Bermuda Post

Tuesday, Apr 20, 2021

Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update

Transliteration of Premier’s Remarks 30 March 2021: Good Evening Bermuda, I am disappointed to have to start today’s press conference with the announcement of a shooting in St. George this afternoon.
A male was shot and injured - his injuries do not appear to be life-threatening at this time. Minister Renee Ming and the Bermuda Police Service are issuing statements on this incident, provide further details.

On Saturday, the Government announced a further rollback of regulations, which came into effect on Sunday, March 28th at 6am. The purpose of these regulations is, above all else, to reduce transmission within our community.

By reducing transmission, we protect our loved ones who may be medically vulnerable, ensure our healthcare system doesn’t become overwhelmed, and support our dedicated Healthcare professionals who work within it.

Due to this outbreak, a number of our essential frontline workers have been impacted in various ways. Some have had to quarantine due to them or family members potentially being exposed to a positive case.

Others have been asked to temporarily support other vital operations such as contact tracing and moving from the lab to help with swabbing. If this stress on our limited resources continues and more of our healthcare workers are impacted we would lose the crucial momentum we have gained in getting persons vaccinated. This is something that, as a country, we must not allow to happen.

Tonight, as I have been throughout our fight against the coronavirus, I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will provide all of us with an update on the latest COVID-19 test results, vaccinations statistics, and other matters from her Ministry.

Following the Minister, I will provide a reminder of the current COVID-19 regulations, as well as address some of the questions and concerns raised by members of the public directly with my office and via social media over the last few days.

We are also joined by the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ayo Oyinloye who can answer any technical or medical questions from the media.

First, we will hear from the Minister.

Thank you Minister.

I thank you for your leadership and for steadily guiding us throughout this pandemic. You and so many officers within your Ministry have sacrificed time with your families and friends, worked late nights, 7 days a week, and continue to work each and every day to help us get through this outbreak.

As we close in on 200,000 tests, it is important for us all to remember that behind the numbers we report each day, are Bermudians who are working tirelessly to provide them. From the swabbing to the lab testing, these are all done by devoted and unwavering professionals, who have answered the call to serve their country.

I must also acknowledge and thank Dr. Carika Weldon and her outstanding team of young Bermudians at the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory who, like the Minister and Ministry of Health teams have been on the frontlines from the very beginning. As well as the teams at the Bermuda College and King Edward Memorial Hospital vaccination centers, and our Contact Tracers and our nurses and doctors within our community.

Each day, but especially during an outbreak, they work relentlessly to supply the Government and the people of Bermuda with the important information we need to make informed decisions. Their work is invaluable, and they all deserve our gratitude.

Yesterday the Ministry of Health reported triple-digit positive cases of 108 over two days, with 61 positives from Sunday’s report (a positivity rate of 4.5% of all tests) and 47 positives from Monday’s report (with a positivity rate of 3.4%).Today we add to that with a further 21 confirmed cases, with a positivity rate of around 2%. These numbers prove the high level of transmissibility of the U.K variant and why we must act quickly to curb this outbreak.

As I mentioned earlier, the regulations we currently have in place have been implemented to reduce transmission and prevent our public health system from becoming overwhelmed. This system is not only the hospital, which now sadly has three people admitted for COVID-19, but also includes teams like that at the Ministry of Health and the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory. I ask that we all bear them and so many others in mind as we go over these measures again.

On Saturday, the Cabinet agreed to the following changes to the COVID-19 regulations:

Churches / indoor religious services are closed to congregants but open to a max of 10 clergy or those persons required to facilitate services for broadcast.

Indoors funerals and viewings of the deceased are permitted with up to 10 mourners plus officiant and funeral home staff, provided appropriate physical distancing is maintained at all times.

Outdoor weddings and funerals can have a maximum of 20 persons with masks and physical distancing

Indoor dining is prohibited except for hotels whose indoor dining is restricted to hotel guests only. Outdoor restaurants and bars can remain open with a maximum of 6 persons per table, with masks only removed when seats.

Indoor gyms are closed, as well as bowling alleys, indoor cinemas, museums, or any other indoor place of public resort. Outdoor facilities such as golf courses, tennis courts, parks, and outdoor gym equipment can remain open.

This also includes outdoor activities such as bike and walking tours, which some of you have asked about on social media. All groups are limited to 10 persons (including guide) who should physically distance, wear masks, and maintain proper hand-hygiene.

Retail stores are restricted to 20% of approved occupancy at any one time. There is guidance available on the Government website for how to calculate this at coronavirus.gov.bm.

To minimise the mixing of school-age children where we have seen a significant number of cases - Schools and camps are to be closed. However, licensed/registered daycare centres and home providers will be allowed to open following strict public health guidance and will be visited by public health officers.

Remote working will now be mandatory where at all possible. If your job can be done from home, you should stay at home.

There will be limited government and court services. Public transport will operate on their full schedule but with reduced capacity.

Curfew remains in place from 11 pm - 5 am. This measure is necessary to deter social gatherings late at night where there is a further possibility of not adhering to regulations.

Personal services such as beauty salons and bars can remain open, with service providers being required to wear PPE such as masks, gloves, and eye protection. Customers should also wear a mask at all times.

These regulations and those announced last week will be reviewed by the Cabinet in two weeks’ time. Eligible businesses that cannot operate and individuals who cannot work due to these regulations will continue to be supported by the Government.

Businesses can apply for grants from Bermuda Economic Development Corporation to assist with overhead and other expenses by going to bedc.bm. Individuals can apply for the unemployment benefit from the Ministry of Finance by going to uba.gov.bm.

Ultimately, businesses want to re-open, and everyone wants to get back to work. Those are two things that I am certain we can all agree we want to happen as soon as possible. In order to make that a reality, we all have a role to play.

While these measures are in place, I continue to encourage persons to stay at home. If you are feeling unwell, please get tested and know your status. If you are called by a Contact Tracer please cooperate with them, and provide them with all the information they need, as well as following any instructions that they give to you. Remember that anything you say to them is completely confidential. So even if you had done something you shouldn’t have done, it’s vital you share that information to protect others and to slow this outbreak. Contact tracers will not give your information to the police - please cooperate with them - and this outbreak will end more quickly.

If you have the We Health Bermuda app please enter the code given to you by a Contact Tracer into your phone if you are positive for COVID-19. This will alert anyone you have been in contact with, and they, in turn, can get tested as soon as possible, the App is working, but people must enter the code they received to anonymously alert your contacts.

To assist our Contract Tracers, and to assist in a quicker opening of our economy please download the WeHealth app if you have not already done so. Over 21,900 persons, or 34% of the population have already downloaded it, and are actively helping our cause simply by having the app running in the background on their phones. This includes an additional 500 downloads over the last week.

I was also notified of a local business where an employee had the WeHealth app downloaded and received a notification of exposure to a positive case. That employee then correctly did not go into work and followed the guidance they received to quarantine.

They notified their employer who then encouraged other staff to get tested, organised a deep clean, all within a day. This quick action by the employee and the business which was triggered by the WeHealth app, hopefully, stopped a potential outbreak within their workplace. This is exactly what the WeHealth app is for and why it is vital for employers to ensure their employees are using it to protect their business and their co-workers.

If you are advised to quarantine, this means you have potentially been exposed to a positive case. There have been persons who have asked for clearer guidance on the meaning of quarantine, so I would like to briefly explain.

As stated on the Government website to quarantine means you have potentially been exposed to a positive person. To stop the further spread of the virus, you may be asked by a contact tracer to quarantine at your home for up to 14 days; therefore you can not leave your property.

This does not mean you must only stay in one room on the property, but it does mean you should follow some important guidelines to quarantine effectively such as wearing a mask when around others who have not been exposed. Cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces or objects you touch and monitoring your health.

Further information on this can be found on gov.bm/coronavirus

The most important tool that we have is our vaccination programme, which is continuing to operate well, and it is a vital part of our healthcare system that we are working hard to protect. I am delighted that, as mentioned by the Minister of Health, we have now administered 38,557 doses as of yesterday.

We set a target of administering 38,000 doses by March 31st. I must congratulate and thank our health teams for working so hard to reach this target. In spite of all of the recent bad news, this is something to be celebrated. Despite the challenges we have faced we have accomplished what we set out to achieve.

This means that 42.5% of our eligible population have received at least one dose, which equates to 35% of total population. 30% of our eligible population have received two doses, which equates to 24% of the total population. These persons are protecting themselves and others, and helping us toward the target of 70% of population for herd immunity.

We are also seeing an increase in persons under the age of 50 being vaccinated, and I thank those persons for taking this important step. Some of you have reached out with concerns about the vaccine’s effect on fertility due to misinformation you have seen on the internet. While my first message will always be to speak with your doctor about concerns you may have I will share two important messages on this matter.

In a joint statement last month, The Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the U.K said: “There is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility.”

In addition to this, The British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists also published guidance saying there was “absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men”.

While I hope this information allays some of the concerns expressed by young women and men in our community regarding the vaccine, I again encourage you to speak with your doctors. Do not be misled by false narratives on social media, look for research from trusted sources, and speak to professionals.

Another question that I have received a few times over the last week is, can a person who is vaccinated or immunised still get the coronavirus? The answer to that is yes, a person who is vaccinated or immunised can still test positive for the coronavirus. No vaccine, including the Pfizer-BioNtech and others created to protect us from the effects of coronavirus, can fully prevent infection from a virus.

Their main purpose is to prepare your immune system to fight that particular virus if and when you are exposed to it. The coronavirus vaccines have been shown to be extremely effective in preventing severe illness, with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine being one of the most effective against COVID-19.

In addition to preventing severe illness and symptoms, the vaccines also reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus to others. The more people that are vaccinated, the less the virus affects each individual, and the reduction in transmission ultimately leads to the virus hitting a dead-end with nowhere to go.

On Sunday, Dr. Carika Weldon joined me for a Facebook Live conversation where she explained this in a way I think we can all understand. In a recent batch of approx 400 positive cases, roughly 10% of those persons were fully immunised. Those immunised persons showed significantly less amounts of the virus in their system. Less virus means less ability to transmit and almost no ability to transmit if you follow all of the precautions.

Along with this internal protection for our immune system, we must also combine vaccinations with external protections such as wearing our masks, physical distancing, and washing & sanitising our hands. This again not only protects us but protects others who have not been vaccinated yet or cannot be vaccinated for health reasons.

We are now in Phase 3 of our vaccination programme, with registration open for anyone 16 or over who wish to receive the vaccine. I urge all who are eligible to register.

We all look forward to a time of no restrictions, to gathering again without fear, and to enjoying our daily lives without the cloud of a pandemic hanging over us. Despite this temporary setback of an outbreak, I am still confident that in 2021 we will get back to a place of normality. We will get there by obeying the regulations, downloading the WeHealth App, and registering to be vaccinated.

The only way to bring about the changes we need to our circumstances is through continued unity and the recognition of a common goal. At present, that goal is to contain this outbreak and reduce transmission.

We have done it before, and we will do it again.

It has not escaped me or any member of the Cabinet that we have had to implement these new restrictions with one of our country’s most important times of year approaching, the Easter holiday weekend.

While I wholeheartedly wish this was not necessary, in leadership, you have a responsibility to make the tough decisions even when they are unpopular. In a crisis, you also do not have the luxury of time to second guess crucial decisions.

I am saddened that we will not be able to meet up with our families and friends like we normally would. But, above all else I want us all to be safe and healthy to celebrate in the days ahead of us. We have sacrificed much over this last year, and those sacrifices will not be in vain.

I thank each and every Bermudian who has worked with us, sent messages of support and encouragement, and most importantly, has taken personal responsibility every day to do what is right and protect themselves and their loved ones.

I also thank those Bermudians who have constructively challenged us and asked the tough questions. No one in leadership is perfect, but what I can assure you is that we will continue to work hard to see Bermuda through this. But remember, the Government cannot do this alone, it requires all of us to be united in this mission.

Thank you.
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