[Updated with PDF] “As the virus strain has been around since September, it seems unlikely it isn’t here already which is why we have not closed our border to the United Kingdom,” the Health Minister said, added that the Ministry is “putting in place additional quarantine restrictions” for those travelling from the UK, saying “they will be required to quarantine in their accommodation for four days.”
Speaking at this evening’s press conference, Health Minister Kim Wilson said, “there have been a number of questions regarding the new strain of the coronavirus
“On 14 December 2020, authorities of the United Kingdom reported that a SARS-CoV-2 variant has been identified through viral genomic sequencing. Given that this strain can be dated back to September 2020 in UK, the latest report from PAHO states that it is likely this virus is already circulating elsewhere.
“Further studies are needed to determine if this new strain is different in terms of the severity of disease it causes. However, the UK government has reported that there is no evidence at this stage to suggest the Covid-19 vaccines currently being rolled out across the UK will not work against the new variant of coronavirus.
“It is important to note that all viruses change over time. There have so far been hundreds of variations of this virus identified worldwide. To date, most changes of this virus have had little to no impact on how it transmits or the severity of disease it causes.
“The occurrence of mutations is a natural and expected event within the evolution process of the virus.
“Evidence indicates that the SARSCoV-2 viral variants identified to date have a much lesser influence on the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19 than other risk factors, such as age, underlying conditions, or even social behavior.
“Bermuda has not been routinely sequencing our positive cases so we can’t say for sure yet if this particular strain is already circulating. However, this is something we hope to start doing in January, as we do have the equipment to conduct nanopore sequencing on island. This will be led by Dr. Carika Weldon who was the Project Manager and Lead Researcher for nanopore sequencing at Oxford University.
“On balance, as the virus strain has been around since September, it seems unlikely it isn’t here already which is why we have not closed our border to the United Kingdom.
“However, the Ministry is putting in place additional quarantine restrictions for those travelling to Bermuda from the UK and those who have travelled in the UK in the past 14 days before coming to the island.
“Regardless of whether or not those UK travellers have a pre-arrival test, they will be required to quarantine in their accommodation for four days, and cannot be released from quarantine until they have a day 4 negative test result. This will provide an added layer of protection for all of us.”
The full Quarantine [Covid-19] [No. 3] Amendment [No. 8] Order 2020 follows below [PDF here]