[Updated] The Government will be holding a press conference this afternoon [Dec 17] to update the public on Covid-19 and we will stream it live, so the video above should start at around 2.00pm.
Update 10.46am: The Government advised that the press conference will be with Minister of Health Kim Wilson and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ayoola Oyinloye.
Update 2.55pm: The press conference has concluded
The Minister said, “Because this variant is highly transmissible, we anticipate that the number of positive cases of the Omicron variant will increase significantly and quickly.
“We anticipate a rapid spread of the Omicron variant, however, we must collectively do everything we can to avoid mass community transmission. Do not let your guard down.
“Given the mutations associated with Omicron and the passage of time which can impact the efficacy of the vaccine, as of 15 January 2022, all vaccinated persons will require a booster in order to receive a renewed SafeKey. You are eligible for a booster if your second jab was more than six months ago.
“Most, if not all, of the vaccine appointments leading up to Christmas are full now but we are looking at re-starting vaccinations as early in the New Year as possible.”
Update 7.48pm: Minister Kim Wilson’s full statement follows below:
Since the last update, the Ministry of Health received 4,124 test results, and 31 were positive for the coronavirus, giving a test positivity rate of 0.8%. Of the 47 active cases where typing is available, 34%  are Delta, 60%  are Omicron. We have a total of 62 active cases.
While we continue to have the Delta variant, the Omicron variant is dominant – and the number of positive cases has doubled since Monday. Because this variant is highly transmissible, we anticipate that the number of positive cases of the Omicron variant will increase significantly and quickly.
So far, the outbreak settings are in schools and the workplace. The positive cases are symptomatic, though their symptoms are mild. These symptoms include cold-like symptoms, fatigue, runny nose, cough, headache, congestion, sore/scratchy throat, and body aches. If you have these symptoms, stay home even if you do not think you are sick. Better to be safe than sorry.
Most of the cases we are currently seeing are in vaccinated individuals. These are mainly recent travelers, who, by a large margin, are vaccinated, so we expect only the mild symptoms we are seeing.
Unfortunately, our experience with the Delta wave is that unvaccinated people are particularly susceptible to infection and, in significantly greater numbers, they ended up in hospital and sadly many died.
We anticipate a rapid spread of the Omicron variant, however, we must collectively do everything we can to avoid mass community transmission. Do not let your guard down. Do not stop being cautious. Now is the time to be extra cautious.
What really concerns me is that if we get a high number of people in the community sick from the Omicron variant, we may find the number of people is hospital higher than we had during the Delta surge.
A surge in cases would significantly impact schools, businesses and most importantly, it could overwhelm our health care system.
Caution must be taken in high-risk settings – bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, large gatherings and Christmas parties . . . we must take precautions and stick to the basics. Wear your mask properly, practice good hand hygiene and keep physically distanced from those not in your household.
We know people will be out and about this holiday season with family and friends, so some tips to keep in mind and stay safe…
Prioritise your outings and do not try to go to everything. Try to minimize mixing between households. Take an antigen test before you go out so that you know your status. A home test is a quick easy way to find out whether you are infectious.
Parents and guardians, please ensure that your children attend approved registered camps over the holidays. Government-approved camps are assessed for Covid-19 compliance by public health professionals, and any unapproved camps risk closure.
Both participants and camp counsellors must know and follow the public health safety measures to reduce their exposure to the virus, and our camps must keep their groups small to decrease the opportunity for this virus to spread. Just as with workplaces, do not send your child to camp if he or she is showing symptoms of Covid-19.
The Government website has a list of approved camps updated weekly. Camp operators should review the Camp Guidance at www.gov.bm/camp-guidance.
As a reminder, all public spaces must have hand sanitiser available for patrons and maintain accurate contact tracing records. This includes all businesses, restaurants, bars, gyms, beauty salons, and workplaces. Contact tracing is an essential part of controlling outbreaks and stopping further spread.
In addition to presenting a valid SafeKey for verification, patrons must provide accurate contact tracing information, including full name, phone number, home address, e-mail address, date and time of arrival.
I encourage all unvaccinated people to get vaccinated. Along with following all the public health guidance, the vaccine against Covid-19 is one of the single most important measures to keep our community safe.
Do the research, talk with your doctor and make an informed decision about getting the Covid-19 vaccine. There is a wealth of information about the vaccines online at gov.bm.”
For those vaccinated people who are eligible, please get your booster. Given the mutations associated with Omicron and the passage of time which can impact the efficacy of the vaccine, as of 15 January 2022, all vaccinated persons will require a booster in order to receive a renewed SafeKey. You are eligible for a booster if your second jab was more than six months ago.
Most, if not all, of the vaccine appointments leading up to Christmas are full now but we are looking at re-starting vaccinations as early in the New Year as possible.
The Omicron variant is spreading quickly, and now is not the time to let our guard down; now is the time to be extra cautious. Our health and safety depend on personal responsibility.
Each of us has a role to play in stopping the spread. Continue to wear a mask indoors and outdoors if you cannot physical distance, practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distance and download the WeHealth Bermuda app.