Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update July 9 2020
Good afternoon Bermuda.
Joining me for today’s press conference are the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson and the Minister for Public Works, the Hon. Lt. Col. David Burch.
I will start this evening by expressing the condolences of the Government of Bermuda to the family of Mr. Amon Brown who was killed this week during a domestic related incident. Our prayers and best wishes go out to Mr. Brown’s family, friends and colleagues.
There has been intense speculation and heightened media attention in the circumstances surrounding the event, which took place at Blu Restaurant. Some persons think that my decisions were harsh. Some think they were justified. Others think they did not go far enough. This job requires me to make tough decisions every day. And over the past four months, the tough decisions have been like ants at a summer picnic. Numerous.
However, it is a responsibility that I take seriously, and my oath requires me to execute them without fear or favor. That much being said, there seems to be a new effort to extract political advantage, while looking to besmirch the names of persons with headlines and rumour.
My wife had asked me to take a few days off this week, and so the Deputy Premier was expected or supposed to be here today. However, I’ve come in to answer questions that members of the media may have, so that we can draw a line under this saga and return to the important issues that our country is facing during a pandemic that will continue to affect our island home, both healthwise, and our economy.
Beyond the public face of politics which is played out in press conferences, in the House, Senate or on the doorstep, there is a personal connection that is formed between those of us who choose to serve our country in this way. Inviting two committed and dedicated Ministers of the Government to resign gave me no pleasure.
As I said in my statement on Monday evening, I am immensely disappointed in the events that led to this. However, as a country, we have worked too long and too hard over the past few months to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Bermuda and our demands for public compliance with rules and regulations mean nothing if we are not prepared to live by them ourselves.
I have spoken to both MP Caines and DeSilva and I am satisfied that they understand and accept my decision. Both men worked tirelessly during the months of the pandemic response to keep Bermudians and Bermuda safe and to support our economic recovery. Their energy and zeal demonstrated a genuine care and concern for the people of Bermuda. I will remain forever grateful for their contributions. Because few know how difficult it has been for those of us in leadership over the past few months, but they know what it feels like.
I have asked the Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain to serve as the Acting Minister of National Security and the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Wayne Furbert to serve as Acting Minister for Tourism and Transport.
It is my expectation to ask the Governor to make new appointments to the Cabinet next week Wednesday. With those introductory remarks, I will now ask the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson to address the country. Minister Wilson.
Minister Wilson’s System
Today there were 283 test results received by the Ministry of Health; and none were positive for COVID-19.
Bermuda has 149 total confirmed positive cases. As of today we have 3 actives case in Bermuda, of which none are hospitalized. All cases were imported.
- A total of 137 have recovered, and
- the total deceased remains 9.
The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 60 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.
Overall, 56% of all cases are Black, 40% are white and 4% are other or unknown.
The source of all local cases is as follows:
- 45 are Imported
- 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
- 16 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
- 3 are under investigation
Bermuda’s country status is “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is below 1.
This week’s positive cases are a serious wake-up call that COVID-19 has not gone away. With our low COVID numbers, it’s perhaps easy to forget that we are living in the midst of a pandemic; but the reality is that we are and we need to take the same precautions we always have to protect ourselves and our community. As I have said before, now is not the time to let our guard down.
Having said that, I want to reassure the public that the Ministry of Health, upon receiving this week’s positive results, moved immediately to contact those individuals, isolate them, and begin the contact tracing process to determine who they may have been in close contact with – both on the flight and upon being landed. Those potential contacts will then have been contacted by one of our public health officials who would have provided them with further advice.
Contact tracing is a fundamental part of outbreak control that’s used by public health professionals around the world to prevent the spread of infections.
A contact is assessed to see how close they were to a confirmed case, which could include someone who has been in direct contact with them…in this case, seated immediately near them on the airplane, for example.
Following this assessment, we can categorise them into low or high risk and contact them to provide advice on what they should do.
A low risk contact, for example, doesn’t require self-quarantine but should practice physical distancing. Meanwhile, a high risk contact is required to self-quarantine, remaining in their home or accommodation for 14 days and staying away from work or public places. This would be a person sitting near the person who is positive.
Every passenger on the plane does not have to quarantine for 14 days. Only those who were close to the affected persons, and they will know because a public health officer will contact them. We have their contact details thanks to the Travel Authorizations.
As a reminder, ‘quarantine’ keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others; while ‘isolation’ separates people who are infected with the virus away from people who are not infected.
All passengers from this week’s Delta flights received immediate email communication from the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit explaining that a fellow passenger tested positive for COVID-19 and advising them on their next steps.
To reiterate, any passengers from this week’s Delta flights needing to quarantine beyond the standard prescribed for them on arrival, will be contacted by public health officials, if they have not been already.
However, ALL arriving passengers must monitor their health for 14 days (if applicable for length of stay) and take their temperature twice daily and record their symptoms on a symptom log provided. Also, they should limit their exposure to others in the community, as much as practicable, for 14 days.
I want to stress that last point; if you are a passenger arriving into Bermuda; do not think that you can circulate among the community without precautions once you have received two negative test results. You are still not completely out of the woods until 14 days surpasses, even with two negative results.
So please wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, stay on alert to any symptoms you may experience, practice physical distancing, keep a log of your movements and try and restrict those movements as much as possible.
I just want to close by reiterating that all information for travellers has been posted to the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm. Among the resources that you will find on that page is a Quick Guide to Travellers’ Quarantine Requirements.
The guide breaks down the action a traveller must take into three possible situations:
1. If you have a pre-travel test plus an arrival test you will be released from quarantine with a negative result from your arrival test. This usually takes about 6 to 8 hours, though it can take longer at times depending on the time of day, for example.
2. If you do not have a pre-departure test but you take the arrival test you must quarantine for 3 days and then can come out of quarantine once you have a negative Day-3 Test.
3. And, finally, if you have no pre-departure test and no arrival test you must quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
If you test positive at any time you must isolate for 14 days.
Finally, with the summer in full swing there have been a lot of questions about camping. I remind you that we remain under emergency measures and a curfew is in place between midnight and 5am. This prohibits being outdoors during those times and necessarily prohibits camping.
In closing, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one.
Thank you Minister Wilson.
With the new imported cases, I have received repeated questions as to whether or not this is the right time to open Bermuda to the outside world or should we have waited longer?
The decision to open the airport to scheduled commercial flights is not about putting profits or the economy over public health. It is about making sure that people in this country have the opportunity to get safely back to work, to provide for their families. Since we have opened the airport to scheduled commercial flights on 1 July, there have been six flights to Bermuda. Most recently, two flights arriving this afternoon. As the airlines add Bermuda to their schedule will see more Bermudians is returning home, and more visitors to our island.
It is important to remember that Bermuda’s testing regime, at our border, is the most stringent regime in the world. There is no country that requires the amount of testing that Bermuda requires in order to keep our country safe.
The Minister of Health has reported that since we opened the airport three travelers have tested positive. This testing is in place precisely for this reason, to identify and isolate anyone who has the virus. We were able to test and get the results back quickly, in order to inform those who are confirmed positive to ensure that they are quickly isolated.
As the Minister of Health has made very clear, a visitor that does not have clearance will not be boarded, and therefore will not be allowed to come to Bermuda. We also recognize that it is difficult for Bermuda residents to access testing whilst overseas, and we cannot legally deny residents entry into their own country.
However, if the situation in the United States continues on its current trajectory, we may need to change rules to require residents who are traveling to the United States to require pre departure tests before their return.
We will continue to look at all issues and as the Minister of Health has said update our procedures based upon the risks that present themselves. I however, want to ensure that Bermuda remains an example to the world on how you can manage the various risks that this virus presents appropriately balances risks to ensure that our economy can recover, while we keep the virus in check.
And the key to that is testing. And as I said, we have the most aggressive test regime when it comes to travelers on the planet, and we are confident that this will help to keep our country safe.
With that, I now invite, Col. Burch, the Minister of Public Works to give an update on the work of the Cabinet committee tasked with safely reopening Bermuda. Minister Burch.
Minister Burch Statement
I am happy to provide an update on the work of the Cabinet Committee on Reopening since the implementation of Phase 4 last Wednesday July 1st.
To remind what requirements are still in place:
- Permitted gatherings are set at a maximum of 50 persons
- Requests for larger gatherings must apply to the Minister of National Security for permission with a plan to include social distancing and masks and other requirements.
- Masks must be worn indoors. Masks must be worn outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Curfew shifted to midnight to 5 am. – will be reviewed weekly.
With regard to the curfew – as indicated last week that it would be reviewed weekly – the recommendation to the full cabinet was that it remain in place and be reviewed next week.
With regard to gatherings larger than 50 persons – requests must be made to the Minister of National Security who following the initial assessment by the team in the Ministry – it is referred to the subcommittee.
Following the events of this past week – it is clear that a number of things must happen. Firstly, a complete review of the protocols and how they are communicated to event organisers. Enforcement protocols must be enhanced so that the requirements necessary for approval are adhered to – such as:
- Confirmation that rules are actually being enforced.
- Spot checks at establishments (especially liquor establishments)
- Recording of names & Contact information.
- Adequate Hand Sanitizer.
- Issuing the appropriate sanctions for no compliance
We are seeing an increase in requests for events with groups larger than 50 of varying types. As such the Cabinet Committee will meet tomorrow morning to discuss and provide greater clarity a to the guidelines.
With regard to activities over Cup Match such as camping and use of beaches – we will take these matters up at our regular meeting on Monday.
We are mindful of our traditions of summer time in Bermuda and especially during this month – where, in my office, I am completely surrounded by those blue & blue people. We are also mindful that we are in the middle of a pandemic that we as a country have navigated very well – most of us have followed the rules and the health protocols put in place – and of course the increased testing regime – has resulted in our current state. With that – I wish the people of this country to know that that is what has guided and will continue to guide our deliberations and recommendations to the Cabinet.
Thank you, Premier.
Thank you Col. Burch.
As more Bermudians are returning to work, I want to reiterate what the Minister of Finance stated last week. If you have received money through the Unemployment Benefit programme, companies and individuals must notify the Government that they returned to work. You can do this by visiting www.bermudajobboard.com, follow the link at the top for COVID-19 Unemployment Application, then click on the Back to Work form.
As we prepare for another weekend, we must remember all we have learned the last few months about containing COVID-19. We are in the midst of summer activities which includes spending time with family and friends, enjoying the beach, boating, and other outdoor activities.
Inevitably, many of these activities include alcohol. If you plan to drink, please don’t drink and drive. Remember to maintain physical distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands with soap and water. When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers. It is a simple refrain. I know that I sound like a broken record, but the truth is that this is the most effective way to ensure that we continue to keep this virus at bay.
The responsibility for helping to keep the COVID-19 confirmed cases low lies with each of us, and is especially important now as we have reopened our borders, and we have a few imported cases which we believe are appropriately managed, but we have to make sure that we are extra cautious. With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.