Last Press Conference Before Bermuda Shelters In Place
(Click on image below to watch press conference)
This afternoon I am joined by His Excellency the Governor, the Minister of Health, the Minister of National Security and Dr. Cherita Rayner from the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute.
I will give a brief update and turn it over to the Minister of Health to discuss testing items, then His Excellency the Governor will speak on the shipment from the United Kingdom and the flight that is coming in. The Minister of National Security will then provide an update on the operational matters governing the Shelter in Place order and then finally, Dr. Rayner will discuss matters dealing with our health and well-being during this time.
I would like to preface my COVID-19 update today with some good news. News that reassures us that in the midst of this crisis there are many people in private businesses in our community demonstrating kindness and compassion. They are doing things to better our lives.
I would like to publicly acknowledge the kindness and compassion of one of our good corporate citizens. Earlier today I received an email from Ms. Judy Gonsalves, Division President of Chubb Bermuda. Chubb has generously supported the needs of front line essential healthcare services by funding the monthly rental costs for Twizzys, to help essential personnel who do not have transportation to get to and from work. They have donated $52,000 to Bermuda Hospitals Charitable Trust foundation to assist with additional equipment, including ventilators.
I would also like to recognize the generosity of PwC Bermuda, who earlier this week made a donation of $50,000 to the Bermuda Community Foundation Emergency Fund, and have committed to providing surplus laptops to the Bermuda public school system.
Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic. Bermudians have seen their lives, disrupted and changed in ways that we could have never imagined just a few months ago. Social distancing, a concept many of us have never heard before, has now become the new norm in social interaction and many of us have seen jobs and or incomes disappear.
Today, I can confirm that there are no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bermuda to report at this time. As there are no additional test results received by the Ministry of Health. There are 33 outstanding tests. Out of the 35 confirmed cases, 14 persons have fully recovered and four remain hospitalized in stable condition.
At this time the Minister of Health will provide further details on the testing that is taking place, and additional supplies, which we’re expecting to bolster our testing regime.
Minister of Health’s Comments.
Thank you, Premier.
As we enter into the next 14 days, I want to echo the Premier’s words of reassurance and remind the community that we are all in this together. We are all facing hardships of some kind in the days ahead.
But the price to pay if we do not; is too great to bear.
We only get one chance to do this and do this right…to stop this virus in its tracks…to ensure our health system is not overwhelmed…to save lives.
We go into this half-heartedly, and lives will be put at risk; businesses and restaurants will be closed longer; our economy will take a greater hit and families will continue to be apart.
The health of our community is in your hands. Please be compliant. Isolate immediately if you get ANY respiratory symptoms; call your doctor and stay in your own home.
Another point that I want to stress is specifically for those individuals with chronic diseases: Please manage your chronic conditions so that you don’t run into complications during this period. Take your medications and comply with your doctor’s instructions fully so that you don’t need additional care or hospitalization during the next two weeks.
Also, I want to remind the public that doctors’ offices are exempt from the impending movement restrictions. Doctors’ offices will not be closed…although some may be operating with restricted hours and services. We do not want a situation where our hospital has a flooded Emergency Room.
International guidance supports the opinion that maternal health, child services, immunization services, acute illness visits and chronic disease management are services which should continue.
This brings me to modified clinic services at the Hamilton Health Clinic during the next two weeks…
The public are advised that there will be no walk-ins at this time. All visits are by appointment only.
For minor ailments in children as well as child and adult immunization contact 278-6460. Appointments will be available Monday to Friday at the Hamilton Health Centre from 8.30am to 11.30am.
‘Well infant’ checks will take place from Monday to Friday 2pm until 4pm at the Hamilton Health Centre by appointment only. The contact number is 278-6460.
For the Maternal Health Program, contact 278-6441. Again, all visits are by appointment only.
- Antenatals will be seen Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30am to 12:30pm.
- TDAP immunizations will take place Friday mornings from 8:30am to 11:30am.
- Contraceptive injection clinic appointments will be on Tuesdays from 8:30am to 11:30am and Fridays (2pm-4pm).
For the Communicable Disease Clinic, contact 278-6442. Testing will be carried out by appointment only from Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 11:30am; while consultation and medication collection will take place Fridays from 8:30am until 11:30am. Again, all visits are by appointment only.
For community Health Nursing services contact 292-3095.
Regarding testing capability, with the generosity of Roche Bermuda’s supply of two additional testing instruments along with two laptop operating systems to run them, there will be the additional capacity to conduct tests in Bermuda. This will heavily ramp up our testing program as we will be looking to add to our current testing facility to offer more widespread screening of our population to combat this viral outbreak. With the additional testing supplies scheduled to arrive on the BA flight next week, we will be able to test approximately 2,000 persons. Public Health England, through Crown Agents, have indicated that they will provide this same level of testing capabilities to Bermuda on a weekly basis.
An additional testing centre will be set up and validated according to WHO guidelines, not only to assist the national diagnostic efforts, but also to expose our Bermudian university students who are already educated in the field, and have previous laboratory experience, to what is certainly an emerging field of work. This new laboratory will be under the direction of Dr. Carika Weldon. The new machines and test kits will arrive on Monday on our already announced AirBridge BA flight.
I want to thank my team at the Ministry of Health who have been working tirelessly over the past 12 weeks to ensure the impact of COVID-19 to our island is minimized as much as possible.
My staff really have been working long hours – evenings and weekends without break – to do this work.
We have stressed that social distancing is vital to containing covid. I have remind everyone that to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in grocery stores, the below recommendations should be implemented:
- Maintain a physical separation of 6 feet from other shoppers.
- Use store hand sanitizers entering and leaving the stores.
- Avoid cash transactions as much as possible and use a delivery option if available.
- If you bring your reusable bags, sanitize them first.
- Pack your own groceries so that fewer hands have touched your purchases.
- Only buy what you need.
And finally, if you have the responsibility of caring for vulnerable persons in their own homes, there are several actions you need to take immediately to protect yourself and those you care for, to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Practicing safe, effective hygiene for the protection of your client and yourself.
- Staying at home if you are sick.
- Preparing a plan for back up care providers for times when you are ill.
This is because seniors, healthcare workers and persons with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes or frailty are at higher risk for illness from COVID-19 disease.
Please look at the guidelines posted on the Government website for full details.
Thank you and stay safe and well, Bermuda.
Thank you, Minister of Health, and I would like to echo the comments from the Minister of Health with thanks to the team inside of the Ministry of Health for all of their incredible dedicated work.
Members of the media should note that you’ve been used to these press conferences, which are taking place, but because the Ministry of Health has been doing so much work on going to make sure that our next press conference will not be until Monday. So while we actually start the Shelter in Place there might be a little bit of rest and relaxation for the very, I would say overwork team at the Ministry of Health.
They’re busy preparing reports for me on a daily basis to keep us updated, but I think that we all need to make sure we have some downtime to recollect ourselves as the Minister always reminds us that this is a marathon and not a sprint, and we will be dealing with this viral outbreak for some time.
Government House and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been working with the Government of Bermuda’s London Office and the Ministry of Health to bring back stranded Bermudian students and residents in addition to procuring additional supplies.
His Excellency the Governor will now speak more about this flight which is confirmed for Monday, and the support from Public Health England.
HE Governor’s comments.
Thank you, Governor.
The Ministry of National Security, our Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment have played a critical role in helping our community to preserve law and order throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I now call upon the Minister of National Security to provide an update on the implementation of the Shelter in Place order.
Minister Of National Security Comments Summed Up
The Emergency Powers [COVID-19 Shelter in Place] Regulations 2020 have been posted online, with the regulations stating that “except as permitted by these Regulations, no person shall leave his home at any time of the day or night from 6am on 4 April 2020 until these Regulations cease to have effect.”
The document states, “A person may leave his home during the curfew for the following purposes only, and provided appropriate social distancing is maintained at all times.
- Essential visits to a permitted business, during the hours of 7am to 7pm only
- Essential medical appointments, during the hours of 7am to 7pm only [except for an emergency situation or scheduled appointment outside that period]
- For a walk or run, alone or with one other member of the same household, for a maximum period of sixty minutes per day during the hours of 7am to 7pm only, remaining at all times within a distance of one kilometre [half a mile] from his home;
- To assist elderly or vulnerable relatives or neighbours, during the hours of 7am to 7pm only [except for an emergency situation]
“For the avoidance of doubt, a minor child of parents who do not live together shall remain at the home where the child is living on commencement until these Regulations cease to have effect.
“Persons listed in Schedules 1 and 2 are exempt from the curfew, but only when on official business, working or travelling to and from work, and all such persons shall carry identification at all times and show to an enforcement officer on request.”
Some other extracts from the regulations:
- “During the curfew, a permitted business may open between the hours of 7am to 7pm only [except for a hospital or other health facility].
- “A permitted business which is a retail grocery store or pharmacy may make deliveries to customers between the hours of 7am to 7pm, subject to compliance with directions published by the Minister of National Security on the website www.gov.bm/ coronavirus.
- “During the curfew no person shall visit any other person’s home or allow any person to visit his home, except as provided by regulation 3(2)(d);
- “No person shall operate a boat or jetski for any recreational purpose during the curfew, except for an emergency situation.
- “Graveside funerals are permitted with a maximum of ten mourners, plus the officiant and funeral home staff, provided appropriate social distancing is maintained at all times
- “During the curfew—no person shall visit any other person’s home or allow any person to visit his home, except as provided by regulation 3
- “No person shall access any public beach, park [including the Railway Trail] or playground during the curfew
- “A person who fails to comply with any of these Regulations commits an offence and may be arrested without warrant, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $10,000 or a term of imprisonment of six months, or both
In addition to these official regulations, Minister of National Security Wayne Caines announced this evening that grocery stores, pharmacy and gas station visits will be done on specific days according to your surname, which apparently does not start until Monday – the actual Shelter in Place order starts at 6am on Saturday.
Thank you, Minister Caines and I’d like to extend thanks of Bermuda to Minister Caines, his team at National Security, and the COVID-19 EMO, the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment for their service during this difficult time.
Many of our fellow Bermudians were already facing tremendous stress before the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that the past few weeks of uncertainty, reduced incomes and the inability to move freely around our island during the evenings, have added to that stress.
The 14 days of Shelter in Place will be difficult for many of us. Support has been put in place to help families during this difficult time. And at this time I’ve asked for Dr. Cherita Rayner of the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute to speak on how we can each cope with a shelter in place requirements and the resources available to assist, if at any point, any of us need additional help and support.
Dr. Rayner’s comments noted phone numbers that can be called at this time for assistance.
Mental Health Crisis line: 239-1111
Community Mental Health Clinic Triage Nurse 8am-8pm: 249-3432.
Afterhours Resource line: 249-3258
Child and Adolescent Services Community hotline – 249-3370
Child and Adolescent Services main line Mondays to Fridays. 9am-5pm: 239-6344
Turning Point: 239-2038
Thank you, Dr. Rayner.
Now I’m going to give a few closing remarks while actually covering topics of an emerging homemade mask industry in Bermuda. The flights repatriation flights for persons from the United States, and closing comments.
Just as a note on an update from the Ministry of Public Works that the public drop off at Tynes Bay they will close for two weeks beginning at 7pm tonight. Remember the objective of Shelter in Place is for people to stay at home as much as possible. Regular trash collection will continue. but the objective is for persons to stay at home.
Two weeks ago, Mrs. Sheila Tyrrell called me to suggest that we could help ourselves by producing our own face masks. As a sewer herself, she started this initiative with the intention to provide masks for her family and friends, and later decided to get the Government on board with the idea of having persons, making masks locally.
The idea is that this is an open community initiative to get people to be creative and make some really cool masks for their immediate household and friends, and possibly others. A team comprising Miss Tyrrell, her daughter Keisha and two Ministry officers, Miss Georgette Trott and Miss Trina Bean had been leading this initiative.
The message is that we are all in this together and to encourage people of Bermuda to make masks for their friends and families. The masks can be made from items already at home, such as old bedsheets pillowcases, t-shirts, as long as they are 100% cotton.
There are some places where they require a mask to be worn by persons outdoors and though the science is emerging in what we would encourage persons if they do have masks and if they are going out shopping during the week that they should look to wear them. To be clear, masks will not protect you from contracting or receiving the coronavirus. What mask will do is if you happened to be an asymptomatic spreader, will prevent you from possibly spreading those to other persons. And I think that’s an important distinction. Wearing a mask does not mean that you should not wash your hands, should not means you should not use hand sanitizer. You should do it in addition to all the other things of which you are currently doing.
There are how to videos online on how to make the mask and we are going to post one to the website coronavirus.gov.bm, should budding seamstresses wish to try their hand at making them.
Also, while doing this research the team discovered that there is a thriving cottage industry in Bermuda already, where several seamstresses have been making and selling masks for weeks. We have some examples on display this afternoon, and you will readily see that there are some very creative and colorful examples.
So far, we have identified four entrepreneurs who have sold hundreds of masks already, and we are sure that there are others who are doing so. We are happy to provide their contact details for those who may not have access to a sewing machine or a family member who knows how to use one and those will be posted to the government website. They are Miss Gay Simmons, Qui-Ja Fabrics, Miss Carla Souza at Revive Boutiik, Dr. Dena Phillips and Miss Gina Flood at All Things Sassy. Yes, we are entering into a period of Shelter in Place, but I’ll be speaking to the Minister of National Security to figure out how we can make sure that we can get an exemption so that persons may be able to provide these masks at supermarkets, during our Shelter in Place.
The Ministry of Tourism and Transport advises that Travel Edge, working with the Bermuda Government, the US Consulate and Delta Airlines has arranged for Bermuda residents and US Nationals to be flown home. At 10am on Tuesday, 7 April, a charter flight will depart from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Hollywood International Airport bound for Bermuda. The flight is then scheduled to depart Bermuda for Atlanta, Georgia, later that day. There will be additional information released this evening from the Government on this charter flight, however tickets are currently priced at $1,000.
Bermuda residence in the United States who ordinarily reside on the island and US Nationals in Bermuda, who wish to return home are advised to take advantage of this opportunity and book this flight directly with Travel Edge. Please contact Pat Trott at email@example.com or call 299-8717, and as noted there will be a release from the Government that is going to go out this evening, which provides that particular information.
As I stated previously, there is not any regular scheduled commercial air traffic, out of the airport during the month of April. So if you’re a US citizen who would like to return to the United States, or if you are a Bermuda resident who is looking to return home, then please take advantage of this flight.
As a reminder, you will be required to be in a government quarantine facility for 14 days upon arrival. And we have been informed that Delta Airlines will not let anyone board the flight who is exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.
Before I end, I want to encourage everyone that for accurate and reliable information on COVID-19, please use the government communications channels as your source. In addition to the website coronavirus.gov.bm. The official social media channels, CITV, either on YouTube or on your televisions at home. The Government of Bermuda has created a WhatsApp broadcast system, where you can send a message to subscribe for information to be delivered directly to your phone. To sign up, all you need to do is WhatsApp ‘hi’, to 504-6045, and add that number to your contacts list. Since this communications channel has launched 1,500 Bermudians have subscribed and are receiving direct updates from the Government of Bermuda.
In closing, as a government, we have approached this pandemic not from a place of wishful thinking, nor from a place of fear. We have recognized the cold hard facts of this situation, and with the advice to our medical professionals have treated this as a war for the very survival of our country.
Yet through it all, we have all surveyed hopeful that through decisive and reasoned action, we will emerge from this global pandemic even stronger and more resilient as a people. Tomorrow, life will change dramatically for Bermuda. The declaration of a state of emergency, the first in over 40 years, and the institution of a Shelter in Place order for 14 days from 6am, this Saturday represents a new necessary level in our collective war protect the health and safety of our community.
Each of us now has a choice. We can take these days and be selfish, disregard the laws in place to protect all of us, and place yourself and others in jeopardy. We can take these 14 days to engage in unhealthy behavior or binge watch Netflix. If we make any of these choices, we will still emerge no better, no stronger, and no wiser than when we began the Shelter in Place Order.
Instead, let us choose to do what we can and all support each other to use this time in a positive and productive manner. The world post COVID-19 will be unlike anything we have seen. Some economists are warning that the global economy will be as bad,if not worse, than experienced during the height of the Great Recession.
Some of the jobs that had been lost, may be lost forever. Some of the skills that have provided an income for ourselves and others may cease to exist. I encourage each of you to use these 14 days wisely. If all of us see this as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to evolve and to strengthen, we’ll be better positioned as a people for a post COVID-19 world. If all you’ve gained from this time is weight, that will be unfortunate.
Take advantage of the internet’s resources, learn a new skill, train, work, grow. Yet growth does not have to be limited to enhancing skills. It can be used to deepen your spirituality, strengthen ties with loved ones, or do those chores around the house that you haven’t had a time to tackle, or simply use this as a time to refresh, renew and rejuvenate for the days to come.
Someone recently said to me that I had become your Premier in one of the most difficult times in our country’s history, and they remarked that they did not envy the burden that myself or our government has had to collectively bear. I can say that I have never been more humbled than I am today for the opportunity you have given me to serve. The days ahead may be uncertain. The future may seem darker than light, and the work to do seemingly impossible, but I know that I am not alone and none of us in this tiny island are alone.
Thank you. Be safe. Be well, be blessed. And let us all work together to ensure that Bermuda emerges from this a stronger, better, smarter, and positioned to set an example for the world.
Press Conference April 2nd, 2020
Today I’m joined by the Minister of Health, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Education.
My remarks today will cover my daily update, regarding test results for COVID-19, I will then discuss a few matters relating to the upcoming state of emergency and the existing curfew round the Shelter in Place measure which has been put into place by the Government of Bermuda, commencing on Saturday and also the Minister of Education will an update on the Ministry’s plans for students next week.
The Government did receive additional test results today. Out of the 36 test results received today, there were three positive cases for COVID-19, and 33 negative test results that were received. This means that the confirmed positive cases in Bermuda now stands at 35.
Out of those 35 persons, it is important to note that 11 persons have recovered. Out of those 35 persons, there are four persons now that are hospitalized and all of those persons are listed in stable condition. So again, we have 35 total cases, there are 11 persons that have recovered, 24 active cases and of those 24 active cases four persons are hospitalised.
Out of the cases, 22 overall, the 35 reported, 11 were local transmission and two were under investigation. Out of the three new confirmed cases. Two of them were imported, and one is under investigation.
One of the confirmed cases arrived in Bermuda, on the British Airways flight on the 18 March. The other arrived on the Delta flight DL561 on the 18 March, 2020. If you’re on either of those flights on the 18th of March, your quarantine period ended yesterday, 1 April 1. If you are feeling fine and have no symptoms, continue to either practice social distancing, remain in your house, and observe the self-quarantine guidelines.
If you have respiratory symptoms such as a persistent cough or even a mild fever or a sore throat, please contact your doctor. Alternately, you can prior to contacting your doctor, you’re welcome to go to the website is listed here, coronavirus.gov.bm, and look under resources, where you will find a symptom checker which has been released by the Bermuda Hospitals Board. So you can look to see whether or not you may have, or had the symptoms of the coronavirus.
When you talk to your doctor explain that you were on one of the mentioned flights, and you would like medical guidance, please as I say all the time, do not go to a doctor’s office or the hospital, call ahead.
Currently, there are 1,206 persons that are under self-quarantine with public health supervision. A review of our overall testing numbers, states that out of the 261 tests that we’ve conducted, as we know that 35 are positive, and 204 were negative. The rest of the results are pending results.
Regarding the curfew. I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of people in Bermuda understand the importance of the curfew and are in their homes by eight o’clock pm. The Bermuda Police Service today reported that there was one curfew breached last night, and that person was detained and held at the Hamilton Police Station and released after curfew.
It is important to note that the exemptions, can be found for anyone who’s requesting an exemption for curfew at forms.gov.bm/covid19/curfew. Or you could just visit the coronavirus.gov.bm website, and you will find the link to the exemption request for there.
Yesterday I announced the Government will be instituting a Shelter in Place order for the 14 days from the 6 am Saturday 4 April until Saturday, 18 April. I will reiterate why this measure is important for the lives of each person who lives in Bermuda.
COVID-19 is a deadly disease. We have seen how this has devastated towns, cities and countries around the world. In Bermuda, we have the ability to flatten the curve and slow down the transmission of the virus by reducing our contact with each other. The virus, as you know, is spread from person to person, and by people touching surfaces where the virus is present. This is the reason why it is important to maintain your social distance, and to practice the good hygiene, that we have spoken about.
Minister Caines has spent the bulk of this afternoon answering questions that people have regarding the Shelter in Place and how it impacts their personal circumstance. Though we will have the ability to answer questions at the end of this press conference regarding specifics, I’m going to ask for the patience of the public as the Attorney-General’s Chambers is finalizing the regulations, and it’s important to know that though the regulations were requested by the Cabinet of Bermuda, the Governor of Bermuda must issue those regulations, and until those regulations are issued, nothing can be considered official as it is under the remit of the Governor in which to issue. So we will wait for the finalization of those regulations.
What I will note, however, is that Shelter in Place will be difficult for many persons in our community. The added stress of reduced incomes, anxiety surrounding the coronavirus and the inability to leave people’s property creates extra pressures for many families. It is important to know that support has been put in place to help families during this time.
The Government has established clear priorities for ensuring that vulnerable persons in need, that are in our community have their needs met. Many partner agencies are working together, churches, nonprofits and Government departments. Resources are available to deliver food, and there are services for seniors. Shelter is available for those in need and for those persons who may be, unfortunately, experiencing domestic violence, help is also available.
Approximately 14 food services and feeding programs have been put in place, and they are providing over 3,000 meals a day island-wide.
Regarding our seniors and our nursing homes. Many of Bermuda’s most vulnerable live in senior’s homes around the island. There are 21 facilities, 19 of them, which are private, would serve a total of 392 seniors. Funding from Bermuda Emergency Fund, which is administered by the Community Foundation, has been used to buy supplies, personal equipment, installed Wi Fi and get more phone lines into the nursing home facilities. If anyone has a concern about a senior or if you’re a senior that needs help, you’re welcome to contact Dr. Claudette Fleming at 747-7525.
Before this COVID-19 crisis emerged, a team of non-profit and public experts met, including representatives from Vision Bermuda, Meals on Wheels, Aging and Disability Services, the Bermuda Health Council (which has oversight and licensing responsibility for seniors homes) Age Concern Bermuda, and a consortium of public and private nursing homes.
Each organization went back to their list of most vulnerable clients, many seniors were contacted directly, and their needs were assessed and addressed with the assistance of Age Concern social workers. Aging and Disability Services also is conducting wellness checks on seniors around the island. These organizations are on standby to address short-term needs of those seniors, as they arise.
For those members of our community who can help make a difference by making a financial contribution to the emergency fund, please go to www.Bcf.bm. All funds will be used to support the identified priority areas for our most vulnerable.
On to the issues of domestic violence. Unfortunately, what happens when you have curfew orders or Shelters in Place, you will, unfortunately see an increase in the risk of domestic violence. Please know that if you are in a domestic situation, and have concern for your safety, contact the Police or call The Center Against Abuse at 292-4366, or their 24-hour hotline to 297-8278.
The Government does not want anyone to remain in a vulnerable position where you may be subject to domestic violence. I’d like to speak today to say, that if you are in that situation, we can ensure that provisions are made for you. We do not want you to be in a situation where you may be abused, and if you need help, please call, and the Government will make sure that we can assist you in your circumstances.
Earlier today, I saw the long lines at the grocery stores. I want to reassure the people of Bermuda that grocery stores will remain open during the 14-day shelter in place. Pharmacies will be open, as well as gas stations. There is no need to buy in bulk. There is plenty of food on the island, and there is enough for us all.
I ask, and remind persons that social distancing is particularly important, and the Minister of National Security in conjunction with our services is going to look at what assistance may be provided to help to make sure that we can have persons maintain adequate social distancing. But the best advice is, buy what you need to buy, and do not buy anymore. There is enough for everyone, and to remember that during the 14 day Shelter in Place, there will be the opportunity to travel to a grocery store, within limits of which will be laid out in regulations.
The Government has also been focused on bringing Bermudians home who have been stranded in the United States and our students who are stranded, some in dire conditions, in the United Kingdom. Working with a local travel agency, who have generously secured a charter flight by Delta Airlines – and the travel agency is Travel Edge – a flight is being organized to bring travellers who may be stranded in the United States, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Bermuda. There is a cost for this flight. However, the more persons who take advantage of the flight, the cost could be reduced.
If you have a loved one in the United States who needs to return home, direct them to coronavirus.gov.bm to complete the Returning Bermuda Residents form to add their name to the list. It should be noted that priority, both in London, and in cases from the United States are for persons who are students or vulnerable persons. Then it goes to people who are ordinarily resident in Bermuda. Persons who have moved overseas and are not normally resident and are lower on the priority list and may not be given seats on the flight given that there may be space constraints.
Whether travelers arriving from London, or the United States, once they arrive in Bermuda they will be mandated to enter a Government quarantine facility for 14 days. The Minister of Health has signed a new order that requires this, and our Government has secured a facility, with more than 300 rooms to meet these required quarantine demands.
As I’ve stated previously, we have an obligation to help bring home every Bermudian who is stranded overseas by circumstance far beyond their control. And as I’ve stated previously, some of the stories which you’re hearing that I’ve heard, are not good. I just got off the phone with Ms. Kimberly Durant’s who runs our London office, and we have students that are literally calling her office in tears, because there are no services and support for them as their universities have shut down, and they are very literally the only person that is left on their university campus. The fortunate thing is that most of those students will be home on Monday.
I have heard stories of our seniors who are having retired have made the decision to vacation and have ended up in a city where they hadn’t planned to stay in and spending money on flight, hotel rooms, and food that they had not budgeted for. These are our people, and I’m happy that we continue to work with Government House and the Foreign Commonwealth Office to resolve their dire situations.
Earlier this week, I spoke about the plan to get hospital workers who used to rely on public transportation to and from the hospital. There had been a delay in starting the service. However, the Department of Public Transportation management, the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Bermuda Public Service Union officials, and the Occupational Safety and Health Committee members met with Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Chief of Medicine an expert on infectious diseases to clarify the requirements for personal protection equipment, hygiene and social distancing on the buses under COVID-19 regulations.
The Department of Health, and healthcare professionals were also present to advise on personal protective equipment and COVID-19. The bus drivers now have an understanding of the risk exposure and precautionary measures required to ensure the safety of employees and passengers on buses.
Follow up actions are ongoing. However, the team at DPT has made sufficient progress to safely resume the KEMH bus service starting tomorrow. I thank everyone who has worked to make the service possible so our healthcare workers can get to work.
Now, I will end with some good news, the Bermuda Post Office today confirmed that pension checks for seniors will be delivered tomorrow. Also, the Minister of Finance confirmed to me earlier today that payments have been processed for 1,142 persons who were all approved to receive benefits under the unemployment fund.
Again, 1,142 persons. Those payments were processed at our local banking institutions today, and there will be another run that will be performed tomorrow. The Minister of Finance has informed me that the persons whose payments were run out of that fund were paid for the first two weeks of their benefits, not just one, but the first two weeks of their benefits.
I will close my remarks today with my customary thank you. Thank you to Bermuda’s public health professionals and healthcare workers around the island, who are on the front line, every day. Those are doctors, those are nurses, those are lab technicians, and those are the ones who work in support. Persons who cleaned the hospital, orderlies, the persons who preparing food, and otherwise. Whether you are persons who are working or picking up garbage around the country, whether you were transporting our people to and from work, whether you are off the streets, making sure that we’ve maintained our curfew, as police officer of a regiment officer. I, on behalf of a grateful country, give you our thanks.
To my fellow Bermudians, as I say, all the time, we must use this time to define who we are. To do what is right for ourselves in our country. We are going to have to dig deep and be strong, as we prepare to endure 14 days of Sheltering in place. But I have no doubt that we can do it, and if we do it the right way, it’ll be the last time that this country will have to do it.
Premier Requests A State of Emergency from Governor – SHELTER IN PLACE Order For 14 Days
Good afternoon, to the listening and watching public.
Today I’m joined by the Minister of National Security, the Minister of Health, and the Chief Medical Officer. Also, the Commissioner of Police and the Acting Commander of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.
Today, I will start with a COVID-19 Health update, and then provide some context around the national address, that I gave earlier this afternoon.
Minister Caines will discuss the results of the meeting of the EMO earlier, and will also provide details of the operational aspects of the Shelter in Place, measure, which was announced earlier today.
I can confirm that there were eight results that were received today by the Ministry of Health, and there are no additional positive cases to reports. Our total number of confirmed cases remains at 32 persons. As I mentioned last night, there were three cases that were under investigation. Two of those cases which were under investigation have been confirmed as close contacts, and a third remains under investigation still.
As of this afternoon, there have been 236 tests that have taken place, and there are 33 results, which are still pending ,171 negative results, and as I mentioned before, 32 confirmed cases. Out of those 32 confirmed cases, 20 were imported and 11 were limited local transmission, where we could trace the contacts and one is still under investigation. It is important to note that ten persons have fully recovered from their infections, while three remain hospitalized in stable condition.
We currently have 1,488 persons who were under self-quarantine with public health supervision.
Earlier today, I gave a national address stating that from 4 April at 6am, Bermuda will implement the Shelter in Place measure for 14 days. The Shelter in Place is scheduled to end on 18 April.
The decision to move to Shelter in Place, was not taken lightly. We looked at the number of confirmed cases in Bermuda. We listened to the guidance from the Chief Medical Officer, who was closest to the situation. With COVID-19, there is uncertainty and decision-making is tough, and will always be second guessed, and will always be questioned.
I recognize the incredible pain that this will cause in our community, both financially and certainly emotionally, and how unpopular this decision may be in certain quarters. However, the pain will be nothing compared to the pain that we will have, if we have an overwhelming of our healthcare system, which will lead to a number of deaths. We have seen it play out on television overseas, and it will be a violation of our public duty, if we do nothing to prevent that from happening here.
This government will always make decisions that are in the best interest of the health and welfare of those of us who live in Bermuda.
So what does Shelter in Place look like in practical terms? It means that the only businesses that will remain open are food producers, such as farmers, fishermen, and those persons who raise and herd livestock, food wholesalers, retail grocery stores, doctors’ offices and medical facilities, pharmacies, gas stations, the ports, utility companies like gas and water will be available for emergency services and banks on restricted hours to only provide the most essential of services.
Local banks have been designated as essential services. However, all face to face interactions between bank customers and bank employees will be suspended for the two week period. Bank office operations include the servicing of ATM machines and the processing of wire payments, among other things such as online banking will continue.
The purpose of this 14 day Shelter in Place, is to restrict the movement of people to ensure that our healthcare system is ready for any future surge in patients. It is a big step to ask persons to stay on their properties, to close beaches and public parks, but it is essential that we restrict movement to ensure that we contain and constrain any possible outbreak.
People will be allowed to exercise outside their home within a reasonable distance with no more than groups of two, for restricted times. Minister Caines will provide additional details when he speaks, and the Police Commissioner, as well as other officials are here to answer any further questions.
It is essential to remember that this is a time that we must all pull together, and we must all do what is right for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities. We must work together and treat each other with kindness and respect.
There are a number of stories that have come to me regarding landlords, both commercial and residential, who are not understanding the need for compassion, during this particular time, and who are demanding rent from those persons who have been let go from work, and are threatening eviction of people who from no fault of their own can’t operate their businesses, and cannot pay the rent on their home or their apartments. To these unscrupulous landlords I say today the courts are closed, and eviction notices will not be processed. This is a time for unity, and it is not a time for us to turn on each other.
I want to touch on the airport and when it is scheduled to reopen.
We closed the airport to scheduled commercial traffic for two weeks, commencing on March 20 2020. The fact is, however, that due to the global situation we have been informed that there is no commercial air carrier that has regular service to Bermuda that is intending on re-commencing flights until 1 May 2020.
It is important to note that this is not fully a decision of the Government of Bermuda, but also of the air carriers which flying. This does not prevent our efforts to continue the work to bring stranded Bermudians home and ensure that there are adequate quarantine facilities in which to house those persons to then minimize the risk of any future outbreak.
Before Minister Caines comes to the podium. I want to remind people that you have time to get your home in order before Shelter in Place goes into effect on Saturday morning.
You do not have to run out and start panic buying. Remember, grocery stores will open during the 14 days that we will be sheltering in place. And in addition to that, all major grocery store chains have confirmed that the traditional Wednesday 5% discount will be in place during the entire duration of the Shelter in Place. I want to thank the employees of our grocers, who are doing stellar service, while they are on the front lines. Our ports will be open for goods, and goods will continue to come to the island. If you run out of necessary items, you will still be able to purchase them. So I will encourage you over the next few days to operate and do things in a good and decent order.
We have the opportunity to show each other our best, to be our best, and we must show kindness to each other and exercise the patience of which this time requires. While we cannot touch or hug each other, we can share the smile, exchange a warm greeting, check up on your friends, possibly repair those relationships from a distance which has been frayed, and go the extra step to be a friend, because that is the only way that we will get through this tough time together.
I will close my remarks by saying I want to again pay tribute to all of those persons who have answered the call of service. I was particularly gratified that after my press conference yesterday, I received WhatsApp notices from Public Officers who made sure to prepare themselves to drive nurses to the hospital earlier today. This is a time when we can all come together.
As I said earlier, COVID-19 does not discriminate based upon age, does not discriminate based upon race, does not discriminate based on economic status, does not discriminate against political party, and does not discriminate against immigration status.
If there was ever a time when it was about all of us being in this together, it is now. I recognize that the times will be difficult, but I will call upon all aspects of society, to not only ensure that we endure this next painful period, but we write the next chapter of Bermuda’s history, which will be one of success, collectively, as we seek to recover from the damage that this crisis, right now will cause, but certainly will not have to endure. If we do what’s necessary and right. Thank you. And now we’ll turn the podium over to the Minister of National Security.