Premier Burt's COVID-19 Update Remarks
Premier Burt's part from the Bermuda Government COVID-19 Update press conference from yesterday.
Good afternoon Bermuda.
Today I am joined by the Ministers of Health, National Security and Education, to provide families and students with information. Information so we can govern our lives, so you can ensure that your rights as employees are protected, so that you can manage your businesses, and most importantly, so that we can safely spend quality time with family and loved ones.
We will now have an update from the Minister of Health, who will give the update on our latest statistics, and further advice from the Ministry of Health to minimize the chance of new outbreaks.
MINISTER OF HEALTH READS HER REMARKS
Thank you Minster of Health.
Now we will hear from the Minster of National Security with an update from her Ministry which includes good news for local cricket fans.
MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY READS HER REMARKS
Thank you Minister, I echo your sentiments on the great work being done by the Gang Violence Reduction Team.
Now we will hear from the Minister of Education who will update the public on the plan to re-open our schools.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION READS HIS REMARKS
Thank you Minister of Education.
Many have seen the news stories about countries that haven’t been as strict as we have been in Bermuda and are witnessing challenges when it come to the reopening of their schools. However, in Bermuda we have been diligent, we have not had a confirmed case of local transmission in 54 days, and I am confident that we will provide a safe environment for our children come this September.
For just a few minutes, I would like to speak about our collective management of the pandemic and where we are today, Thursday 13th August.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have erroneously placed Bermuda in a country category that does not reflect the reality of our coronavirus management. This Government is working with international public health agencies, Government House and the US Consul General to change Bermuda’s listing, especially since the World Health Organization has us listed as Sporadic Cases and we have been a globally recognized for being one of the leaders in coronavirus management.
We will continue to address this listing which has real implications for our tourism industry as the US CDC rating can impact other countries ratings, and also different measures in various states. The US Consul General has informed me that we are making progress in revising this listing, and we expect to have good news to report next week.
It may seem like many moons ago now, but we declared the policy of ‘Social Distancing’ on the 12th March. I remember that day clearly because we could not forecast what would happen; we could not anticipate its impact on us, our people who made our history by being wide-open to the world.
And then in mid-April, we announced that based on scientific advice, and our pandemic modelling, Bermuda’s “Worst case scenario” was 700 deaths.
That number, and the potential of 700 deaths was a defining moment of this pandemic. We were told that we may lose hundreds of Bermudians, and we determined then and there we would do all we could to prevent that from happening.
Thankfully with more information, the worst case scenario has now been revised lower, but it still predicts in a worst case scenario, over 200 deaths.
Now why did I take us back there? Because as we move to reopen our country even more, as we seek to adjust and thrive again, there are reports that some people are not being as vigilant as is necessary. Some Bermudians are getting on public transportation and taking their masks off. I received a plea from the bus drivers this week imploring me to advise the public for everyone’s safety to keep your mask on while riding the public transportation. It can’t be stated more clearly. If you are on public transportation, you must wear your mask.
Some people without concern for their own well-being, are risking the health of others, by not wearing their mask properly in places where they are required to do so, such as indoors, or outdoors were unable to socially distance. Wearing your mask properly means that your mouth and nose are completely covered.
We have seen recently where countries are reversing protocols they used to open up; we are hearing phrases like second wave; countries that thought they had rid themselves of the coronavirus, are beginning to see a rise in infections.
I urge everyone to take a look at New Zealand, a country which was acclaimed the world over in their handling the coronavirus. They went 102 days without local transmission and almost overnight they have a fresh outbreak and Auckland is now back on a three day lockdown, which may be extended. That must serve as an example to all of us that are as good as it seems right now, this virus can resurge.
Now is not the time to become complacent. – or we risk a setback, that can affect our economy, our children’s education, and our collective health.
I am asking each and every resident in Bermuda, each and every person who leaves their home, to please ensure you follow the simple protocols that we have become so used to. Washing the hands and sanitizing them and wearing your mask. This is the only way that we will avoid the fate that has befallen other jurisdictions.
Understand, if there are one or two isolated cases, but we are taking those preventative measures, it will reduce the risk of spread. What happened in New Zealand, is that they abandoned the policy, because they thought that they had eliminated the virus. They were not wearing masks in public spaces, and we can see how quickly this virus which can transmit itself so fast can resurge. That is the reason why we must continue to maintain the strict policies, of which we have laid out, and it is the only way that we will be successful.
Our healthcare workers at the airport are awesome and serving with composure and poise; our hospitality staff must continue to be observant, and our church services will soon combine praise and fellowship as before.
Bermuda, it is very simple. We have come too far to not remain cautious and we must do our job to make sure that we keep the progress up.
I remain encouraged by the emails I receive from local entrepreneurs who are working hard to keep their businesses moving forward by changing how they operate and fully catering to their clients and customers. One such organization is BDA Watersports, a small business that operates at Somerset Bridge and has been in existence for 30 years. They are showing innovation and commitment to Bermuda. This company is eager to collaborate and be involved in the promotion of Bermuda’s tourism product. I welcome and encourage others to join me as we promote and reshape Bermuda as a tourism destination.
In a meeting with the chair of the Bermuda Tourism Authority earlier this week, I implored that the work that we did in testing and adhering to rules, be highlighted in our marketing to potential visitors. Sadly, in Bermuda or historically in Bermuda, we'd like to adapt, an attitude of where beautiful, where wonderful, come and visit us versus what is necessary to ensure that people actually come, which is aggressive selling, and making sure that we share our success to potential visitors. It is my expectation that that change in message was received by the leadership of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and it will be reflected, as the only way that we will be successful, is if we tell people, the Bermuda story and how well we've collectively worked to manage this pandemic.
The same attitude that applies to tourism must also be applied to the selling and marketing of Bermuda, as a business jurisdiction. The Business Development Agency has been told to sell Bermuda aggressively, and to leverage our pandemic management. And I have to say that this aggressive posture of which we’ve taken in international press is bearing fruit.
We do know that over 100 persons have applied for residential certificates. We have been engaging with companies that are looking to relocate their staff, and we have won out over other islands, due to our close proximity to New York City, and our safe environment for the leadership of a technology company that is moving out of New York.
Our country must seize the opportunity that our collective work has created, and I want to remind all of us that it is our job collectively, as persons who love Bermuda, to sell our country, whether it's tourism, or whether it's in business. So I'm encouraged by those on social media, who will share the message with their friends, whether on LinkedIn, or in other places, letting the world know the good job with what we're doing in Bermuda, so that message can be spread.
This technology company that the leadership is relocating here, saw a post on LinkedIn, and it was because someone was sharing the post. So it is important that we tell our own story. That is a way that collectively we can make sure that we rebuild our economy.
Yesterday, the country receive good economic news that Standard & Poor's affirmed Bermuda's debt ratings and our debt outlook. This is important as it is independent validation of our country's economic performance, especially during a time of a pandemic.
Yes, our economy is challenged. And yes, there are persons who are losing their jobs, and persons who have lost their jobs. However, we must continue to remain united as a country. The Economic Advisory Council has made a number of recommendations, many of which have been progressed, and the Economic Development Committee of cabinet is meeting on Monday to consider further recommendations.
Many economic measures which can provide stimulus to the economy are being pushed forward, and advanced quickly. So for instance, we have a long process for approval of certain items, and those long processes for approval are being condensed. Why is that? Because we need to make sure we advance shovel ready projects, and other matters to completion, to make sure that we can provide economic opportunity.
We'll see stimulus in the area of green energy projects of where we're working with a number of partners to complete the projects which are on the table, and also in the area of infrastructure development of which we've seen announcements from the Ministry of Public Works. There'll be further announcements in the matter of infrastructure and broadening our economy, while reducing red tape. And this is important.
While we spoke about the work that the Business Development Agency is doing to recruit additional companies to Bermuda, I'm also pleased to report that on FinTech, we are soon to see additional licensing completions under the Bermuda platform. This is certainly encouraging news for the country, as this is a long term investment that this government has made, and it is slowly but surely paying dividends, as we expected it to do.
I would like to make sure that I encourage persons to take advantage to learn more about these opportunities and take advantage of the free online education that has been offered by the Government of Bermuda, and those courses are located on Bermuda's FinTech website, FinTech.bm.
The free on-line education programmes are designed to meet the needs of all sectors of the community, irrespective of an individual’s experience level.
Participants enrolled in the FinTech School will have access to a bundle of courses that are self-paced. The topics range from Blockchain 101 to AI in Fintech, Intro to Startups and much more.
I also have to say that what is also critically important is that we remember that certain companies are moving virtual. I spoke to a company that is in the FinTech space yesterday, when we took the delegation to Mexico, and they had informed us that they had closed their office, and have now moved to a fully virtual platform.
They reached out to me to find out whether or not there are persons in Bermuda, whom they can extend employment opportunities for working virtually. So it's important that we remember and recognize that as the world is changing during this pandemic period, there are opportunities that can exist, but it is only if we take the time to make sure that we upgrade our training. Again, that free training is available on FinTech.bm, and the online courses are available up until October, so please take advantage of those opportunities.
Before I take questions from the media, I want to pause and acknowledge the work of the media. Over the months of the pandemic, at a time when Bermudians were unsure, anxious, sheltering-in-place, and needed to have quality information, the Media…each of you, distributed information quickly, often with compassion, and clarity; and for that service to Bermuda, I thank you.
Thank You. I will now take questions from the media.