Bermuda Post

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020

No new COVID-19 cases in Bermuda; ministers to take 15% paycut for a year

No new cases of coronavirus infection were reported today — but a staff member at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital tested positive earlier this week.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, revealed this afternoon that Gordon Ward, where the staff member worked, was under quarantine as a result.

All patients in the ward have tested negative, but will be retested, along with staff, by the weekend.

The details came at Covid-19 update at a press conference this evening, ahead of the island adopting Phase 2 of its health and safety restrictions tomorrow.

Ms Wilson gave an extensive list of requirements for restaurants and bars that will be permitted to serve patrons outdoors, once they have been cleared.

She said the intermingling of people from different households posed a significant threat for spreading the virus.

Ms Wilson warned people to limit their interactions with others as much as possible, adding: “Remember, you could be a super spreader and not even know it.”

There are now 80 people who have recovered from coronavirus.

The island has had 125 total cases confirmed, with 36 cases active, and three people in hospital — two of them in critical care.

Ms Wilson said there were just 14 test results in the latest round, because the testing team had been deployed to “critical areas” such as seniors’ homes and institutional facilities, such as at Corrections.

David Burt, the Premier, revealed that at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, ministers had opted to take a one-year 15 per cent reduction in pay.

Mr Burt said legislation would be brought to a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly this Friday for members of the legislature to take a one-year 12.5% pay cut.

He added: “We will not ask public officers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.”

Mr Burt said work continued on arranging flights home for residents stranded overseas, urging anyone trying to get home to fill out the requisite form on the Government website.

He added that testing from the Southside facility would be going mobile, with a test site to be set up on Friday at Warwick Academy, from 4pm to 7pm.

It is by appointment only, and can carry out up to 72 tests.

Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s chief of medicine and an infectious diseases specialist, said the hospital had developed six sets of convalescent plasma, being kept in frozen storage.

People who recover from the virus carry “neutralising antibodies” in their blood to prevent Covid-19 from regaining a foothold inside the body.

Dr Ashton explained that the plasma could be used for severely ill patients who had not developed their own antibodies.

The six treatments were available for “the most severely ill patients who would otherwise be expected to die”, he said, and covered all blood types.

Dr Ashton said the treatment had not yet been tried on any patients.

He said the two patients now in the Intensive Care Unit no longer had the coronavirus present in their bodies, but were struggling with the subsequent effects of the virus.

Recovered patients interested in donating should contact their primary care doctor, or the hospital’s donor centre, which is at 236-5067.

Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, said unemployment benefits continued to be paid out.

There are now more than 1,400 people who had returned to work.

Some 9,000 people have been paid out benefits for layoffs, to the tune of $23 million.

But some unemployed workers have been frustrated in receiving their benefits, which are paid out biweekly.

Last week, 1,241 got their benefits for the first time, and Mr Dickinson said about 250 more would get paid tomorrow.

The minister said payroll relief would go to restaurants and bars, which had been especially hard hit during the crisis.

Mr Dickinson said that “with immediate effect”, retailers and commercial importers would be allowed to apply for relief for up to six months from Customs duties.

Long term deferment would also be available in “certain circumstances”, he said.

Mr Dickinson also revealed that the 11-member Covid-19 Economic Advisory Committee, of which he serves as chairman, had met today.

The members are:

• Teresa Chatfield, Owner/Director, MEF Bermuda;

• Dennis Fagundo, Co-Managing Director, D&J Construction and president, Chamber of Commerce;

• Chris Furbert, president, Bermuda Industrial Union;

• Patricia J. Gordon-Pamplin, JP, MP, Shadow Minister of Finance&Health;

• Marc Grandisson, president&chief executive officer, Arch Capital Group Ltd and Deputy Chair, Association of Bermuda Insurers&Reinsurers (Abir);

• Cheryl-Ann Lister, Chair, Bermuda National Anti-Money Laundering Committee;

• Michael Neff, Managing Director, Bermuda&International Wealth, Butterfield Group;

• Sylvia Oliveira, chief executive officer, Wilton Re Bermuda and chairman, Bermuda International Long Term Insurers&Reinsurers;

• Denis Pitcher, Chief fintech adviser, Government of Bermuda;

• Patrick Tannock, Managing Director, AXA XL and Chair, Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC); and

• Stephen Weinstein, Chief Legal Officer, RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd and Deputy Chair, Bermuda Business Development Agency.

Education minister Diallo Rabain said that schools were still set for reopening in Phase 3 of the relaxation of restrictions.

Mr Rabain reminded the public that the time span of the phases would vary as circumstances changed.

Physical distancing with health and safety protocols would be required for students to go back to school, he said.

School have been inspected and deep cleaned, and custodians are visiting their respective buildings three times a week to clean and ventilate the facilities.
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