst of a pandemic; but the reality is that we are and we need to take the same precautions we always have to protect ourselves and our community. As I have said before, now is not the time to let our guard down.

Having said that, I want to reassure the public that the Ministry of Health, upon receiving this week’s positive results, moved immediately to contact those individuals, isolate them, and begin the contact tracing process to determine who they may have been in close contact with – both on the flight and upon being landed. Those potential contacts will then have been contacted by one of our public health officials who would have provided them with further advice.

Contact tracing is a fundamental part of outbreak control that’s used by public health professionals around the world to prevent the spread of infections.

A contact is assessed to see how close they were to a confirmed case, which could include someone who has been in direct contact with them…in this case, seated immediately near them on the airplane, for example.

Following this assessment, we can categorise them into low or high risk and contact them to provide advice on what they should do.

A low risk contact, for example, doesn’t require self-quarantine but should practice physical distancing. Meanwhile, a high risk contact is required to self-quarantine, remaining in their home or accommodation for 14 days and staying away from work or public places. This would be a person sitting near the person who is positive.

Every passenger on the plane does not have to quarantine for 14 days. Only those who were close to the affected persons, and they will know because a public health officer will contact them. We have their contact details thanks to the Travel Authorizations.

As a reminder, ‘quarantine’ keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others; while ‘isolation’ separates people who are infected with the virus away from people who are not infected.

All passengers from this week’s Delta flights received immediate email communication from the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit explaining that a fellow passenger tested positive for COVID-19 and advising them on their next steps.

To reiterate, any passengers from this week’s Delta flights needing to quarantine beyond the standard prescribed for them on arrival, will be contacted by public health officials, if they have not been already.

However, ALL arriving passengers must monitor their health for 14 days (if applicable for length of stay) and take their temperature twice daily and record their symptoms on a symptom log provided. Also, they should limit their exposure to others in the community, as much as practicable, for 14 days.

I want to stress that last point; if you are a passenger arriving into Bermuda; do not think that you can circulate among the community without precautions once you have received two negative test results. You are still not completely out of the woods until 14 days surpasses, even with two negative results.

So please wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, stay on alert to any symptoms you may experience, practice physical distancing, keep a log of your movements and try and restrict those movements as much as possible.

I just want to close by reiterating that all information for travellers has been posted to the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm. Among the resources that you will find on that page is a Quick Guide to Travellers’ Quarantine Requirements.

The guide breaks down the action a traveller must take into three possible situations:

1. If you have a pre-travel test plus an arrival test you will be released from quarantine with a negative result from your arrival test. This usually takes about 6 to 8 hours, though it can take longer at times depending on the time of day, for example.

2. If you do not have a pre-departure test but you take the arrival test you must quarantine for 3 days and then can come out of quarantine once you have a negative Day-3 Test.

3. And, finally, if you have no pre-departure test and no arrival test you must quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.

If you test positive at any time you must isolate for 14 days.

Finally, with the summer in full swing there have been a lot of questions about camping. I remind you that we remain under emergency measures and a curfew is in place between midnight and 5am. This prohibits being outdoors during those times and necessarily prohibits camping.

In closing, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

Thank You.

Thank you Minister Wilson.

With the new imported cases, I have received repeated questions as to whether or not this is the right time to open Bermuda to the outside world or should we have waited longer?

The decision to open the airport to scheduled commercial flights is not about putting profits or the economy over public health. It is about making sure that people in this country have the opportunity to get safely back to work, to provide for their families. Since we have opened the airport to scheduled commercial flights on 1 July, there have been six flights to Bermuda. Most recently, two flights arriving this afternoon. As the airlines add Bermuda to their schedule will see more Bermudians is returning home, and more visitors to our island.

It is important to remember that Bermuda’s testing regime, at our border, is the most stringent regime in the world. There is no country that requires the amount of testing that Bermuda requires in order to keep our country safe.

The Minister of Health has reported that since we opened the airport three travelers have tested positive. This testing is in place precisely for this reason, to identify and isolate anyone who has the virus. We were able to test and get the results back quickly, in order to inform those who are confirmed positive to ensure that they are quickly isolated.

As the Minister of Health has made very clear, a visitor that does not have clearance will not be boarded, and therefore will not be allowed to come to Bermuda. We also recognize that it is difficult for Bermuda residents to access testing whilst overseas, and we cannot legally deny residents entry into their own country.

However, if the situation in the United States continues on its current trajectory, we may need to change rules to require residents who are traveling to the United States to require pre departure tests before their return.

We will continue to look at all issues and as the Minister of Health has said update our procedures based upon the risks that present themselves. I however, want to ensure that Bermuda remains an example to the world on how you can manage the various risks that this virus presents appropriately balances risks to ensure that our economy can recover, while we keep the virus in check.

And the key to that is testing. And as I said, we have the most aggressive test regime when it comes to travelers on the planet, and we are confident that this will help to keep our country safe.

With that, I now invite, Col. Burch, the Minister of Public Works to give an update on the work of the Cabinet committee tasked with safely reopening Bermuda. Minister Burch.

Minister Burch Statement

Good evening.

I am happy to provide an update on the work of the Cabinet Committee on Reopening since the implementation of Phase 4 last Wednesday July 1st.

To remind what requirements are still in place:

  • Permitted gatherings are set at a maximum of 50 persons
  • Requests for larger gatherings must apply to the Minister of National Security for permission with a plan to include social distancing and masks and other requirements.
  • Masks must be worn indoors.   Masks must be worn outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Curfew shifted to midnight to 5 am. – will be reviewed weekly.

With regard to the curfew – as indicated last week that it would be reviewed weekly – the recommendation to the full cabinet was that it remain in place and be reviewed next week.

With regard to gatherings larger than 50 persons – requests must be made to the Minister of National Security who following the initial assessment by the team in the Ministry – it is referred to the subcommittee.

Following the events of this past week – it is clear that a number of things must happen.   Firstly, a complete review of the protocols and how they are communicated to event organisers.  Enforcement protocols must be enhanced so that the requirements necessary for approval are adhered to – such as:

  • Confirmation that rules are actually being enforced.
  • Spot checks at establishments (especially liquor establishments)
  • Recording of names & Contact information.
  • Adequate Hand Sanitizer.
  • Issuing the appropriate sanctions for no  compliance

We are seeing an increase in requests for events with groups larger than 50 of varying types.  As such the Cabinet Committee will meet tomorrow morning to discuss and provide greater clarity a to the guidelines.

With regard to activities over Cup Match such as camping and use of beaches – we will take these matters up at our regular meeting on Monday.

We are mindful of our traditions of summer time in Bermuda and especially during this month – where, in my office, I am completely surrounded by those blue & blue people.  We are also mindful that we are in the middle of a pandemic that we as a country have navigated very well – most of us have followed the rules and the health protocols put in place – and of course the increased testing regime – has resulted in our current state.  With that – I wish the people of this country to know that that is what has guided and will continue to guide our deliberations and recommendations to the Cabinet.

Thank you, Premier.

Thank you Col. Burch.

As more Bermudians are returning to work, I want to reiterate what the Minister of Finance stated last week. If you have received money through the Unemployment Benefit programme, companies and individuals must notify the Government that they returned to work. You can do this by visiting www.bermudajobboard.com, follow the link at the top for COVID-19 Unemployment Application, then click on the Back to Work form.

As we prepare for another weekend, we must remember all we have learned the last few months about containing COVID-19. We are in the midst of summer activities which includes spending time with family and friends, enjoying the beach, boating, and other outdoor activities.

Inevitably, many of these activities include alcohol. If you plan to drink, please don’t drink and drive. Remember to maintain physical distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands with soap and water. When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers. It is a simple refrain. I know that I sound like a broken record, but the truth is that this is the most effective way to ensure that we continue to keep this virus at bay.

The responsibility for helping to keep the COVID-19 confirmed cases low lies with each of us, and is especially important now as we have reopened our borders, and we have a few imported cases which we believe are appropriately managed, but we have to make sure that we are extra cautious. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.

Press Conference Update July 2nd 2020

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 2, 2020

 

Good afternoon Bermuda.

Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Minister of Tourism and Transport the Hon. Zane De Silva and the Minister of Finance the Hon. Curtis Dickinson, who will give remarks. The Minister of National Security the Hon. Wayne Caines is available to answer questions from the media. We are also joined by the Acting CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Mr. Glenn Jones.

I would like to begin my remarks this evening with a sadly familiar refrain. Addressing a malicious message surrounding our young Bermudians who have put their lives on hold to assist Bermuda during this pandemic. And unfortunately, today I’m speaking, again, about Dr. Carika Weldon. Why am I speaking about it is because I’ve been made aware that there are, once again malicious messages circulating via WhatsApp, and social media. I’m going to address those messages point by point.

  • The Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory’s laboratory layout and testing operations were reviewed by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) when first set-up to communicate any necessary changes needed prior to testing;
  • As part of the start-up process included sending samples to Helix for cross checking. This is known as a verification process. This was the same process undergone by Helix when the COVID-19 testing began. It required that all positive samples and a percentage of negatives were to be sent to CARPHA for verification. All sample processes included using the nasopharyngeal swab only and these were done and reviewed by PAHO;
  • We are currently receiving a high number of negatives – because there’s some insinuation that we’re receiving negatives because the testing is not good. We are receiving a high number of negatives because the aggressive testing that occurred during containment phase, to ensure that there were no missed cases in the community, when positive cases were initially imported. It is a testament to the excellent work that we have done in the community, and as a country that there is a low rate of positives, and this has nothing to do with testing protocols.

Finally, I personally find it interesting that people would be questioning the pooling method which is in use by the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, as a reason why the standards are not as high as they should be. When just this week testimony was given to the United States Congress, by none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci, stating that the USA may want to consider pooling to speed up their testing. Our own Dr. Weldon was ten weeks ahead of the United States of America and this protocol was already implemented in Bermuda.

There are those who seek attention and validation by creating lies, or by sharing them. There are those who unquestionably share whatever is forwarded to them without asking questions, engaging critical thought, or even thinking about what they are forwarding may mean to other persons. To those who are engaging in this type of behavior, I ask you to please stop.

And yet beyond that, this latest set of malicious lies fits a pattern that so many young educated, intelligent, and talented Bermudians face when they return home. It is unacceptable, intolerable and offensive. And I cannot and will not let Dr. Weldon, or any other young Bermudian who has put their life on hold, to help their country, be subjected to attacks and abuse of this nature, and no other Bermudian should be either.

At a time when most of us have come together, those among us who seek to disrespect, denigrate, and destroy this young, outstanding, Black, Bermudian, female doctor, or any other Bermudian serving their country should be ashamed of their actions and their outmoded beliefs.

Bermuda has done well. People look at us and say look how well Bermuda has done because countless young Bermudians have risen to the occasion. From testing, to technology, to working on the front lines. We’ve innovated and shown ourselves to be an example for the world. And I urge all of us to dedicate more time and energy to building each other up instead of rushing to tear other Bermudians down.

With that introduction. I’m happy to turn over the mic to the Minister of Health for updates on COVID-19 testing and other matters related to the Ministry of Health.

Minister.

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 273 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 146 total confirmed positive cases. As of today we have only two actives case in Bermuda, of which one is currently hospitalized but not in critical care.

  • A total of 135 have 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 source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 42 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 16 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 3 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status is “Local Transmission – Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is below 1.

There are now over 9,000 persons registered on HealthIQ. Well done, Bermuda. Keep it coming as we are nearly at the 10,000 target to get a green light on our indicators.

We have been receiving a lot of questions regarding the saliva tests. These have arrived on island but will not be ready for use just yet as they need to go through the regular validation process which requires testing with positive samples. Because we have only two positive cases on island currently, we can’t complete the validation process. However, once this is done, we will be able to use it as part of our screening programmes.

As you all know, today we received the first commercial flight from Toronto. Thanks to an incredible team of professionals from multiple Government departments and agencies, we were well prepared and successfully landed and health screened all arriving passengers.

We set up the new system very fast and we are aware that there were some technical glitches with the online portal to apply for Travel Authorizations. Nevertheless, we are working through those and, importantly, we were able to capture the information we needed.

It disappointed me greatly to learn that at least one passenger from the flight took it upon themselves to breach the obligatory quarantine and visited a local restaurant after getting off the flight. Luckily the individuals were identified and public health and enforcement officials are pursuing the matter now.

With our borders now open once again to commercial flights, I want to stress that this is NOT an indication that we have won the battle against COVID-19, or that we can now relax our protective measures. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. As I have said before, with more freedom, comes more responsibility.

The measures that will keep us safe seem so simple, it can be hard to believe how important they are. But they are our best protection.

Please wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

We have put in place stringent measures for incoming travellers and to ensure we can identify any COVID cases early and isolate immediately. However, with open borders comes the potential to import COVID-19, so we must be diligent in our preventive measures at all times – even more than we have been until now.

With less legal restrictions on our activities, we must still place personal restrictions on our activities. For our mental and physical health it’s important to be active and social, but we must be clear on the risks involved. To help with this, an activity guide has been posted on the Government website today which details some activities on the high and low risk scale.

For example, low risk activities include walking or biking outdoors, which can be with friends if you stay 6 feet apart. Another low-risk activity is dining outdoors, provided that tables are 6 feet apart and diners avoid high-touch items like menus.

Low to medium risk activities include picnicking outside with friends, so long as you keep 6 feet from others, keep groups small, wear masks, and don’t share food or utensils.

Going to the beach and swimming in a pool also fall into this category so long as you physical distance from others, avoid locker rooms, and spend most of your time in motion.

Medium risk activities include a children’s playdate outside, so long as you keep groups small, don’t share food and wear masks.

Conversely, activities that are Medium to high risk include socializing outside with a large group. The more people, the more likely you may be exposed. You should physical distance and wear masks.

Going to the gym is also a medium to high risk activity, but there are many things you can and should do to minimize the risk, which are listed on the guidance note for gyms at coronavirus.gov.bm.

High risk activities include visiting elderly parents or friends who are high-risk for COVID-19. Avoid physical contact with them and meet outside if possible. Don’t visit them if you have symptoms, have been exposed, or might be sick.

This is also not a great time to be dating new people.  Outdoor, physically-distanced dates are relatively safe, but avoid close physical contact.

Very high risk activities include attending a big party indoors or being in a large gathering or dense crowds. Avoid these at all costs, unless strictly necessary.

It is more important than ever that we each play our part in keeping our community safe. It’s not by luck that we have avoided community spread so far; it is through our hard work and diligent efforts to follow Government guidelines and directions.

Before closing I want to comment briefly on the latest news that have created a lot of chatter about the island’s health system.

By now the majority of Bermuda would have heard of the merger that took place between Argus Insurance and the two medical practices, Island Health Services and the Family Practice Group.  This merger within the private sector took place privately and without Ministry of Health or Bermuda Health Council knowledge or involvement – this is not unlawful, as the law currently stands. Nevertheless, it is an important development in our small health system and so it merits comment.

You would be aware that as a result of this pandemic, much of our worst fears and anxieties about our health system have become a reality.  We have businesses that cannot afford health insurance, workers who are unemployed and now uninsured, families who are going without treatment, medications that are out of the reach of seniors.  Argus and the medical practices took it upon themselves to try to smooth out some of these rough spots for their specific clients by investing in one another. Though that may be of benefit for their piece of the pie, its impact on the overall health system needs to be considered.

We will continue to pursue a better health system that works for everyone, in good times and bad, and will work with all individuals, businesses, and all sectors to make that a reality. Universal health coverage remains this Government’s goal.  We will not squander the lessons that COVID-19 has taught us: that we are much better as a country when we do things in a unified manner and will not neglect what we have lived each day for the last 4 months, which has highlighted the importance of putting the health of our residents first and foremost.

Thank you and stay safe, Bermuda.

Thank you, Minister of Health.

Today marks the first day of the safe opening of our airport to returning commercial traffic. We have examined every aspect of reopening. Many Bermudians who have been stranded overseas since the start of travel restrictions will be returning home and business and tourism visitors are expected to be amongst them.

This Government’s stance, since Bermuda was in Phase 1, was we would not open the airport until we were convinced that we had the appropriate protections in place. The equipment in place, the monitoring measures in place and the strategy in place to keep our Customs Officers, airport staff, hospitality workers and wider community safe from the coronavirus.

Yesterday the Minister of National Security led an exercise at LF Wade International airport which walked through, step by step, the process to ensure that every “I” was dotted and every “T” was crossed in advance of today’s arrivals. We are confident that the health and safety measures Bermuda has put in place, will ensure the safety of our community.

As I have said recently, Bermuda’s entry requirements are amongst some of the toughest in the world. You should see on your screen a graphic that has been created to show the tests those arriving in Bermuda, compared to the rest of the world, or other countries in our region.

  • A traveler that does not have the clearance will not be boarded and will therefore not come to Bermuda.
  • All visitors coming to Bermuda will be required to be tested when they arrive. Tested on day 3, tested on day 7, and tested on day 14 of their stay. The number of tests required obviously depends on the length of stay.
  • We will ensure all Customs Officers, airport workers and officials will have on appropriate PPE and there will be physical distancing measures in place including physical barriers.
  • At any point, any visitor who tests positive will be fitted with a quarantine monitoring bracelet and will be required to isolate in their room. If they attempt to leave their room, the monitoring device will alert the authorities who will take the necessary steps to protect our community.

 

As we have sought to put our people back to work safely, the Minister of Tourism and Transport has been hard at work with industry stakeholders and the Bermuda Tourism Authority to ensure Bermuda is effective at getting tourists back to our shores.  Minister De Silva will now provide an update.

MINISTER OF TOURISM AND TRANSPORT STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

As you know, regular commercial airline services resumed today (July 2nd 2020) at the L.F. Wade International Airport.

The first flight to arrive, Air Canada from Toronto, touched down a few minutes after 1pm today. I would like to commend everyone involved in making sure we were ready to welcome visitors and returning residents back to our island home.

Regarding visitors to Bermuda, we continue to work with the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) to inspire confidence in travelling again, by highlighting that Bermuda is a clean, safe and close jurisdiction that is reopening responsibly – with enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place by the Ministry of Health, that protect both visitors and the local community. To that end:

  • after having paused paid marketing since March 16, the BTA restarted paid placements Wednesday, July 1;
  • the BTA’s marketing plan will gradually ramp up through the coming weeks and intensify as we get closer to expected increases in airlift capacity and hotel inventory;
  • where to target is based on where there are flights, but also where there is workable flight connectivity – a task more difficult than it used to be, based on severely reduced flight schedules;
  • because visitor volume will be lower than normal, there’s a simultaneous inside-out marketing approach, where aspects of the visitor experience will be marketed to locals at the same time they’re marketed to visitors. Examples:
    • Golf Week (happening now);
    • Independent Retailer Month (happening this month);
    • Alfresco Dining Festival and World Tourism Day (in September);
    • Yacht & Catamaran Week (in October);
    • Spa Month (in November);
    • and Staycations (as properties reopen).

All of these are in development and expected to reach finalization soon, based on willingness from on-island stakeholders. The Ministry is also working with the BTA to reach out to vacation rental owners – as well as working closely with hoteliers – to assist with making their safety plans operational.

Next week, the BTA will survey the entire tourism economy to understand who is planning to open, plus when and what they’re doing to keep consumers safe.

That feedback is important, so that visitors are aware of not only when hotels will reopen and what restaurants are back in operation – but also what experiences, tours, retailers, museums, mini car and moped rentals, etc. are available – making sure visitors can be connected with both established and small businesses in the tourism space.

We are also in regular contact with the Bermuda Hotel Association (BHA), who remain committed to ensuring that the appropriate health and safety standards and COVID-19 mitigation protocols are in place at the island’s hotel properties, following Ministry of Health guidelines. For example:

  • masks will be worn by all employees in all public areas, staff areas and when working, and education on the correct use of masks will be provided as well;
  • hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed in key guest and employee areas, and all encouraged to practice good hygiene frequently and thoroughly;
  • signage regarding the Health requirements will be put in place; and,
  • both guests and staff will have their temperatures taken when entering buildings.

It is important to realise that the BHA is providing guidance on a good standard for all hotels; however each hotel brand is likely to have additional requirements that are over and above the guidelines being put in place now.

Having worked hard to contain the coronavirus in Bermuda, we will work equally hard to be the destination of choice for those seeking peace of mind in a safe and relaxing locale.

Finally, talks continue with the airline industry regarding airlift to Bermuda. However, I must re-emphasise that flight schedules are still subject to change. Already, I can say that since last week, American Airlines has decided to reinstate its flight from Miami rather than its flight from New York, as I reported to you just a short time ago! At present, the Miami flight is due to start in September.

The ability to overcome challenges and adapt is something Bermuda is known for and I am certain that we will continue to prove our worth as a top-tier tourism destination.

Thank you.

Thank you Minister.

As we work to revive our tourism economy, it is essential that we support our small and medium sized businesses in Bermuda. This government pledged $12 million to support our businesses through what will be a challenging period. Small- and medium-sized businesses have been assisted by the efforts of Bermuda Economic Development Corporation in the wake of this pandemic. These hard working women and men often devote all their waking hours to making a success of their investment.

Supporting them is supporting our community. I’m pleased to advise that as of today, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has approved almost one and a half million dollars for 67 small- and medium-sized businesses. These businesses span the entire island, and our aim continues to be to support them, not just in recovery, but for their intended growth.

A further 81 businesses are at various stages of the approval process, and all told we stand to provide, thus far over $4 million in support of small- and medium-sized businesses in Bermuda. This recovery will be built on the foundation of small and medium sized business who command a loyal customer base, and, to a large extent employ a number of Bermudians. Supporting them is supporting our community. For an update on the other initiatives to support our economy, the Ministry of Finance will now address the country. Minister.

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE STATEMENT

Good afternoon,

As Bermuda continues to ease restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and additional sectors of the economy are opening with Phase 4, I am pleased to provide a further update on the Ministry of Finance COVID-19 – Fiscal Plan.

Today, I will cover four areas: an update on the Unemployment Benefit, Contributory Pensions Temporary Amendment Act 2020, information on the process for taking advantage of the National Pension Scheme suspensions, and payroll tax relief for restaurants and bars.

Unemployment Benefits

The term of the unemployment benefits has been extended for an additional 4 weeks, for a total of 16 weeks.

Last week, the Ministry of Finance authorized unemployment benefit payments to 6,420 people for a total of $5,518,000. We now have paid benefits to over 10,100 for a total cost of approximately $43 million.

We expect further payments to continue on a bi-weekly schedule, which means another payment on Friday, July 10.

As mentioned earlier, we continue to make progress to resolve problem applications, and last week we paid 332 applicants for the first time.

Approximately 4,500 people have notified the Department of Workforce Development that they have returned to work, and they are no longer receiving unemployment benefits. Our expectation is that this number will continue to grow as Bermuda enters its second week of Phase Four and government continues to actively explore and implement actions to get our people back to work.

I want to reiterate that all individuals and companies must notify the Government of your return to work to confirm your eligibility period.

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.

For those that have already done so, we thank you for the act of responsible citizenship.

For those who have returned to work and have NOT informed us, I want to make one point very clear: if this government determines that individuals and employers are not informing the government in a timely manner of their return to work, causing the government to “overpay” individuals, this government will utilize all of its powers outlined in the Regulations to claw back funds that have been paid to individuals that are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. As we continue to work together as a community, to restart and rebuild our economy, it should be viewed as unacceptable and irresponsible for individuals that are back to work, and no longer eligible to accept unemployment benefits.

Contributory Pensions Temporary Amendment Act 2020

The Contributory Pensions Temporary Amendment Act 2020 came into force on July 1st. As previously announced this amendment allows for employees, employers, and self-employed persons to suspend payment of their social insurance contributions for the whole of the suspension period (July 1st 2020 – June 30th 2021). Guidelines, FAQs and forms for both employees and employers are located at www.gov.bm.  For any questions please contact the Department of Social Insurance at SIsuspend@gov.bm or call their hotline for any suspension related queries at 444-2470.

The National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Temporary Amendment Act 2020 also came into force yesterday. This amendment allows for a suspension of employee and employer contributions for a twelve month period commencing 1st July, 2020 and ending on 30th June, 2021.  The process to take advantage of this concession is as follows:

Once the employee and employer agree on the employee suspension, the employer should write to the plan administrator advising them of the suspension of contributions. The employer may agree with the employee suspension, but still wish to make their contributions. They may do so and the employer must advise their plan administrator accordingly. The reporting to the plan administrator is necessary so that the employer is not reported by the administrator to the Pension Commission as being delinquent. An employer’s continued contributions are not treated as voluntary and as such they are not subject to payroll tax.

If the plan is a defined benefit plan, then the employer does not have to receive the agreement of the employee to make the suspension. This is because the employer is financially responsible for making up any pension shortfalls that may result from suspending the contributions.

Latest Refund Statistics.

I can also provide the latest stats for refunds under the NPS:

$12,000 Refunds

Total Applications Received: 6,976

Total Number Approved: 4,382

Total Value of Applications Approved: $49,443,629 25% Refunds Total Applications Received:97 Total Number Approved: 79 Total Value of Applications Approved: $2,482,284 It is pleasing to know the recent hardship withdrawal provisions under the Act has assisted many families over the last few weeks and clearly validates the benefits of this social policy initiative. I can also advised that legislation will be tabled tomorrow which will make additional amendments to the Act and respective regulations to increase the scope of coverage and provide additional access to plan members and former members of defined contribution pension plans as follows:

  • by removing the requirement for a member not to be retired for those seeking a $12,000 refund;
  • by removing the requirement for persons to be retired for those seeking a 25% refund;
  • by removing the requirement for persons to be retired for those seeking a small pensions refund; and

Payroll Tax Relief to Restaurants and Bars On May 21st 2020 Government announced short-term relief from payroll tax to assist the restaurant and bar sector. During the last quarter ending 30th June 2020, payroll tax was set at a zero rate for the restaurant and bar sectors and these businesses ceased deducting payroll tax from employees during this period.  I am pleased to advise that this concession has been extended for the next quarter and the Government is considering extending this concession further to include restaurants within hotels that are operating under the general hotel licensing regime. Thank you.

Thank you, Minister of Finance.

This government is acutely aware that many in Bermuda continue to experience high levels of anxiety and depression. In a few short months our entire way of life has been altered. We have had to adapt quickly to changes brought about as a result of this pandemic, and now have to adjust to a new normal.

All of these changes have taken a physical and emotional toll. If you or a loved one have any of the following psychological or physical symptoms, know that there is help available. Please call the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline: 543 1111.

Here are a few of the psychological symptoms of depression, they include:

  • continuous low mood or sadness;
  • feeling hopeless and helpless;
  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others;
  • having no motivation or interest in things;
  • feeling anxious or feeling worried;

Some physical symptoms of depression include:

  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual;
  • changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased);
  • lack of energy;
  • disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning;
  • may withdraw from being around others and socializing; and
  • may have changes in risky behavior such as increased alcohol or substance use.

Again the number to call is 543 1111 and persons are there between 9am and 9pm.

There are many in Bermuda who have contributed to the successes we have had in containing the spread of COVID-19 on our shores. Many individuals, companies and organizations have worked hard and sacrificed to get us to the point, where we are able to open our borders safely and restart our economy. I must thank and highlight the local associations together with local and international companies that donated a total of $2.7m so the Bermuda Hospitals Board could purchase life-saving medical equipment for people who contracted COVID-19 and were hospitalized. Amongst the list of essential equipment is an oxygenator, which is currently en route to island.

On behalf of the government and people of Bermuda, I extend a sincere thank you.

I’ve also been made aware that there is a website which is currently being promoted on Facebook, with a story, and quotes attributed to me. Please note that this website is a fraud. I urge persons do not, under any circumstances send money or information to anyone online. No Government Minister will ever contact you on social media, asking you for money. And this site, which features quotes and has given me a promotion to Prime Minister of Bermuda, they ask people to invest in a bitcoin or some other type thing.

Here’s the truth. If you click on the site, and if you enter your credit card details to make an investment in something that is not being promoted by us, you will likely never see that money again. The Bermuda Police Service has already issued a statement on this particular scam. I did check Facebook earlier today and see that it’s been shared a number of times, it is false, and if you enter your money on that website or enter your credit card information, it is likely that information will be stolen and you will not see your money again.

As we are now fully in Phase 4, this is the last of the twice weekly government press conferences to update the country on COVID-19. We will shift to once a week for press conferences starting next week. And the next time that will be with you in your living rooms will be next week Thursday.

Additionally, the House of Assembly will meet tomorrow to consider a number of pieces of legislation, some which were mentioned by the Minister of Finance. Please tune in to parliament.bm, you can listen on 105.1, or you can also hear the goings on of the House of Assembly on Bernews.com.

As we conclude today’s media briefing, I would like to extend the prayers and best wishes of Bermuda to Private Ndavyah or Davy Williams and his family.  Private Williams is recovering with our prayers, our support and our sincere gratitude for his service.

And before I close I want to thank the ministers who have been with me at all of these press conferences.

It has been an incredible amount of work, so Minister Wilson, I pay special tribute to you and to Minister of National Security Minister Wayne Caines, who, when I said that we were moving to once a week, press conferences, started singing choral music because it has been an incredible toll. But this has been a difficult experience for all of us, but it has been a pleasure making sure that we keep everyone informed. As we move to Phase 4 we are going to adjust to our new normal, but we’re going to make sure that we keep you informed fully on a weekly basis.

Thank you. Happy to take any questions.

June 29th Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 June 29th Update

Good afternoon Bermuda.

Today I am joined by the Minister of Health Kim Wilson who will give an update from her Ministry. The Minister of National Security, Min. Wayne Caines, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball and Mr. David Kendell, Director of the Department of Health are all available to answer questions from the media.

Before I begin my substantial remarks, I would like to express condolences from the Government of Bermuda, to the family who lost their loved one on the water this weekend. It’s certainly tragic to lose a life so young, but it is a reminder to all of us that we must make sure that we are taking extra precautions when we are out on the water, as it can be dangerous.

As we head towards sending more of our people back to work and restoring economic opportunities and jobs in the tourism economy, we understand the concerns that many have expressed about the risk that opening our borders may pose.

Like you, we have seen the examples of countries who have not successfully managed the reopening of their economies like Bermuda has been able to do, and are also concerned about potential risks to our loved ones and our community. We have been able to address those concerns through one of the most stringent screening and monitoring processes that will be in place.

It is important to note that this entire process is a change from what normally happens when a visitor comes to Bermuda. Before, they just booked the flight, showed up at the airport with their passports, and boarded the plane.

We have all been affected, or know someone who’s been affected by showing up the airport, and they did not have their ESTA for the US, or their ETA for Canada. Tomorrow at 11am Bermuda will launch its own electronic Travel Authorization form for all travelers to Bermuda, and the Minister of Health will certainly expand on that when she speaks. But, it’s important to note that:

  • A traveler intending to come to Bermuda must complete a Traveler Authorization Form.
  • That form will be vetted and based upon the answers provided the Bermuda Government will indicate whether or not the traveler is cleared to come to Bermuda.
  • A traveler that does not have the clearance will not be boarded and will therefore not come to Bermuda.
  • All visitors coming to Bermuda will be required to be tested when they arrive on day 3, on day 7, and on day 14 of their stay. The number of tests required obviously depends on the length of stay.
  • We will ensure all Customs Officers, airport workers and officials will have on appropriate PPE and there will be physical distancing measures in place including physical barriers.
  • At any point in time any visitor tests positive, they will be fitted with a quarantine monitoring bracelet and will be required to isolate in their room. If they attempt to leave their room, the monitoring device will alert the authorities who will take the necessary steps to protect our community.

With these measures in place, we are confident we can detect early, detect quickly, and contain any positive COVID cases and prevent the spread of this disease in our community.

Let me be clear. There is risk involved. While thousands of Bermudians successfully returned to work, there are thousands more reliant on our tourism economy and want to work, but haven’t been able to do so. While the safety net created by the government through the unemployment benefit, has been extended, the ongoing costs to the public purse is large.

I however, cannot stress enough, this is not about putting profits or the economy over public health. It is about making sure that people in this country do not go hungry, and they have the opportunity to safely get back to work, to provide for their families. I am confident that Bermuda can serve as an example to the world on how to manage this virus, and how to be successful, while allowing persons into your country safely with the right protections in place.

A series of videos will be released this week, as well as a social media and radio campaign further explaining the strong protective measures in place, and how Bermuda’s testing regime and protective measures are some of the strongest in the world.

Now, we’ll hear from the Minister of Health, who will update about the latest test results and also give the expanded version of the traveler entry process and the electronic travel authorization.

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

Between Sunday and today there were 378 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 146 total confirmed positive cases. As of today we have only two actives case in Bermuda, of which one is currently hospitalized but not in critical care.

  • A total of 135 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The news of only two active cases remaining is wonderful news for the country. We can all be very proud of this achievement, as we are on the cusp of being a COVID-free nation.

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.

Overall, 57% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 3% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 42 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 15 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 4 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status is “Local Transmission – Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is below 1.

At Thursday’s press conference, I detailed the process that incoming travellers – residents and visitors –will be required take when entering Bermuda as of July 1st, and in the subsequent days after their arrival. All of this information can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm along with a detailed FAQ document.

Today I want to talk specifically about the Travel Authorization application, which is similar to the process that one would have to go through to apply for an ESTA when entering the United States, for example.

I want to be clear that both visitors and residents entering Bermuda from abroad must apply for this Travel Authorization prior to travel, which will be available on the government website coronavirus.gov.bm (travel page) from tomorrow. There will be an online application form for returning residents and arriving visitors.

This Travel Authorization helps us ensure that our strict testing regime and health protocols are adhered to by travelers, in order to keep our island safe.

The application will require travelers to confirm that they have negative COVID test results, and to answer questions about their health like whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms .

A one-time fee of $75 is required when applying for the Travel Authorization and includes all COVID-19 tests required within the stipulated 14 day period.

In order to enter Bermuda, visitors will be asked to confirm that they are travelling with health insurance that covers illness and injury outside of their home jurisdiction, including those related to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis while in Bermuda. If they are not travelling with insurance, they must tick the box that states that they understand they will be responsible for the all health and accommodation costs should they require treatment and/or quarantine, whether related to COVID-19 or otherwise.

Once a traveller completes the online form, they will receive an email advising whether it has been approved. If approved, the Travel Authorization must be shown at the departure gate; either a printed version or directly from your mobile device. Travellers will not be permitted to board without proof of their Travel Authorization.

The Travel Authorization is only needed when coming into Bermuda. It is not required when leaving. Persons travelling outbound to other countries should research what is required of them by the jurisdiction they are going to; the Government of Bermuda has no control over what other countries require for entry and/or free movement around their country.

In closing, I want to urge residents to please…not let your guard down when you are out and about.

Please continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

We are each responsible for our own health as well as the health of our community.

…And with more freedom, comes more responsibility.

Thank You.

Thank you Minister of Health, and that’s certainly good news that we’ve gone ten days without any new cases, and we’re down to only two active cases.

As most would be aware, the state of emergency, that has been in place for Bermuda, since the 1 April, comes to an end tomorrow. Phase 4 of our reopening plan starts on 1 July. One of the changes to Phase 4, and the announcement which was made by Colonel Burch will be that, following a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on the reopening of Bermuda today, and following reports that came back to the Cabinet Committee from Bermuda’s grocers, the Cabinet Committee advised that grocery shopping days will end with a start of Phase 4 on 1 July. So, come Wednesday, persons will be permitted under law to attend grocery stores on any given day.

The question is, why did this change take so long? The fact that we wanted to ensure that where we had the number of discount days which we had asked for from the major grocers to be on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we wanted to see if the grocers would extend those discounts days. Unfortunately, all but one grocer did not take up the offer to extend those discount days. So, tonight I want to give a special thanks to the Lindo’s Group of Companies, who has said that they will continue in the interest of our community. The discount days will be on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays at the Lindo’s stores, through the Cup Match holiday.

And they wanted to say that in doing so, customers may shop at Lindo’s during those days, and receive their discounts. They will look to go to their normal scheduled discounts for Tuesdays for seniors and Wednesdays for everyone else, after the Cup Match holiday. I want to say thank you to Lindo’s stores for working with the Government of Bermuda to try to make sure to reduce congestion, by providing discount days on multiple days.

The necessity to safely reopen the airport and restart our tourism season was underscored by an email I received earlier today. The sender asked me to issue another plea to landlords to be lenient with tenants who, through no fault of their own, have been out of work since the start of the pandemic and unable to pay their rent.

I am encouraging landlords to assist tenants experiencing financial hardship as a result of this pandemic. 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.

Make sure that you’re 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.

We encourage tenants who have the ability to pay their rent to 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.

Of course, the government website coronavirus.gov.bm has a COVID-19 rent relief form, which is there, which can assist landlords and tenants in working through these issues. This government recognizes that there are difficulties for tenants to pay their rent, whether they are at a residential or commercial property, and I want to say that this is the time for all of us in Bermuda to be understanding, supportive, and compassionate, where we are able to do so.

Another matter, regarding Phase 4 is an issue that a lot of persons have questioned – why the curfew has been kept in place. While we are consistently monitoring the situation, and having discussed this, it was determined that with reopening of bars and nightclubs at the commencement of Phase 4, it would possibly be dangerous to open up not only bars and nightclubs, but to remove the curfew at the same time.

No one has to look further than the United States of America, which has seen cases and instances where the rise and spread of the virus has been tied to bars being open and we’ve seen a number of states start to roll back those restrictions. So we’ve always done these things in a phased approach, the phased approach has worked very well for Bermuda, and we want to continue this phased approach. So, we will see how it works for one week, and as was said on Thursday, the curfew will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

It is also important that I remind everyone that wearing your mask is essential. I’ve been given multiple versions of conspiracy theories that have been shared with my by persons on social media or WhatsApp. I’ve read the cases of people around the world who are refusing to wear masks.

Bermuda, very simple, this is not the time to play around with this situation! We wear masks to contain the spread of virus through droplets when we talk, cough or sneeze.  It is specifically intended to protect the people around us. We have to understand that persons can be asymptomatic spreaders; that means they don’t have a fever, they have no symptoms. However, they may be spreading the virus unknowingly. That is the reason why, especially in cases and instances where social distancing cannot be maintained, persons are required to wear masks.

I wear a mask to protect you. And you were a mask protect me. Beyond the containment measures we placed in the border during the initial stages of this pandemic, it has been the public, embracing and adhering to the wearing of mass and frequent hand washing or hand sanitizing that has kept our communities safe, and our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. It is certainly not the time to slip out of the good habits that we as a country have established. We want to go to a place where we will have a long stretch of time where we do not have cases, where we can even remove more and more restrictions. That is important. Recognize that we are down to just two active cases.

Our collective discipline and collective management of this pandemic has been better than demonstrated in larger jurisdictions. We cannot and will not allow behaviour that jeopardizes the health and safety of the community to occur.  I also remind the public that violations of these rules that are designed to keep our community safe, can always be reported by calling 211.

Before I close and take questions for the media tonight, I would like to share with some persons a note of congratulations, as on Saturday, the Minister for Community Affairs and Sports, the Hon. Lovitta Foggo and I had the opportunity to participate in a drive through celebration of the Trophy Presentation to the BFA League Champions.  I want to recognize them this evening.

  • Premier Division Champs North Village Community Club
  • First Division Co-Champs Devonshire Colts and St. George’s Colts
  • U13 Champions – Next Generation Onions
  • U15 Champions – Warwick Archer Bows
  • U17 Champions – PHC

I congratulate all of you on your successes and like many Bermudians around the island, I look forward to the days when we can all go back to safely enjoying watching a good football game by our island’s top athletes.

With that, I want to remind everyone that Phase 4 comes into place, on Wednesday, and that is not a reason to let our guard down. That is a reason to make sure that we maintain our vigilance. The first flight is expected arrive on island on Thursday, and there will be plenty of protection in place at our airport to ensure that we keep our country safe. Recognize, we have had a good record of keeping the country safe during this pandemic and we have every intention of maintaining that good record, as we continue to work together.

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

 

June 25th COVID-19 Press Conference

Bermuda Government COVID-19 June 25th Update

 

 

Good afternoon Bermuda and thank you for joining us.

As a country, we have made excellent progress and Bermuda is being recognized for our collective progress in successfully navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.  From an overwhelming majority of us working together, and following the public health advice, we remain on pace to enter Phase 4 of the country’s reopening when the State of Emergency expires on Wednesday 1 July 2020.

Today, I’m joined by the Minister of Health Kim Wilson, the Minister for Public Works Lt. Col. David Burch, Minister for Tourism and Transport, Zane De Silva and the Minister for National Security, Min. Wayne Caines.

The focus of today’s briefing will be on outlining measures as we move into Phase 4, Our New Normal. There has been a lot of work getting us to this point, and before the Minister of Health gives her update from her ministry, I would like to pay tribute to all of our public officers, healthcare workers, volunteers, essential services workers, and all of you for doing your part to get us to where we are today. Thank you.

Minster Wilson who will give an update from the Ministry of Health.

MINISTER WILSON STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

Today there were 220 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has 146 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are now just 4 active cases, of which
  • 3 are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 1 is hospitalized;
  • none is in critical care.
  • A total of 133 have 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.

Overall, 57% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 3% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 42 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 13 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 6 are under investigation

So far Bermuda has conducted 10,634 COVID-19 tests and over 98% have been negative. This is really good news for us…and is reflective of our adherence to the rules when it comes to preventive measures such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, staying home when sick, avoiding large gatherings, limiting our social interactions and shielding our vulnerable…None of which should be abandoned as we prepare to enter Phase 4 next week.

On that last point, I just want to say that continuing to shield persons who are clinically extremely vulnerable and very elderly persons will be more important than ever as we enter Phase 4.

Such individuals must be shielded not just from the public but also from household members who go out into the public.

For instance, if you are a family member who is the caregiver of a vulnerable person, you must take strict precautions when providing hands-on care to the shielded person if you go out to do the shopping, errands etc. You should wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart from the shielded individual where possible.

And if you must do hands-on care, please review the guidance for care-givers outlining the precautions you must take which can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm.

The specific shielding measures that vulnerable individuals should follow can also be found there and include avoiding close face-to-face contact with others, avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus and not attending any gatherings.

I want to be clear: Moving to Phase 4 does not mean everything is ‘okay’. We are reopening for the sake of our mental well-being and our economic survival… we are NOT reopening because there is no longer any threat from COVID-19.

We are able to reopen because we have done so well as a community in containing COVID that we have proven that we have the ability to practice responsible preventive measures.

So please use caution over these next few weeks…And if you are in any doubt over whether you should or should not do something, just don’t do it. You can always call the COVID-19 hotline at 444-2498 for advice.

As of July 1st, Government no longer requires incoming travellers to self-quarantine for 14-days. We will, however, require pre-boarding testing, testing on arrival and intermittent testing during stay, with public health measures – which the Premier has already mentioned. I will now detail some of the specifics around the testing of incoming travelers…

Before leaving their place of origin, travelers should pack a thermometer so they can self-monitor per public health supervision once they arrive.

Visitors must show proof of a negative PCR COVID result from a sample obtained ideally within 72 hours of travel in order to board (up to 5 days is acceptable). This can be a written lab result from verifiable lab or physician.  Negative tests should be verified through an online “Travel Authorization” process that will go live next week.

Residents and Visitors unable to have access to a pre-departure test can test on arrival, quarantine for 3 days, and then test on day 3 to allow equivalence with the 72 hour ‘pre-boarding clearance’.

Visitors and Residents must all be tested on arrival (at the airport) and quarantine at their accommodation until a negative RT-PCR result is received.

A nasopharyngeal test is required for adults. Children aged 10-17 will likely be able to take a saliva test. Children under 10 will not be tested.

Test results are expected in within 8 – 24 hours (depending on arrival time). If a negative result is obtained, those with ‘pre-boarding clearance’ may circulate freely amongst the community.

Travellers, like residents, will be required to wear masks in all public places and follow physical distancing guidelines.

All Visitors and returning residents will be under public health supervision during the first 14 days of their stay, and will have to complete a very short online health self-report daily, including temperature.

A COVID test will be required on set days and their health status must be reported to public health officer. These set days are day 3, 7 and 14.

Travelers will be mandated to be accessible by phone, email, text and a physical address in order to communicate with a Health Officer.

A traveller will only be fully cleared after receiving a ‘day-14 negative test’.

If a traveller becomes COVID positive, or symptomatic, or is a close contact of a positive person, they will be quarantined or isolated, as appropriate. Any traveller who does not wish to be subjected to the required testing will have to quarantine for 14 days AND either (a) have the day-14 clearance test, OR (b) quarantine for a further 14 days with no clearance test.

As closing, I want to remind the public of the COVID-19 pop-up testing taking place around the island this weekend:

On Friday June 26, testing will take place from 9am until 1pm at the Hamilton Cathedral and at the Somerset MarketPlace from 3pm until 7pm.

On Saturday June 27 testing will be held at the Southside testing facility (at the old White’s Supermarket) from 9am until 1pm.

Then on Sunday June 28 testing will be held at the Modern Mart from 12pm until 5pm and also at the Southside testing facility from 9am until 1pm.

In order to ensure that wait times at pop-up testing venues are as minimal as possible, I would encourage residents wishing to get tested, to please ideally book an appointment. This makes it a faster, more convenient experience for you.

You can book online via the government website coronavirus.gov.bm or call the COVID-19 hotline 444-2498 between 9am and 9pm to make a reservation. A full schedule of testing days and times has been posted to the Government website.  For more information about pop-up testing, you can call 444-2498.

Thank You, Bermuda, and, please, wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

Thank you very much Minister of Health. That is a great news to know that we had so many test results back today, and none of them were positive. Your team continues to do great work in the community. I want to thank and pay tribute to the entire staff at the Ministry of Health.

Now we will have an update from Minister Burch, who is the chair of the Cabinet Committee for reopening of the economy on the details surrounding the start of Phase 4, Our New Normal, on 1 July.

MINISTER BURCH STATEMENT

Good evening.

You may will from Monday’s press conference that the Cabinet Subcommittee on the Strategic Reopening of Bermuda was to present to Cabinet on Tuesday last recommendations for the Traveller Entry Policy to be applied on the resumption of scheduled commercial flights into Bermuda (that will be covered by Minister DeSilva) and the recommended matters for Phase 4 of the reopening of Bermuda.

I wish to remind that Phase 4 will commence next Wednesday July 1st at 6 am – so we are still in Phase 3b until then but we are providing advance notice so that affected parties can plan ahead.

Phase 4 will consist of the following:

  1. The State of Emergency will end on the 30th June
  2. Permitted gatherings will increase to a maximum of 50 persons
  3. Requests for larger gatherings must apply to the Minister of National Security for permission with a plan to include social distancing and masks.
  4. Masks must be worn indoors.   Masks must be worn outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  5. Recreational scuba diving will permitted
  6. Subject to public health guidelines nightclubs and bars will reopen
  7. Holy Communion will be permitted
  8. Temperature taking as a precondition for entry into government buildings will end, however, masks and hand sanitizing is still required.
  9. The government quarantine site will close on June 30th

Since we have started a trend of having sub phases – we have two items that will likely form a Phase 4b – they are:

Subject to successful discussions with grocery stores to retain two or     three discount days, alphabetized shopping will end

The curfew will shift to 12 midnight in the evenings to 5am in the morning and will be reviewed weekly.

While we as a country have made enormous progress – the Committee is mindful of mitigating the risk and recognize that we still have to be cautious and follow the Health protocols that have gotten us to this point.

Thank you, Premier.

Thank you Col. Burch for that update.

With the hospitality industry hardest hit by the shutdown, Phase 4 will provide hope to our hospitality workers and industry that there will be some activity in 2020. Tourism is vital to our economy given the employment that it provides.

Minister DeSilva will now detail the extensive and rigorous protective measures that we are confident will keep Bermuda and our visitors safe.

MINISTER DESILVA STATEMENT

Good afternoon,

I know many Bermudians are keen to stretch their legs beyond our shores, just as many who have been stranded abroad are anxious to return.

I am pleased that the Ministry of Health and my Ministry have been able to work together to produce a set of travellers’ guidelines which keep our visitors and residents safe.

After all, our island home is a precious resource, and we need to ensure our community is protected as we look forward to welcoming residents home and inviting visitors to experience our jewel in the Atlantic. 2

When regularly scheduled commercial flights resume in July, we anticipate Air Canada, Delta Air Lines and British Airways to service the island.

These schedules are always subject to change but, at present, the flights are as follows:

  • From Thursday, 2 July, Air Canada will fly weekly from Toronto,
  • Starting Monday, 6 July, Delta will fly daily from Atlanta, and,
  • Beginning Friday, 17 July, British Airways will fly twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.

Delta’s flights from New York and Boston are on hold. JetBlue anticipates providing service from those two cities starting in August, while American Airlines will fly from New York.

The other air service that we believe will start in August is WestJet, also from Toronto.

Flights from Philadelphia and Miami on American will not begin before December.

What we refer to as ‘seasonal’ flights from Newark, Washington DC and Charlotte are cancelled for 2020.

Where does this leave us?

The percentage change in our air capacity, i.e. available seats, year over year is as follows: 3

  • When we restricted entry only to Bermuda residents in March, that led to a 45.6% reduction in air capacity,
  • In April, May and June, we experienced a 100% reduction in air capacity as no commercial flights landed, and,
  • For July through to December we anticipate a reduction in seats available of between 91.9% (in July) and 26% (in December).

On average, as a result of the pandemic, Bermuda will experience a 61.7% reduction in air capacity in 2020, when compared with 2019.

What does that look like in numbers?

In 2019 our air capacity amounted to 579,720 seats and the 2020 projection was 543,325 seats. Now, we project a total for 2020 of 221,940 available seats. That is 357,780 fewer seats for travelers than last year.

I must emphasise these schedules change regularly – weekly, even! So, we will continue to monitor seat availability as and when schedules adjust.

Working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Bermuda Airport Authority and Skyport, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport will seek to increase air capacity and encourage visitation as it is prudent to do so. Our economy depends on it.

As I stated at the beginning, the Bermuda Government has placed great emphasis on community safety and creating an island space where visitors will be able to relax. 4

We must all do our part to ensure that, as we progress into Phase 4, we continue to embrace all the health measures that benefit us all: keep your distance and wear your mask!

Thank you.

Thank you, Minister De Silva

As we make decisions like the reopening LF Wade International Airport, the public should know that safety is first and foremost in our minds.

The high degree of screening and the protective measures we have identified are not just about keeping you safe, but were also shaped with the understanding that we have skin in the game as well.  Getting this wrong puts the entire country at risk. That is the reason why we are making sure that we get this right the first time.

There are many who believe we should keep our borders closed. I understand the fears that persons may have as they see the news how some countries have not managed to handle their outbreaks. What is important to know is that Bermuda is as safe as we are, due to the wide scale testing, and we will ensure that is applied to our visitors who will be required to be tested as well. Prior to departure, upon departure, during their time here on island.

Bermuda’s regime will likely be the strictest in the world, but visitors want a safe place to visit, and that is what Bermuda will be – that safe place.

I now invite Minister Wayne Caines, to give an update on the Ministry of National Security’s plans as we move into Phase 4, Our New Normal.  Minister Caines.

MINISTER CAINES’ STATEMENT

Good evening Bermuda:

First allow me to extend my thanks and appreciation to all of our essential workers, the Disaster Risk Reduction Mitigation Team and all of the Ministry of National Security’s uniformed personnel who braved the frontlines during the last 4 months of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the people of this Country were kept safe.

You are a huge reason why we are on track to move into Phase 4 in a relatively good state.

We all owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your service and your commitment to Bermuda and its people.

Bermuda, as we move into Phase 4 next week, here are a few key points for the community to be aware of.

We recognize that our beaches, parks and surrounding waters will continue to see increased usage as the summer progresses.

And as we navigate towards the lifting of the State of Emergency on June 30th, it’s critical that we remain vigilant as a community by following the safety guidelines in place by the Ministry of Health.

Next week, Phase 4 will allow gatherings of up to 50 persons. And we recognise that there are some members of the public who will wish to host events or gatherings of more than 50 persons.

However I must caution – any event or gathering of more than 50 people, must have the permission of the Minister of National Security.

In that regard an application must be made seeking approval.

To assist the public, a planning guide for any gatherings of over 50 people will be available on the Government website.

However, the general process once application is made is as follows:

  • Event organisers, this includes planners and promoters for larger functions such as concerts – will have to submit an event safety plan taking the guidance into consideration when planning their event.
  • A form will be made available on www.gov.bm for persons to apply for permission to hold an event for more than 50 persons. Guidance surrounding this will be on the form.
  • The Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team will review the applications with the Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies.
  • If permitted, the DRRM Team will issue an approval letter outlining the health and safety conditions for hosting the event.
  • A copy of all approval letters will be sent to the Bermuda Police Service.
  • To ensure that we provide the clearest possible advice to potential event planners and promoters for large scale events, the Ministry of National Security will host a meeting at a date and location to be announced in due course.
  • Anyone wishing to attend this meeting should email: emogroup@gov.bm and include in the subject line – Promoters / Event Planners Meeting.

Turning to the Bermuda Police Service, Royal Bermuda Regiment and the Coast Guard:  

  • The BPS and Regiment continue to work in partnership to ensure adherence to COVID regulations.
  • On land compliance is positive however there were 19 curfew breaches on the water last weekend with boaters ignoring the 10pm curfew and having to be directed to shore.
  • Law enforcement action will now be taken to those that fail to comply with the marine curfew.
  • The BPS will place additional resources this weekend at locations where disorder has taken place previously.
  • The BPS continue to investigate the recent incidents of serious violence, including the murder of 22-year-old Joshua Rowse. Four parties believed to be involved were arrested and are now on bail. Enquiries continue into the case and the BPS continues to support the family of Mr. Rowse

It is now believed all recent incidents, including the murder of Joshua Rowse and the attack on the female with a machete, are connected.

Further parties have been arrested and enquiries continue. The BPS thanks the community for the information they have provided to assist the investigation. Targeted patrols have been placed in the area of Warwick to reassure the public and respond quickly to incidents. Intelligence is being used to deter and prevent further gang retaliation.

Also this past weekend there were reports of a disturbance at Chaplin Bay involving fighting with helmets and knives. On arrival of BPS the group had dispersed. One male attended KEMH with a stab wound to arm and was arrested. Enquiries are ongoing.

The BPS also continue their search for Chavelle Dillon Burgess alongside ongoing enquiries in regards to the arrest of a 39-year-old male.

As a reminder, there is a $50,000 reward being offered for any person who can assist the BPS in locating Chavelle.

Regarding the RBR, over the nearly four month embodiment period, our soldiers have provided and maintained an invaluable service.

Over the next few days, the Coast Guard will continue to enforce Bermuda’s maritime laws and the COVID regulations. Again as is my familiar refrain – raft ups are still prohibited and the limit is 20 persons for recreational boats. All commercial boats are allowed as many persons as the license allows, as long as they maintain appropriate physical distancing.

I want to remind that this weekend we are still in Phase 3, so though we are announcing Phase 4 plans, it’s important to note that the new guidelines for Phase 4 do not go into effect until next week Wednesday. Existing rules for Phase 3 remain in effect for this weekend. And we will be enforcing the guidelines this weekend.

As I close, I wish to share some key Coast Guard summary points:

  • There were 84 days of continual operations.
  • We had 7 Coast Guard vessels in use.
  • There were 343 Operations conducted from Watford House.
  • There were an average of four, 4 hour patrols per day.
  • There were 4,206 instances of engagement with water craft.
  • The Coast Guard issued 173 warnings; served 33 summons; assisted with 8 arrests; and issued 38 tickets
  • Conducted 6 Search and Rescues; More than a dozen boat tows; AND
  • Participated in 1 Joint Exercise with the British Royal Navy.

Thank you.

Thank you Minister.

As we have heard, the government is working to make sure our island stays safe as we fully open our economy. I am confident about our ability to move our economy forward as we resume our normal activities.

Those of you who may be hesitant to return to work, to venture out to shops and restaurants, you can do so knowing the precautions you must take personally, while large and small businesses, retail establishments, restaurants and other businesses know what they must do to maintain a safe environment.

During my quarterly meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, I restated my position. Bermuda has faced the COVID-19 crisis head on. Guided by the Ministry of Health, we have put appropriate measures in place to ensure that we can continue to stay healthy as our economy opens fully.

I encourage everyone in Bermuda to follow the guidelines and confidently return to your places of work, engage in leisure activities, visit retail establishments, go to lunch and dinner, buy breakfast, patronize small businesses and even feel free to socialize after work.

Take advantage of the staycation offers available from our hotels, and feel free to make sure you support our local economy. We have supported each other in the last three months. Now is the time to continue to support each other as we move towards Our New Normal.

While we continue to live our lives it is important that we pay close attention to what we have learned over the past few months. As long as Bermuda follows the public health guidelines, and as long as we continue to wear our masks, despite what you may see on YouTube, about the fact it may not be health. It is important to make sure it is done to reduce any possible spread of this virus.

From the start, we have been determined to prevent the economic impact of COVID-19 from being worse than the virus itself.  And it’s critically important that all of us continue to do our part.

As we conclude our briefing today and take questions from the members of the media who are here today, I would like to take a moment to reflect on how far we have come and how much we as a people have overcome.  With no tried and tested global template to follow and no proven pathway to success to emulate, Bermuda has demonstrated creativity, resilience and discipline.

We have truly punched above our weight in terms of the managing a crisis that many larger jurisdictions have mishandled.  Now is not the time to get complacent and now is not the time to sit on our laurels. As we prepare to move into Phase 4 next week, let us continue to do what we have done that has made us successful and together as a country, I am certain we will succeed.

June 22, 2020 Update

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update June 22 2020

Good evening Bermuda.

I trust that all fathers had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend.

Today we will cover a number of topics ranging from the latest COVID-19 testing results; an update from the Ministry of Health, to the strategy at the LF Wade International Airport to protect workers, passengers and our community as we safely reopen our borders and put our people back to work.

Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health, Minister Kim Wilson, the President of Skyport, Mr. Aaron Adderley and the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne Caines is here to answer questions from the media.

Before the Minister of Health provides her updates, I’d like to take a moment to address the recent incidents of violence, which should disturb all of us, and that community-minded Bermudians find repugnant and universally condemned.

We have emerged from a weekend marred by horrific acts of violence committed against a female by a group of males. It is not surprising that many are wrestling with the question of how we can better live in peace with each other on our small island of Bermuda. The violence we see is a symptom of a deeper problem within our society. Whether it is the racial imbalance in employment and opportunities, or the racial disparities in wages and life outcomes, the ongoing cycle of violence is a manifestation of hundreds of years of abuse and trauma.

Too many of our young men feel disconnected and disenchanted within our society. And around the world, it has been proven that those who do not see a place for themselves, or a value from society will, in many cases, not care if their actions, destroy that society.

Words do matter, but only to an extent. Continued community action is needed to make our young black men feel valued and included. Action that creates opportunities for achievement, validation, and positive transformation will help bring our disaffected, and disenchanted youth back into the bosom of a loving, caring and inclusive Bermuda. I am grateful to everyone who continues the work to make this a reality. The government will continue to support those actions, and I know that the Minister of National Security will continue the work in this sphere to tackle the root causes, which are manifesting in this abhorrent violence.

Now, we’ll hear from the Minister of Health, on the latest COVID-19 test results and other pressing matters as our ministry keeps for you to safe from the novel coronavirus.

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT

Good Afternoon,

Between Sunday and today there were an amazing 336 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19. That is excellent news for all of us.

I’m thankful to the whole community for practicing the necessary preventive measures like wearing a mask and washing your hands. These are the things we need to keep doing to control and contain COVID in Bermuda.

Bermuda has 146 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 5 active cases, of which
  • 4 are under active public health monitoring, and
  • 1 is hospitalized;
  • none is in critical care.
  • A total of 132 have 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.

Overall, 57% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 3% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 42 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 12 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 7 are under investigation

I’m delighted to report that as of moments ago, PAHO’s designation of Bermuda’s country status has been improved “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is below 1.

Our reopening scorecard has been updated today and our status has improved with our new WHO designation. In addition, I’m happy to report that over 8,200 people have registered on HealthIQ, getting us closer to the 10,000 mark. The more people reporting on their status, mask wearing and physical distancing, the stronger our position will be as we approach phase 4.

I can share with you that, as of today, summer camps will now register online to provide the Ministry of Health and the Department of Youth and Sport, information about their staff, children and the programme they run. This information will be critical for infection control as well as quality control of camps in the future.

While these settings are not formally regulated, parents can be assured that if the camp name appears on our registration list, there will be monitoring to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

Camps will now be able to begin the registration process on the schools, child care and camp webpage on the Government portal and parents will be able to visit the list of registered camps on the same page by the end of the week.

I now want to draw your attention to some of our Phase 3 and 3B Guidance and Directions which have been recently created and posted to the Government website: coronavirus.gov.bm.

In particular, I want to go over some of the points from the Indoor Dining Directions.

Now that we are a couple of weeks into Phase 3, some of you may have already had the opportunity to go out for a meal. You may have found certain things unfamiliar or even odd. For those who have not yet experienced indoor dining post-shelter in place, here are a few things you should be prepared to see and experience:

Firstly, booking ahead is highly recommended, while walk-in’s will be recorded and regulated.

You will notice that all staff members will be wearing masks at all times. As a guest, you must wear a face mask whilst waiting to be seated and at all other times when not at your table. To protect your server and other restaurant staff, you should also wear your mask when interacting with them.

Remember that the droplets that spread COVID don’t disappear when you sit down. If you are speaking to someone within 6 feet of you, wear your mask.

Physical distancing of at least 6 feet (2 metres) must be maintained during any waiting or queuing and you must use the hand sanitizers provided before entering the establishment.

You will be greeted at the door by a dedicated staff member and only granted access if safe to do so while adhering to physical distancing.  This will be particularly important at establishments with narrow entrances.  In particular you will not be allowed to enter when others are leaving in order to avoid close contact.

Businesses are recommended to monitor the health of staff and diners; therefore your temperature may be taken and recorded. Managers will also have the right to remove guests who show other signs of COVD-19 (like coughing or sweating) at their discretion.

Dining establishments have systems in place to ensure adequate physical distancing within restrooms; this may, in many instances, allow for only one person to use the restroom at any given time. Please be prepared for this. Restaurants must enforce this so please don’t give staff a hard time if they do. They are only following the rules and trying to keep you safe.

Contact Tracing is an essential part of combatting any outbreak of communicable disease. Therefore the contact details of one ‘primary diner’ will be recorded and include the date and time of visit, full name, address, phone number and email address.

There will be a mandatory space of 6 feet between tables or physical barriers in place when 6 feet is not reasonably practicable.

A few other things that have changed are:

  • The menu may look different than it used to; we are asking restaurants to provide you with single use, washable or digital menus.
  • There will be no direct service at bars.
  • There will be no self-serve salad or buffet bars. Food must only be served by the chef, instead of self-service buffets.
  • Packaged cutlery and single use condiments can be provided to you, if you like.
  • E-receipts will be offered in place of paper ones.
  • Napkin service is suspended until further notice (i.e. no placing in a guest’s lap).

This guidance and many others can be found on the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm.

As closing, I want to remind the public of the COVID-19 pop-up testing taking place around the island this week:

On Wednesday June 24th testing will take place at the Hamilton Cathedral from 11:30am until 2pm and again from 4pm until 7pm. There will also be pop-up testing at the Heron Bay MarketPlace on Wednesday from 3pm until 7pm.

On Thursday June 25th there will be testing at the Southside Facility (at the old Whites Supermarket location) from 10am until 7pm and at the Shelly Bay MarketPlace from 3pm until 7pm.

On Friday June 26th pop-up testing will take place at the Hamilton Cathedral from 9am until 1pm and at the Somerset MarketPlace from 3pm until 7pm.

At Thursday’s press conference, I will give a reminder about the locations for weekend testing.

In order to ensure that wait times at pop-up testing venues are as minimal as possible, I would encourage residents wishing to get tested, to please ideally book an appointment. This makes it a faster, more convenient experience for you.

You can book online via the government website coronavirus.gov.bm or call the COVID-19 hotline 444-2498 between 9am and 9pm to make a reservation. A full schedule of testing days and times has been posted to the Government website.

For more information about pop-up testing, you can call 444-2498.

Thank You, Bermuda, and, please, wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

Thank you very much, Minister of Health, and it is great certainly to hear inside of your update today that Bermuda’s status has been upgraded by the World Health Organization to Sporadic Cases up from clusters of cases.

It will take a lot of work and effort to keep us there as a country, but it’s important, Bermuda, that you adhere to the health guidance, which has been given and continue to do what is necessary to protect you and your families, so we can keep the transmission of this virus, at a minimum.

The reopening of LF Wade International Airport is a critical part of getting Bermudians back to work. Yet we recognize that we cannot open the airport until we are in a position to protect our Bermudian workers at the airport, protect our hospitality workers and protect the people who enter our jurisdiction. Today we are joined by Mr. Aaron Adderley, President of Skyport who will provide an update on the procedures being put in place at the airport for the benefit and safety of all.

AARON ADDERLEY STATEMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Mr. Adderley.

I know that many Bermudians are concerned about the reopening of our borders, especially with the news that other countries do not have rigorous controls in place that we have established in Bermuda. Increases in spikes in other places are cause for concern, but I am confident that our regime is robust. In Bermuda, we do not have a mass tourism market, and as is being stated, though the airports are going to reopen the flights are going to be slow to pick up, so I’m certain that the month of July will allow us to continue to streamline our process. But, with the testing requirements before persons board the flight, in addition to testing on arrival, we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep the country safe.

The Cabinet Committee on reopening the economy met earlier today, and will be making a recommendation for Cabinet’s consideration tomorrow. Full details regarding Phase 4 will be shared, at this press conference on Thursday. However, at this time we are still on track for Phase 4 to commence at the expiration of the state of emergency, next week Wednesday. Last week Thursday when reviewing items in Phase 3B left out changes that were in law to allow community clubs and members’ clubs to provide outdoor bar services.

These clubs are a linchpin in the social fabric of our community and serve as meeting places, sports centers and home to good food and fellowship. In keeping with what was done for other establishments, community clubs and members clubs were included in the last round of amendments for Phase 3B, and as of last week Thursday, were allowed to operate on the same basis as bars, providing outdoor service if they held a liquor license.

The regulations require that tables be at least six feet apart, or where that is not reasonably practicable separated by barriers of at least six and a half feet high. No group at any one table should exceed ten persons, and no groups shall exceed 20 persons in total. No customer shall stand at the bar or elsewhere, and indoor areas of the bars shall remain closed.

Access to toilets are permitted in accordance with the directions issued by the Ministry of Health. I would like to apologize for missing this on Thursday, as I know I got a number of questions afterwards, as I promised the week before that those be included in Phase 3B. They were actually included in the changes that were made by the Governor last week Thursday. However, I did not include them in my remarks and therefore I apologize.

Just a few more announcements before we take questions. I’ve been informed that Dr. Carika Weldon and the team at the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Lab have launched a WhatsApp service. This will be similar to the government WhatsApp service and will provide updates and provide answers to questions and queries from the public.

To get in touch with this WhatsApp service, please add 441-500-1982. I’ll say that one more time, 500-1982 to your contacts and send them a WhatsApp message to sign up for the service. And of course the government WhatsApp service continues to provide information to the public, and I encourage everyone, if you have not yet signed up for the government’s WhatsApp service, please add the phone number, 504-6045, to your contacts and send us a message, a simple message and said ‘hi’, and you will receive updates from the government.

I’m now happy to take any questions from members of the media at this time.

June 18th COVID-19 Update

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

Good evening Bermuda.

During today’s briefing, we will have an update from the Minister of Health on COVID-19, the latest test results and other matters from the Ministry of Health.  The Minister of National Security, Min. Wayne Caines is here to answer questions which may come from the media.

Earlier today, a release went out from my office outlining the changes that had been made for Phase 3B. As signaled in Tuesday’s press conference, the release confirmed that additional personal services would be permitted starting today. Our continued testing regime and the low numbers of positive results have provided the opportunity to implement a Phase 3B and reintroduce some personal services.

Facial grooming of beards and eyebrows as well as waxing and massages can now be provided.

Operators are obliged to follow public health guidelines that state the frequency of coronavirus testing that should be followed for the providers of these high risk services. The close contact involved in these services requires greater mitigation of the risk of transmission and service providers must act responsibly and customers must be vigilant for their own safety.

The amended regulations were signed by the Governor earlier today, and are now published online. Other changes include permitting additional capacity for charter vessels, based on the size of the boat, and the adherence to physical distancing rules. Spas are now permitted to open, and the resumption of full personal services also includes therapeutic massage and tattooing.

The high level of compliance we’ve seen from our community is critical to the progress we are making in reopening Bermuda. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of testing for those who wants to continue to offer these services, and the continued use of masks, and all of the physical distancing protocols which are effectively keeping us safe.

Later this evening, the Minister of Public Works, Col Burch, will issue guidelines reminding the public about using public parks and nature reserves while maintaining physical distancing.

As we move about this summer, enjoying Bermuda’s beaches and parks, we must do so with care. We are still in the midst of a pandemic which we have navigated well, so far.  We must always remember the public health and physical distancing guidelines that are in place are there to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. If we do not all collectively do our part, we will go backwards.

It is a good thing to be in Phase 3B, as you can see I look a little bit different than I’ve looked for the past three months, and I’m grateful for the work that the Minister of Health has been doing and getting the pop up testing working around the island, so many of our service providers were able to be tested over the past week.

Now, the Minister of Health will give us the latest update from our ministry. Minister.

MINISTER OF HEALTH READS STATEMENT

Today there were 123 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda continues to have 144 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 7 active cases, of which
  • all are under active public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care.
  • A total of 128 have 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.

Overall, 56% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 3% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 12 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 6 are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Local Transmission – Cluster of Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is below 1.

Our reopening scorecard is updated today, and we are extremely pleased that HealthIQ now has over 7,700 users, which is excellent progress. Please register so we can get to 10,000 and get a green light on this indicator. If you have already signed up, please encourage your friends and contacts to join too.

On the down side, I have to highlight that mask wearing and physical distancing have deteriorated. The Bermuda Health Council is working with HealthIQ to monitor reports and we can see that while overall mask wearing has increased, over the past week it has definitely deteriorated. We need to get better and more consistent about this.

With respect to physical distancing, the reports show that our collective behaviour is deteriorating, and we are not even hitting 75% compliance, which is too low to get us to a green light on this indicator.

Physical distancing is extremely important. If you are not wearing a mask stay 6 feet apart. If you have to be closer than 6 feet wear a mask and try to stay at least 3 feet apart.

We can also see from HealthIQ that a higher number of persons are reporting potential symptoms. I’m very encouraged that people are availing themselves of our testing capability through the pop-ups, the drive-through and the mobile testing. This gives us assurance that we don’t have persons unknowingly spreading COVID in the community.

As we enter the new phases of re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our private healthcare colleagues (GPs, dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and nurses) will no longer be available to volunteer alongside the Department of Health as they have been over the past few months.
Without them volunteering their time and services, the Department of Health would not have been able to cover the ground that we did, and in such a short space of time. For this, we are eternally grateful. Therefore I would like to acknowledge them today for their willingness to serve our community without compensation. This was a huge task and their contribution was very much appreciated.

I’d like to call out by name the following individuals (alphabetically):

  • Dr. Chris Allington
  • Dr. Kyjuan Brown
  • Dr. Gordon Campbell
  • Dr. Helen Christopher
  • Dr. Richard Fulton
  • Dr. David Galloway
  • Dr. Stanley James
  • Dr. Shaina Kelly
  • Ms Catherine Kempe
  • Dr. Stephen Kenny
  • Dr. Ben Lau
  • Dr. Christine McFeely
  • Dr. Laura Murphy
  • Dr. Amne Osseyran
  • Dr. Hamish Reid
  • Dr. Constance Richards
  • Dr. Fiona Ross
  • Dr. Joanna Sherratt-Wyer
  • Dr. Danielle Simons
  • Dr. Nicola Terceira
  • Dr. Wilbert Warner
  • and Dr. Len Wedlich

I would like us all to raise a banner of thanks to these generous and caring professionals.   Thank you, truly, for all that you have done.

I now want to draw your attention to some of our Phase 3 Guidance and Directions which have been recently created and posted to the Government website: coronavirus.gov.bm.

In particular, I want to go over some of the points from the Directions for Gyms, Exercise Facilities, Health Clubs and Dance Studios; namely the information for patrons.

As a patron, specific instructions should be given to you before you even enter the facility so you’re aware of its expectations and requirements.

It’s highly likely that you will have to pre-book visits and that these are time-limited. You may be asked to sign a declaration saying that you have read and understood their obligations.

You should be screened for illness prior to entry. This may include temperature checks and questions about your health.

It should be noted that even with physical distancing, during exercise droplets containing COVID-19 may travel longer distances and a gym workout is a high risk activity. Therefore all patrons must ensure they maintain 6 feet (2 metres) distance between themselves.

Masks should not be worn during gym activities of high exertion. However, for lower intensity activities, patrons may wear a mask as long as it can be tolerated. If a patron is struggling to breathe, feeling faint or dizzy or experiencing chest pain or other discomfort they should remove the mask.

As a reminder children younger than 2-years-old must not wear masks at all.

Gym patrons must always wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer) on entering the building, at regular intervals and after using equipment.

If it is necessary to cough or sneeze, you should to do this into a clean tissue which is safely discarded, or into your elbow.

Please note that personal towels should not be used to wipe equipment – single-use paper towels or wipes should be provided to you by the gym, which can then be properly disposed.

There will be limitations on Group Classes. Group exercise classes should be conducted outdoors, limited, or canceled to the greatest extent possible.

In the event group exercise classes are held, such classes may only take place if they can be completed in accordance with the following:

· More than 6 feet (2 metres) of distance maintained between participants at all times;

· no shared equipment during the class, unless sanitized between users;

· and sufficiently adjusted class schedules to allow for deep cleaning between classes.

Martial arts and other contact activities should be completed without any person-to-person contact.

Limitations on group sizes should be adhered to (the current maximum is 20 persons). Please do not arrive more than 10 minutes prior to class and no close-contact socializing with your fellow gym-goers. Keep your masks on and 6 feet apart.

Also, sweat-absorbing equipment such as yoga or exercise-mats should not be communal. Customers should bring their own if required for their exercise.

Water fountains (unless hands-free bottle filling) are not allowed; therefore patrons should bring pre-filled drinks/water bottles.

Gyms should consider closing off showers, locker rooms, and lockers (although access to restrooms should be provided).

Clients should come to the facility in their gym or dance clothes and shower at home afterwards. If showers are used, they should be disinfected after each use. If towels are provided, they should be stored in covered sanitized containers, clearly marked: “clean and used” and hot temperatures should be used when laundering these items.

And, finally, gym staff should be encouraged to take the Infection Prevention and Control Training located on the Government website.

I would like to commend those businesses that have had their employees complete the Infection Prevention and Control Training. More than 3,500 individuals have completed the training from a wide cross-section of businesses.

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

This online training covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19 and similar type diseases. It takes approximately 50 minutes and is for all employees and management.

I would like to encourage those who have not yet done the training to do so by going to coronavirus.gov.bm and look under the ‘Workplace Guidance’ link.

As closing, I want to remind the public of the COVID-19 pop-up testing taking place around the island this weekend:

  • Friday – Anglican Cathedral – 9am to 1pm , 3pm – 7pm & Shelly Bay MarketPlace 3pm – 7pm
  • Saturday- Somerset MarketPlace 3pm to 7pm
  • Sunday – Shelly Bay MarketPlace- 12pm – 5pm

In order to ensure that wait times at pop-up testing venues are as minimal as possible, I would encourage residents wishing to get tested, to please ideally book an appointment. This makes it a faster, more convenient experience for you.

You can book online via the government website coronavirus.gov.bm or call the COVID-19 hotline 444-2498 between 9am and 9pm and one of our helpful telephone operators will be happy to make a reservation for you. A full schedule of testing days and times has been posted to the Government website.

For more information about pop-up testing, you can call 444-2498.

Thank You, Bermuda, and, please, wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.

Thank you Minister.

Today, the substance of my remarks will be in reference to recent demonstrations and calls to embrace the CURB (Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda) Racial Justice Platform and to engage in groundbreaking legal reform to address the imbalances in our criminal justice system.

To those who have been following the words and deeds of the government over the past few years, we have demonstrated in word and deed our commitment to establishing a measure of racial justice in our country.  In fact, it was not so long ago that we were marching alongside so many of you and risking arrest or physical harm alongside many persons, to make Bermuda a better and fairer place.

There are some in Bermuda that needed to see the outpouring of anger over the murder of George Floyd by a policeman. There were some that needed to hear the pain in their black countrymen’s voices as they told their stories; stories of being denied, stories of being disrespected, and stories of being treated less than, in their own country.

The recent demonstrations helped to open many more eyes and revealed to many that sweeping changes is wanted and necessary for us to unite as one people.

I’m grateful to the organizers and promoters the recent demonstrations in Bermuda, and to CURB for the work they have done in many ways to make the objectives and agenda of this government, not only more understandable, but also, while we are working so hard and so long to make the our vision for a better and fairer Bermuda, a reality.

In Opposition, we understood that Bermuda for all its wealth, all its success, and all the achievements made by some, far too many of us were being left out of the Bermuda success story.  We understood that there were two Bermudas separated by opportunity, separated by outcomes and separated by race.

We were elected on a platform based around breaking down the two Bermudas and seeking to write more Bermudians into the Bermuda success story.

As government we have sought to take on the forces that keep wages low, prices high and opportunities restricted. While we have had some success in this area, it is clear that tearing down hundreds of years of systemic racism, privilege and selfishness will not be as fast as we as any of us desire.

As Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without struggle, it never has and it never will.”

My office has reviewed the CURB Racial Justice Platform previously and I am pleased to say that there are many points of agreement, and many points that we have already implemented.

I will review a few of those points:

  • Support for a Truth and Reconciliation Process – This was announced by Minister Lovitta Foggo and continues to be led by Minister Lovitta Foggo, and there is current consultation which is taking place online on forum.gov.bm.
  • Guaranteed College Scholarships – Since taking office we have dramatically increased funding for scholarships and expanded access to scholarships for more Bermudians. Additionally, within our first 100 days we ensured that no Bermudian was denied from accessing Bermuda College, whether that be for Associate’s Degree programmes, Bachelor’s Degree programmes or further training programs, due to a lack of finances, which is certainly required to address inequality in our economy.
  • CURB also called for national healthcare and listeners will recall that last year, Minister of Health, Kim Wilson began a dialogue on reducing the cost of healthcare for Bermuda families. It is our intention to drive down the cost of healthcare, expand access to a wider range of healthcare options for Bermudians, and to create a fairer healthcare system for the better of all.
  • Pensions and the inequality that exists – CURB had previously called for the elimination of the loophole where employers did not have to pay in to the national pension scheme for their expatriate workers which essentially made foreign workers cheaper than Bermudian workers.  We supported this position, included it in our 2017 Platform and recently passed legislation to close that loophole.
  • Public Procurement Policy – early in our administration we launched a new policy when it came to government contracts with a greater emphasis on expanding opportunity to people who have been denied opportunities in the past and making the playing field more level for black, female or persons with disabilities who owned businesses.  Furthermore, the BEDC was tasked with providing guidance to small and medium sized businesses on the process for bidding on government contracts and have hosted a number of seminars for construction companies around this. I can tell you from the Cabinet contracts that have been awarded, we are certainly making progress in this area.
  • Review of the Criminal Justice System – everyone in Bermuda knows the statistics regarding incarceration in Bermuda.  While black Bermudians make up around 60 percent of the population, we comprise over 90% of the people in the country currently behind bars.  And while over the years much has been done by successive administrations starting with the Alternative to Incarceration agenda implemented under Premier Jennifer Smith, much work remains to address this continued imbalance.  Last year, the Attorney-General and Minister for Legal Affairs, Kathy Lynn Simmons, launched the Law Reform Commission and has selected, MP Michael Scott to chair that particular commission, and we are waiting the approval of His Excellency the Governor to proceed.
  • Living Wage – another initiative advocated by CURB that has been advanced. Legislation was passed to establish in law, a living wage in Bermuda, and the new Minister of Labour  is looking to establish the actual living wage rate before the end of this year.
  • Immigration Reform – in 2017 we committed to Comprehensive Immigration Reform and to creating a system that recognizes the small size of Bermuda, the history of immigration policies being weaponized, discrimination against Bermudians in hiring and the need for local and international businesses to be able to acquire the talent they may be unable to find in our workforce.  The bipartisan immigration committee was formed and laws were changed for mixed status families, and most significantly for Bermudians born overseas to Bermudian parents.
  • Workforce Equity – Another thing inside of CURB’s racial justice platform. I’m pleased to report that the Attorney-General is reviewing legislation to enshrine the legality of disparate treatment of different classes of workers in Bermuda.
  • Legalization of Cannabis – The government, in an initiative being spearheaded by the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, is currently engaged in a consultative process surrounding the creation of a regulated cannabis market in Bermuda. Earlier in our term, we decriminalized cannabis possession under 7 grams in an effort to end the unnecessary criminalization of predominantly black Bermudian males and the devastating knock on effect it has on so many, when it comes to future opportunities. The Attorney-General is also developing the legislative agenda, around the expunging of previous convictions for cannabis possession.
  • Another thing called for was a memorial to Mary Prince – In 2019, Minister Lovitta Foggo in her role as Minister for Labour, Community Affairs and Sports, announced plans for a tribute to this iconic Bermudian trailblazer in the struggle against the enslavement of Africans and has already identified a location for a statue in her honour.
  • There was a call for the change to the Emancipation and Mary Prince Day, or what was at that time, Somers Day.  MP Chris Famous began to lobby the government in 2018 to decouple Bermuda’s emancipation celebration from Sir George Somers.  MP Famous reasoned that it was inappropriate for Bermuda to pair the anniversary of ending of slavery with the celebration of a colonizer.  The government found merit in his arguments and changed Bermuda’s laws to make Mary Prince Day a reality. That will happen for the first time this year.

This Government believes that Black Lives Matter and there is much work to be done to break down the two Bermudas to build a better and fairer Bermuda.  What is clear, is that by our record we have demonstrated that it did not take thousands of Bermudians marching in the streets for the matters at the forefront of Bermudian minds today, to become priorities for the government.

We recognize that talk is cheap but actions speak volumes. Today I have outlined area where we are in agreement with CURB and where we have implemented aspects of their social justice platform and are making progress.

Yet more remains to be done on the road to a better and fairer Bermuda, and I am certain that Bermuda can change, and we are committed to changing Bermuda, for the better. And I want to thank all of those who are either taken the streets, or are using their voices because I want you to encourage you to continue to share your stories and speak about these issues because it is the only way that Bermuda will put in the past our very painful, racist history. And I want to thank all those who have been participating thus far.

Tomorrow, in the House of Assembly, we will meet to consider five bills, which will be advanced:

  • The first will be the temporary suspension, for one year, of social insurance payments;
  • The second will be the temporary suspension or one year suspension, of payments into the National Pension Scheme;
  • The third will be Amendments of Public Health Act. These were amendments that will enable us to enact public health measures outside of the declaration of a State of Emergency;
  • There will be further amendments to the Bermuda Bar Act. These are things to make sure that we can have registered associates around the world, which will assist Bermuda in attracting more business to our shores; and
  • Finally, I willl be piloting through the Cost of Living Amendment Act, through the House of Assembly. This particular Act seeks to allow the minister responsible for Consumer Affairs to mandate grocery stores to share pricing of certain goods electronically. So those can be compiled and shared through technological means.

I invite all persons to tune into House of Assembly, whether it be on the website parliament.bm, on the radio on 105.1, or on Bernews.com.

Before I end today’s press conference, I want to say thank you to a few people. A few weeks ago, I challenged the Department of Communications to create COVID-19 messages and videos specifically for children. I am pleased to say that Al Seymour Junior, Programme Manager at CITV, and his daughter Kerri Seymour took up the challenge. Al and Kerri Seymour worked together on the animated cartoon which debuted at the start of today’s press conference and which you will see again immediately afterwards.

The female character Karli was voiced by ten year old Warwick Academy student Khloe Bassett.  Al Seymour voiced the male character, Uncle Kevin.

The project was a combination of traditional hand drawn animation and digital technology. 26 year old Kerri is a graduate of CedarBridge Academy and Humber College, in Toronto.  She graduated Humber College in 2016 with a degree in Applied Arts and has returned to Bermuda after working for a short time in Canada. Kerri also specializes in digital editing and effects as well as graphic design.

Mr. Seymour is no stranger to animation, and has worked on numerous cartoon projects for many years. The script was written by Communications Officer, Helen Zoellner.

My appreciation goes to everyone who worked tirelessly on this outstanding production, as it is important while we go through this pandemic, we are making sure that we have messages for our young people who are similarly suffering the effects which this change in our way of life has caused.

Thank you also to nine year old Kylee Hollis of West Pembroke Primary school who sent in a letter and drawing paying tribute to her parents who are essential workers. The Youth Library will display Kylee and other students’ artwork on their public display board.

I extend thanks also to all of the workers, employers and those on the frontline of COVID-19.  You have continued to serve our country well, and as more and more Bermudians return to work, we are beginning to see that there can be hope in the midst of a global pandemic.

I’m happy now to entertain any questions from members of the media.

June 16th Bermuda Government

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

Good evening Bermuda.

I’m joined at today’s press conference by the Minister of Health, Kim Wilson, who will give an update on the continued work of the Ministry of Health in battling COVID-19. We also have the Minister of National Security, Wayne Caines, who will discuss the murder and other acts of violence which took place this weekend.

Minister of Finance, Curtis Dickinson will discuss the island’s financial response to COVID-19 and plan for our economy. I also welcome the newly appointed Minister of Labour, Jason Hayward, who will update us on the unemployment insurance benefits, and the work of his newly created Ministry of Labour, ensuring that we protect the rights of Bermudians in the workplace.

This holiday weekend, where we remember the contributions of our national heroes, was a distressing time for many in Bermuda. The actions of few have changed the lives of family and friends who lost a loved one, through the senseless death of a 22 year old Bermudian. On behalf of the government and of the people of Bermuda, I extend our condolences to his family and to his friends.

The Minister of Health will now provide an update on the testing which took place over the weekend against the backdrop of more confirmed cases which reported on Saturday. Minister.

MINISTER OF HEALTH STATEMENT.

Good Afternoon,

Between Sunday and today there were 528 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda continues to have 144 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 7 active cases, of which
  • all are under active public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care.
  • A total of 128 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.

Overall, 56% of all cases are Black, 41% are white and 3% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 41 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 12 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • 6 are under investigation

I can also provide a brief line of update regarding the COVID-19 “saliva tests”: These have now been shipped and should be on-island shortly.

At Thursday’s press conference, I announced that the Ministry of Health has rolled out a pop-up testing programme to make testing more accessible to the public, through pop-up testing sites at various MarketPlace and City Centre locations; with more to be announced over the coming weeks.

We understand the value of taking services to the people, as we have used this approach very successfully with our annual Flu Express and Taking it to the Streets initiatives, which get public health to where the people are.

I can tell you that since launching the pop-up testing, over 500 people have taken advantage of the initiative. I am extremely impressed by the public’s interest in getting tested and hope that enthusiasm continues. Remember – the more we test, the better we will contain and control COVID-19.

In order to ensure that wait times at pop-up testing venues are as minimal as possible, I would encourage residents wishing to get tested, to please book an appointment. It can literally take five minutes for two people to get tested if you pre-book.

You can book online via the government website coronavirus.gov.bm or call the COVID-19 hotline 444-2498 between 9am and 9pm and one of our helpful telephone operators will be happy to make a reservation for you. A full schedule of testing days and times has been posted to the Government website.

Other convenient pop-up locations around the island  this week are:

  • Wednesday- Anglican Cathedral – 10am to 2 pm
  • Thursday – Anglican Cathedral – 10am to 2 pm & Heron Bay MarketPlace 2pm – 7pm
  • Friday – Anglican Cathedral – 9am to 1pm , 3pm – 7pm & Shelly Bay MarketPlace 3pm – 7pm
  • Saturday- Somerset MarketPlace 3pm to 7pm
  • Sunday – Shelly Bay MarketPlace- 12pm – 5pm

For more information about pop-up testing, you can call 444-2498.

Also, if you are a large company with over 30 employees, the Ministry of Health can arrange for pop-up testing to come to your workplace. For more information on this call 444-2498.

As we move through Phase 3, I feel I must remind people that this is not the green light to abandon those habits which have stood us in such good stead in the fight against COVID-19 so far – namely, mask-wearing and physical distancing. Over the past few days we have noticed a slip in those good behaviours. This is irresponsible, dangerous and could have the potential to set us back we move towards the safe reopening of Bermuda. We all want to get to Phase 4… and beyond. But this will NOT happen if we see a rise in cases of COVID-19… something which WILL happen if we do not wear our masks and practice physical distancing.

Also, we are encouraging people to log onto HealthIQ.bm to tell us how you’re feeling and what you’re seeing in the community in terms of protective measures being taken. Your information is confidential and will help us greatly as we transition through the phases. Over 7,000 people have registered so far. We need 10,000 to get this reopening indicator to a ‘green light’ on the scoreboard.

Finally, today I want to draw your attention to some of our Phase 3 Guidance which has been recently created and posted to the Government website: coronavirus.gov.bm.

In particular, I want to go over some of the points from the Re-Opening Directions for Movie Theatres, Theatres, Museums, Libraries and Similar Places of Public Entertainment.

These types of establishments should rigorously follow the practices specified in those protocols which include:

  • Utilizing remote ticketing options;
  • Adjusting screening times/opening hours to allow time for enhanced cleaning and disinfection;
  • Warning clients upon booking not to come to the facility if they have any COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Ensuring proper physical distancing to allow 6 feet between patrons in the venue;
  • Ensuring that all employees and customers wear cloth face coverings (exceptions for children under 2);
  • Regularly and frequently cleaning and disinfecting any regularly touched surfaces. This includes disinfecting seats and frequently touched areas and surfaces between screenings, events or groups;
  • Making hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant readily available to employees and customers upon entry and at suitable locations;
  • Placing readily visible signs at the venue to remind everyone of best hygiene practices;
  • Restricting access to restrooms to allow appropriate physical distancing;
  • Keeping at least two empty seats (or six feet separation) between parties in any row. Additionally, there should be alternate rows between customers, so that every other row is left empty. However, two or more members of the same household can sit next to one another, with two seats empty (or six feet separation) on either side. Also, two individuals who are not members of the same household but who are attending together can sit next to one another, with two seats (or six feet separation) empty on either side.

There are also various rules for these types of venues who also provide food service for patrons. These can be also found within this guidance; as can the specific health protocols which should be taken by employees of these establishments.

Lastly, I would like to remind the public that tomorrow, Wednesday 17th June there will be a Facebook Live session with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball, and BHB’s Chief of Medicine, Dr Michael Ashton at 2pm. I invite and encourage everyone to log on to learn more and submit any questions you may have in advance or during the live broadcast via the Government facebook page.

Thank You, Bermuda, and, please, wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing on

Thank you Minister of Health.

The news of no new cases, following days of testing is certainly welcome news. However, it is important and a reminder that we must continue to keep our guard up by wearing our masks, and maintaining our physical distance when out in public and socializing. Everything we have done thus far, must continue. Whether that is washing your hands, good cough hygiene, or the utilization of hand sanitizer. These are all public health measures that will help us continue to keep this virus at bay.

The pop-up testing locations have proven to be extremely popular and I encourage everyone to visit coronavirus.gov.bm to get the details and locations and times, and to book an appointment to get tested today. Even though she’s going to upset with me for saying it, even my mom, went to get tested today, and she commented and said ‘it wasn’t as bad as I thought’, because it is not as bad as you may think.

During phase 3B, which will commence, on Thursday, the full range of personal care services will become available. This includes the grooming of beards, waxing services and massages. As stated last week, public health guidelines will provide for the frequency of tests for personal care service providers, engaged in high risk activities which to date have not been allowed.

For providers of those services, who got tested this weekend, including my barber, I, and other clients look forward to seeing you later this week. Those who have not yet been tested, please visit coronavirus.gov.bm to book an appointment so you can keep yourselves, your clients and Bermuda safe. With that Minister Caines will now give his update this evening to the country. Minister.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

(Awaiting for the statement to be released)

Thank you Minister Caines. We are joined by the Police Commissioner this evening, who is also on hand to answer any questions, which we may have afterwards.

The events this weekend serve to remind us that the work is never ending if we are to address the root causes of the violence and anti-social behaviour in our community. These are systemic issues that require a targeted and deliberate approach.

The government’s increased investments in education, training, mental health, and programmes like Redemption Farms, as well as new programmes for those people who have aged out of the Department of Child and Family Services will be continued. Because it is through these programmes, and our focus on dismantling systemic racism that we will effect the change we need to see in our young people.

As we move through each phase, our goal was to make sure that we open our economy safely, and at the same time put Bermudians back to work. The Minister of Finance, Curtis Dickinson, will give details around the work necessary to support those in Bermuda financially, and also his efforts in reinvigorating the Bermuda economy. Minister Dickinson.

MINISTER OF FINANCE STATEMENT

(Awaiting for the statement to be released)

Thank you Minister of Finance. As you have shared, there’s much work going on to provide relief to Bermudians and to Bermuda’s businesses that are battling the economic impacts of this pandemic.

As I’ve said over the past few weeks, employers who are reopening their businesses must put Bermudians first. Likewise Bermudians who are asked to return to work should do so, and should not be collecting unemployment benefits. It is not appropriate for employers to deny work to Bermudians, and if we learn of instances where Bermudians have refused to return to work in order to continue to receive the unemployment benefit, this behaviour will be addressed appropriately.

I now welcome the Minister of Labour to the podium to provide his first update to the country since his appointment. Minister Hayward.

MINISTER OF LABOUR STATEMENT

Good Evening,

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses across the island were forced to close their doors, since which many businesses have reopened.

As a result of these closures, through the period of Shelter-In-Place, over 9,800 individuals were out of work and many millions of dollars have been paid out in benefits from the unemployment fund.

Although all sectors were hit hard with large numbers of persons unemployed, some sectors were hit particularly hard.  The top five largest job losses during Shelter-In-Place are as follows:

  1. Restaurants with 1815;
  2. Hotels with 1345;
  3. Construction with 1256;
  4. Retail with 991; and
  5. Small business with 921. 

As the economy has slowly reopened, many persons have been reemployed. As of the most recent update, a total of 3,577 individuals have returned to work.

The numbers of reemployed is great news for Bermuda. However, with this good news, the Government has also received reports of inequitable employment practices happening in our country.  From 30 March to 5 June 2020, I can report that the Labour Relations Section has received 409 labour related queries.

In some instances, there are reports that employers may be discriminating against Bermudians.

I can confirm that of the total of these queries received, 14 are related to Work Permit holders being retained or recalled to work over Bermudian workers.

I will break these 14 queries down into further details:

  • Ten were public observations/general queries;
  • One was referred to the Department of Immigration;
  • One was investigated with no further action taken;
  • Two others were received, one of which is currently under investigation.

While we strongly believe the majority of businesses are treating Bermudians fairly, there may be a few employers that will discriminate against Bermudians.  If this practice is occurring, I ask those responsible stop immediately.

As we seek to further open up our economy for business, we urge employers to ensure that Bermudians are given equitable treatment.

It must be noted that employment practices in response to the pandemic have not been uniform across all sectors. For example, it is understood that employees in the International Business sector have largely remained employed and continued to work remotely. Other businesses have experienced similar success and we thank them for their efforts to keep their staff employed.

The Premier recently announced that Cabinet agreed to extend the Unemployment Benefit Program for another month to support our people and provide them with an added layer of security, as businesses reopen and our economy begins to move again.

To assist employees which were laid off, terminated, or made redundant as a result of COVID-19, the unemployment benefit was introduced. The unemployment benefit came into effect on the 24th of March 2020 and the application period will end on the 30th of June 2020.

The unemployment benefit provides a weekly benefit of up to $500 to eligible persons, including work permit holders, for up to 12 weeks.

The Government will extend these benefits, but not the application deadline, to allow persons to receive further support while the country moves towards the new normal with the gradual re-opening of the economy during phase 4.

Additionally, following engagement with industry associations, the Government will also table legislation this week to amend the Employment Act 2000.  The legislation will amend the portion of the Act with respect to lay off, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the state of emergency.

The change will exclude the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020 from the calculation of the period of four months, after which a lay off is deemed to be a termination for redundancy.

The existing provisions of the Employment Act would then apply for severance pay for those employees not recalled at the end of the four-month period starting from 30th of June 2020.

The purpose of this amendment is to protect both employees and employers in these unprecedented times.  In the face of the global pandemic, employees should not lose their benefit entitlement of redundancy pay under the Act.  This must be protected.

On the other hand, employers with little or no cash, and significantly lower revenues due to the pandemic, should not be forced into bankruptcy by paying these benefits.  A compromise must be reached.

This moves represents a balanced approach to provide both groups an opportunity to adapt to the new normal as we go through phase 3 and work toward entering phase 4.

It should be noted that the concerns of the Bermuda Hotel Association have not been ignored and the Government will be working with industry partners to find a solution to the specific problems that they are experiencing.

The Government will continue to work together with all stakeholders to allow Bermuda to get through these difficult times together.

Thank you.

Thank you, Minister for that update. It is clear that the work of this government continues through the actions of the Minister of Labour.

As schools around the island prepare to close, summer day camps will be opening. The Minister of Community Affairs and Sports, the Hon. Lovitta Foggo, last week, announced the opening of government camp registration. However, within a few hours, the spaces were all taken and a waiting list established. This has caused anxiety amongst parents who are looking for safe summer activities for their children.

The Ministry is looking closely at how we can accommodate more students, working with the Ministry of Health. Camps have instituted protocols that are in keeping with the Ministry of Health’s guidance, as well as best practices from leading global health organizations.

There are fewer spaces than normal this year to ensure physical distance requirements are adhered to. However, as has been stated, we are looking to make sure that we can expand these services, as we know, this is something that is desired by a great many parents. Certainly in a time of economic distress, more affordable programmes are needed to make sure that our students can be engaged in enriching activities and also to provide for those college students who may be home and may not have the opportunity to work, due to some cancelled internship opportunities. We believe this is a win-win, and we’re exploring how we can expand those particular services.

As I close, I must thank all those who continue to work on the frontlines of our protection against this pandemic. For those who have worked tirelessly, whether you are public health professionals, a member of one of Bermuda’s testing labs, a medical professional, a technical support member or a member of the public service to ensure that services are made available to the general public. Your selfless contribution is appreciated by a grateful country.

We have come a long way, and we still have a very long way to go. We are a community that must successfully move forward together. And as long as we remain united, I’m confident that we will make it through this pandemic. I now welcome any questions that members the media may have.