Good Afternoon Bermuda, and welcome members of the media.
I am joined today by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will be providing an update to the public on the Coronavirus and other matters from the Ministry of Health. Following that I will give an update on matters related to our economy and the Throne Speech which will take place on Friday.
Minister of Health speaks.
Thank you Minister Wilson.
I am sure that the news of additional positive cases that we have had over the past week give many a reason for pause, especially with what we are seeing around the world. I would be misleading you if I said that the increase in cases didn’t cause me to be anxious, and wonder whether or not we are moving in the wrong direction.
Members of the public should know that we have an excellent team of professionals lead by an incredibly dedicated Minister of Health and a team of amazing public health workers lead by the Chief Medical Officer and a team of testing staff lead by Dr. Weldon, who work days, nights and weekends to ensure that we keep this country safe.
There will be more cases of the virus. For a virus as contagious of the novel coronavirus that is inevitable. We have chosen to use aggressive testing to open our economy and open our borders so that Bermudians can get back to work, and our economy can thrive. Our strategy is working, we are 5th in the world in testing, and we have to date avoided community transmission, but it is critical that we follow public health advice.
We must all act as though persons may be infected with the virus – because if they are, we will break the chain of transmission. If we do not act and follow public health advice, the virus can spread. Again we are all in control of how the virus spreads. If we do what we should, it cannot spread, if you do what they have done in other countries, it will spread. It is really that simple.
I have asked the Minster of National Security to ensure that there is rigorous enforcement of public health rules in business establishments, especially liquor licensed establishments. This means that places of business that are breaking the rules may be faced with being issued a closure notice by the Minister of Health. It is not ok to have parties in indoor spaces with persons not wearing masks, these are the types of events where if 1 person is asymptomatic, who may never be tested, dozens of persons can be infected, and lead to an outbreak and community transmission. Business owners, please note that you have been warned. We must all continue to be vigilant.
The Governments two most important tasks are keeping the country safe and rebuilding our economy. They both go hand in hand, especially during this time, and we must remember that bad actions put our economy at risk – we can and will set an example to the world, and I am confident in our ability to do that together.
We will attract more and more people who are drawn to Bermuda by our track record on managing this virus, our ‘Work from Bermuda programme, and the way we promote and manage our ‘New Normal’.
Additionally, our traditional assets of an educated workforce, an advanced economy, natural beauty, warm and intelligent people means many from around the world are looking at Bermuda…perhaps some for the first time.
Our economic pillars of Tourism and International Business rely on visitors; as an example, we recently hosted international golf, sailing, and rugby matches; a Tourism Summit, and the 2020 Bermuda Tech Summit. And as each event was either streamed or broadcast overseas, with thousands and thousands of social media posts generated, the opportunities were successful in showcasing Bermuda.
This hopefully means more people will be attracted to Bermuda…we are inviting people to our shores. But even as we open our border, those who we welcome must also pack personal accountability with them, so when they arrive they comply with our protocols and laws.
As I have said many times in the past, Bermuda has one of the most stringent testing regimes in the world. To date this has worked. This allows us to safely keep our borders open while testing residents and visitors alike.
Make no mistake, our vow to keep Bermudians safe is the same, or even greater today as it was during Shelter-in-Place, when isolation was our best and only weapon. Back then we were fighting a largely unknown virus, but we know so much more now. We know how it spreads; and how wearing masks minimizes the chance of it spreading. We have been able to safely move from Shelter-in-Place to holding events of 75 people and outdoor activities for up to 800 people as we saw last weekend.
Today we use data, arrival interviews, and innovative technology, which was piloted in Bermuda and is now being used around the world, to accurately and quickly test, trace, and make sure that people obey the quarantine rules that the Minister of Health has made.
The Government has and will continue to use every tool at its disposal to strike this right balance, and it is a delicate balance to strike…but as we do our part, we must all continue to make sure that we do our part together.
We are serious about the precautions we have in place and as the Minister noted, visitors were fined in Magistrates’ Court for breaching quarantine. Any breach can be a breach that starts an outbreak in Bermuda.
Turning to Friday. The Legislature will be reconvened in St. George’s in recognition of a General Assembly being established in Bermuda in 1620. This is the 400th anniversary. To give you a history refresher, one of the first laws passed in Bermuda was a conservation law protecting turtles in 1623.
For those who may not be aware, ours is one of the oldest Legislatures in the Commonwealth, and in the Western Hemisphere second only to the Palace of Westminster in London, home to Big Ben. In Bermuda, Members of the Colonial Parliament as it was called then, were holding meeting 150 years before the American war of Independence in 1776.
Imagine there were arguments and debates in Bermuda’s Assembly, 150 years before the United States was even born; and for that we Bermudians should be especially proud.
Throughout Bermuda’s long history of oligarchies, suppression of voting rights for women and for Black Bermudians, there have been necessary occasions where the Power of the People overturned Parliament’s authority; and Bermuda is all the better for it.
This pandemic has certainly impacted our economy and changed how we live and work. However, the Government was elected to ensure that we continue the work of rebuilding Bermuda with Bermudians at heart.
Unfortunately this year due to the pandemic there will be restrictions on the attendees in St. George. I hope that you will tune in to hear the legislative plan that the government has in store for this year.
This Throne Speech will be shorter than in years past. That is because the government is going to lay out what we can deliver in the legislative year.
Before I take questions from the media, I will reiterate a statement I made in a recent press conference. Many people are experiencing high levels of stress due to the impact the pandemic has had on all of us. Many people worried about their jobs and the employment of themselves or loved ones. Others are caring for family members. We are all facing elevated levels of stress. If you need help and someone to talk with, help is available. Call the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline – 543 1111. Someone will be there to help you.
Thank you. I will now take questions from members of the media.