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

Premier Burt COVID-19 Press Conference Remarks

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

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

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

First, there will be the Minister of Health.

Good Afternoon,

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BERMUDA GOVERNMENT PRESS CONFERENCE COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 20, 2020

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update – October 20, 2020

 

Good Afternoon Bermuda, and welcome members of the media.

Today, I am joined today by the Minister of Health who will be providing an update to the public on the latest from her Ministry including the most recent Coronavirus test results. Following that I will give an update on matters related to the Tourism, The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, and our recently concluded Tech Week.

Minister of Health:

Good Afternoon,

From Sunday and Monday, 1692 test results were received by the Ministry of Health, and three were positive for COVID-19.

The most recent cases, which are classified as ‘imported’, are among visitors who received their positive test results on their Day 4 tests. One visitor arrived on DL 584 from Atlanta on 14 October 2020. The two other visitors arrived on BA 2233 from London on 14 October 2020. All cases are asymptomatic. Case isolation and contact tracing has begun.

Bermuda now has 188 total confirmed positive cases with status as follows:

  • 5 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 174 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

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

Overall, 49% of cases were Black, 42% White and 9% other/unknown.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

I would like to thank everyone who has come out so far for the Department of Health’s Flu Express. The turnout has been tremendous; so much so that we have had to relocate some of the locations to accommodate more people. It is fantastic to see so many people taking charge of their health and, through that, the health of our entire community.

The remaining October Flu Express days and locations are as follows:

  • At Pennos Wharf, St. George’s on Wednesday 21st October from 10am until 2pm.
  • And at the Clock Tower, Dockyard on Wednesday 28th October from 10am until 2pm.

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

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

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

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

Today, as Halloween gets closer, I want to reiterate some of the guidance I have already provided in terms of how to celebrate safely, which is based on CDC recommendations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This guidance can be found at coronavirus.gov.bm

We are expecting more visitors to our shores over the next few weeks so I would like to remind potential travellers about some of the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ they should follow in the period between when travellers are released from quarantine and their day 14 test results:

  • DO NOT attend events with large groups of people (e.g. weddings, parties, family gatherings);
  • Wash your hands regularly;
  • Stay six feet from others;
  • DO NOT hug or kiss;
  • Keep social bubble small if at all;
  • Keep away from crowded places;
  • Stay out of closed spaces with poor ventilation;
  • Exercise outside;
  • Choose activities that are outdoors;
  • Wear a mask in all public places;
  • And protect babies, seniors/persons with chronic conditions by staying outside, wear masks and keep six feet away.

I want to end by reminding us all to avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings.

In closing, I just want to give a shout-out to the organizers of the Bermuda End-to-End for re-jigging their annual event this year to ensure it is COVID-19 safe.

The event, to be held this Saturday after a five-month postponement due to the pandemic, will follow all current COVID-19 recommendations including mask wearing at waterstops, frequent use of hand sanitizer and physical distancing.

Also, participants can start anywhere along the route that is convenient to ensure there are no large groups of people bunched together along the walk.

The event will be used to raise cash for four charities – the Bermuda Zoological Society, Vision Bermuda, the Garden Club of Bermuda and The Family Centre.

I urge everyone to come out and join in the fun and help raise much needed funds for our selected Bermuda charities.

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

Thank you minister.

As the Minister has reported – we have three new cases which were imported. It is important that as a country we do not become complacent and we must continue to be vigilant about maintaining physical distance, wearing our masks and washing our hands.

If you are not feeling well, have a fever or symptoms of the coronavirus, ensure that you take advantage of the free testing that is available to residents and get yourself tested.

The Cabinet Coronavirus Committee met yesterday to discuss matters related to continued enforcement of our Public Health Emergency Regulations. There is no question there is pandemic fatigue in Bermuda, businesses and persons are becoming more lax, and some persons are willfully ignoring the Public Health rules. The Government is walking a tightrope, between the opening of our tourism economy to keep people working, and the reversal of the relaxations that have seen us as a community reap the benefits of our collective hard work.

It really takes only one person at a crowded establishment or house party where people are not wearing masks and not maintaining their distance to set off an outbreak. One person to cause us to get back to hospitalizations. One person to cause us to move to a place of greater restrictions due to transmissions in the community.

Many of us are aware of trends and developments around the world. Given our access to international media, Bermudians are well-versed about the pandemic developments in our region and beyond.

As a result, we know that many would have seen some countries in Europe, the US, and many other jurisdictions are entering into new ‘Lockdowns’. In the UK they are calling them “circuit breakers”, in the Caribbean “Lockdown 2.0”; and even New Zealand who initially had very good results is now using a 3-Tiered Lockdown system.

Having come through our own toughest period several months ago, Bermuda is well-placed to build on our enviable track record. We do not have widespread Community Transmission; meaning the only cases that we have had in recent months have been imported, and our diligent contact tracing combined with persons following health advice keep cases low.

The stringent measures we have in place allow us to continue to welcome guests to our shores. Not only has airline capacity continued to increase with more tourists beginning to arrive, so far just over 350 people have been approved to ‘Work in Bermuda’ for a year. That’s potentially more than 300 new rents, 350 new residents, and 350 new voices to tell Bermuda’s authentic story on their social media, to family and friends alike; word-of-mouth recommendations from someone we know are just as effective as our advertising campaigns.

Which brings me to the ‘Reset, Re-imagine & Renew’ Tourism Summit held last week, and the more than 200 people who attended in person and virtually; some participants were divided into different venues at Hamilton Princess, with others at Tuckers Point participating via video conferencing.

As the Minister with responsibility for Tourism, I must thank officers from the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Health, and employees of the Bermuda Tourism Authority who combined to produce an incredibly good and safe event.

While exceptional advice was shared, and global trends discussed, I wish to highlight something that could only happen because of the summit but which was totally unplanned.

Many of you would have seen the video that has been shared on social media and What ‘Sapp. A speaker from the Tourism Summit, posted a personal video to her Social Media account.  Without payment or prompting, Ms. Evita Robinson, a speaker at the Summit, was here representing travel company ‘Nomadness’, posted a video on her Facebook page describing her first-hand experience flying to Bermuda during. To date the video has been viewed more than 25,000 times!

Crucially, Ms. Robinson admitted to viewers that prior to flying, the trip and the worry about infection was beginning to induce personal anxiety. However, Ms. Robinson, someone who admitted in the video travels wearing a mask, a face shield, and a hazmat suit, said Bermuda’s protocols were so thorough and convenient that she did not have any anxiety either at the airport, or once she was in her hotel room.

She gives a powerful testament to Bermuda’s coronavirus protocols and the use of proper practice and sound science to reduce the anxiety that a pandemic can cause.

Posts like this will continue to help tell the Bermuda story, as we look for ways to safely welcome tourists to our shores and put Bermudians back to work.

Earlier today, the Fairmont Southampton staged a job fair for their employees providing opportunities for local businesses to set up a table and meet Fairmont staff who are looking for work. Some 17 employers together with a team from the Department of Workforce Development met with approximately 120 employees. I am grateful to all who participated. It is this type assistance that is needed during these challenging economic times.

This government will continue to provide support to everyone who is looking for a job or needs help starting their own business.

Our responsibility to displaced workers, and to other Bermudians who have made a career in retail, and the other sectors that support tourism and hospitality, and our overall duty to stimulate our economy means we support entrepreneurship.

Even prior to the pandemic, world economists maintain that small businesses are key to stimulate a country’s economy. As a result, we knew that the BEDC would be a valuable-if not the primary-resource for small business and entrepreneurs to seek relief and support post-COVID.

Some Bermudians are born entrepreneurs; some Bermudians leave unhappy jobs to strike out on their own; and others turn to entrepreneurship because circumstances force them to. Regardless the path people take to work for themselves and rely solely on one’s own efforts, the BEDC is ready to assist, and has been supporting small and medium sized businesses before, and throughout the pandemic.

With this Government’s support, the BEDC has created and/or supported three programmes that were designed either to provide relief or to help reduce red tape and other obstacles to profitability.

The first was the Enterprise Bermuda Incubator launched in 2018; this plan provided business owners with the skills and disciplines to start up their own companies, and created 22 new startup businesses. Data from the graduates shows that 66 new jobs were created.

The second scheme is the New Startups Payroll Tax Relief Programme. This modified plan removes the payroll tax obligation for new businesses to help them use the limited capital that small businesses have on-hand during the early days, for strategic and commercial development, and not for paying taxes. Since being launched in 2018, 49 new businesses have taken advantage of this allowing them to hire 81 Bermudians.

And the final highlight is the ‘COVID-19 Business Aid Loan and Grant Fund’ that was launched in April this year in response to the negative impact the pandemic was likely to wreak on Bermuda’s economy.

So far, 114 businesses have been approved, totaling just under 2.5 million dollars. 96% of the funding went to small business owners, and the vast majority (87%) of the successful applicants receiving loan and grant approval. Anyone looking for more information on these programmes or how to start your own business, is welcome to visit BEDC.bm.

I wish to congratulate the newly formed Economic Development Department for hosting its successful virtual conference last week, the Tech Education Summit. The Minister of Education, the Hon. Diallo Rabain and I gave remarks, and the keynote message, “Inspiring Innovators of the Future” was delivered by Chamath Palihapitiya (Pally A Pa TiYa), a venture capitalist who captured the minds of the attendees with an inspiring vision of harnessing technology to ensure a future that is dynamic and one in which everyone can achieve their dreams.

All of the presentations will soon be on the fintech.bm website and I encourage the tech-savvy and those not so tech savvy, to explore the site and learn the various ways technology can lead to innovative solutions.

As Bermuda Emerges from the economic impacts of the Pandemic, technology will be key to ensure we as a country build an even more powerful economy of the future. I want to encourage all to visit fintech.bm and take advantage of the FREE training courses that are also available on the website – fintech.bm.

The Cabinet is focused on ensuring that we regularly communicate with residents on what work the Government is doing surrounding not only the health aspects of the pandemic but also the economic aspects of the pandemic.

Yesterday, as promised, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labour, held a press conference to speak about the work that they are doing to advance the interest of the country.

The Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, the Bermuda Government Weather Service and Emergency Measures Organization are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Epsilon which is forecast to become a hurricane. This storm is a potential threat to Bermuda. The EMO will meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss and put in place the necessary preparations. Minister Ming will hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon to provide an update to the public on the EMO discussions.

This year has proven to be particularly challenging, and difficult emotionally for many. High levels of anxiety together with uncertainty for many about their employment, concern about the coronavirus and the stresses we face during hurricane season, can be difficult.

If you need help, if you want to talk with someone, if you need support emotionally please call 543-1111. Emotional support is available, so please do reach out and take advantage of that assistance.

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

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 19, 2020

COVID-19 Update 19 October

Monday, October 19th, 2020

Over Friday and Saturday, 1408 test results were received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

As of Saturday 17 October, Bermuda has had 185 total confirmed positive cases with status as follows:

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

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

Overall, 50% of cases were Black, 42% White and 8% other/unknown.

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

Due to an increase in the numbers of air arrivals (passengers) into Bermuda and subsequent surge in testing numbers, test results were slightly delayed this weekend. However, we are now caught up and all those who tested on Friday and Saturday should now have their results. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

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

COVID-19 Press Conference

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Good Afternoon Bermuda, and welcome members of the media.

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

Minister of Health Statement

Good Afternoon,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The October Flu Express days and locations are as follows:

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

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

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

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

You will not be given the shot if:

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

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

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

The general benefits of flu vaccination are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 12, 2020

COVID-19 Update – 12 October

Monday, October 12th, 2020

Today there were 1366 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 184 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 3 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 172 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 10, 2020

COVID-19 Update – 10 October

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

Today there were 731 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda has had 184 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 5 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 170 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 8, 2020

COVID-19 Update – 8 October

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

Today there were 715 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and two were positive for COVID-19.

These most recent cases are classified as imported having arrived travelling together on DL 584 from Atlanta on 7 October 2020. Case isolation and contact tracing has begun.

Bermuda now has 184 total confirmed positive cases.

Their status is as follows:

• there are 5 active cases

• all under public health monitoring

• none are hospitalized or in critical care

• a total of 170 have recovered

• the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 56 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 9 to 101 years. The average age of all deceased cases is 74 and the age range is 57 to 91 years.
The source of all local cases is as follows: • 73 are Imported • 90 are Local transmission, with known contact • 21 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and • none are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status is “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.
For more information visit coronavirus.gov.bm

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 7 2020

COVID-19 Update – 7 October

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Today there were 749 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and one was positive for COVID-19. This most recent case is classified as imported having arrived on BA flight 2233 on 30 September 2020. Case isolation and contact tracing has begun. The case is a resident who did not have a pre-departure test but tested negative on arrival, and was therefore in quarantine per normal public health requirements, and is now isolated.

Bermuda now has 182 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 3 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 170 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

COVID-19 update – 6 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minister Wilson.

Thank you Minister of Health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MINISTRY OF HEALTH COVID-19 UPDATE OCTOBER 1 2020

COVID-19 Update – 1 October

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Today there were 895 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

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

  • there are 4 active cases, who are
  • all under public health monitoring, and
  • none are hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 168 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

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

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

The source of all local cases is as follows:

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

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