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Video: Govt Covid-19 Press Conference

[Updated] The Government will be holding a press conference at approximately 5.45pm this evening [Jan 12] to update the public on Covid-19. We will have additional coverage following the press conference, and our continuous live updates on Covid-19 here.

Update 5.34pm: The Government said those speaking at today’s press conference will include Premier David Burt, Minister of Health Kim Wilson and the Government’s Science Advisor Dr. Carika Weldon.

Update 9.21pm: Minister Kim Wilson’s full statement follows below:

Good Afternoon,

There were 813 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and five were positive for COVID-19. All of the new cases are classified as imported with details as follows:

  • 1 resident who arrived on Delta 584 from Atlanta on 6 January 2021 and tested positive on their day 4 test
  • 2 residents who arrived on Jet Blue 62231 from New York on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test
  • 2 residents who arrived on American Airlines 308 from Miami on 10 January 2021 and tested positive on their arrival test

Additionally, since the last update, four cases have recovered.

There are 91 active cases, of which;

  • 84 are under public health monitoring and
  • 7 are in hospital with 1 in critical care;

Since March 2020, Bermuda has recorded 661 total confirmed cases of COVID-19; out of those, 558 persons have recovered, and 12 persons have sadly succumbed to COVID-19.

The mean age of all confirmed positive cases is 43 years [median: 40 years], and the age range is less than 1 year to greater than 100 years.
The mean age of all currently active cases is 43 years [median: 44 years], and the age range is less than 10 years [age group: 5-9 years] to greater than 80 years [age group: 80-100 years].

The mean age of all currently hospitalized cases is 57 years [median: 54 years], and the age range is less than 30 years [age group: 20-29 years] to greater than 80 years [age group: 80-100 years].

The mean age of all deceased cases is 75 years [median: 77 years], and the age range is less than 60 years [age group: 50-59 years] to greater than 80 years [age group: 80-100 years].

The source of all cases is as follows:

  • 179 are Imported
  • 445 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 385 are Local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 60 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 37 are Under Investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change.  Today’s update has 2 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with unknown contact/source.

The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1 [0.62], and Bermuda’s current country status remains “Clusters of Cases”.
And now on to the exciting news of our COVID-19 vaccine.

I’m thrilled to have seen the very first COVID-19 vaccines provided yesterday by our Ministry of Health team. The vaccine is the hope that we’ve all been looking for in the midst of this pandemic that has cost lives to loved ones, family gatherings, our activities, schooling of our children, and so many other sacrifices.

As we begin the rollout of the vaccine, I know many in our community have been registering their interest. Thank you Thank you Thank you. It is so good to see much interest in getting the vaccine. Our vaccine strategy has been developed based on international best practices, and it has prioritized groups who are most at risk from getting sick from COVID-19.

Our first phase, Phase 1A, is the staff and residents of our long term care facilities such as residence of the Extended Care Unit of the Hospital. For nursing homes and assisted living centres, we are training their nurses to administer the vaccine to those who volunteer to be vaccinated.

This group has had to sacrifice, even more than most during the pandemic. Our elders have struggled with extreme restrictions on their activities, visits from their families, and social activities we take for granted. The staff has also made tremendous sacrifices for their jobs, and we wish to ensure that the vaccinations are given to this group who truly can benefit so much from the protection that the vaccine can provide.

We will also prioritize our frontline healthcare and frontline essential workers. In this context, healthcare workers include all employees of the Bermuda Hospitals Board along with frontline workers from the Department of Health and those employed in the private healthcare industry. Frontline essential workers are those who provide services which prevent social disruption and allow society to function, and who are at risk for higher levels of exposure to COVID-19. These include firemen, police, corrections officers, personnel at the ports of entry, and teachers. People who are 80 years or older are also encouraged to be vaccinated in this first group as well.

Phase 1B: the second group will comprise those over the age of 65, but priority will continue to be given to those who are over the age of 80. This group will focus on those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and the clinically extremely vulnerable people who have:

  • a suppressed immune system such as during and after chemotherapy or after an organ transplant,
  • lupus,
  • severe asthma,
  • Severe COPD.

Phase 2: The third group will be those over the age of 50, again prioritised by those who are clinically vulnerable. Clinically vulnerable are those who suffer with:

  • heart disease,
  • chronic kidney disease,
  • liver disease, and,
  • diabetes.

Following that, the vaccine will be available to everyone over the age of 18 [or over 16 with parental consent] in Phase 3.

If you have questions about whether you are clinically vulnerable, I encourage you to talk directly with your primary care physician for advice.

If you have questions about the vaccination process or if you would like to register your interest in getting vaccinated, please call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 444-2498, selecting option #2, or fill out the convenient on-line form at https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine. If you have any questions about the vaccine itself, I invite you to visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

As has been reported, the vaccine hotline was overwhelmed with calls yesterday from residents who wish to register their interest in being vaccinated. We had some 700 calls of persons wishing to register to be vaccinated.

This did create a bottleneck in the registration process, and the online form will allow residents to register their interest easily, efficiently, and far more conveniently.

The vaccine registration form asks basic information such as your name, date of birth, address, occupation, and whether you have any pre-existing conditions. Filling out the form should take approximately two minutes, and it is important to note that the information that you enter will be kept private with the Government of Bermuda.

It is also important to emphasize that registering your interest does not guarantee you an appointment at this time. Supplies of the initial delivery of vaccine are limited and must be allocated based on medical need. All submissions will be reviewed by our medical personnel and prioritized based on their assessments. When you submit your registration form, you will receive an auto generated submission receipt. Your submission will be kept on file and you will be contacted as appointments become available. Every submission will be sorted and there is no need for you to re-submit. We do ask that people who registered be patient as we work through all submissions and allocate the appointments.

As of 4:30pm today, the vaccine teams had received 1885 online registration forms and more than 800 email registrations. This does not include vaccine registrations being facilitated by key contact persons representing the fire, the police, corrections offices, ports of entry staff and teachers.

Please do not register your interest if you:

  • have had any other vaccinations within the last month, as you will need to wait for 30 days;
  • have recently traveled and do not yet have your negative 14 day travel test results;
  • if you are receiving a therapy for any medical conditions as you must consult with your doctor prior to registering your interest; and
  • are in quarantine as you of course must complete your quarantine first.

If you have any questions about the vaccine itself – how it works, what side effects there might be, or how it came to be developed quickly and safely, I invite you to visit www.gov.bm/vaccines.

There has been speculation and commentary on various social media platforms about how long the first batch of vaccines will last and when the next delivery is expected. Please understand that we cannot give an exact timeline as there are many variables, such as the uptake within the various groups, and the percentage of individuals in these groups who get their second dose when they have been scheduled to do so. As it stands now, we expect the first batch to be fully deployed by the end of March.

With regards to when the next delivery is expected. The ministry is working diligently with GAVI through the Covax facility to determine the arrival date. We are in qualifying discussions now because the facility may be in a position to initiate a small scale ‘first wave’ of deliveries using the Pfizer vaccine in March, if Bermuda meets the stringent criteria outlined for this initial small scale ‘first wave’.

I want to remind everyone that vaccines save millions of lives globally every year, and have done so for over a century. In Bermuda, there has been a robust vaccination programme in place for decades, and as a result we have seen dramatic decreases in the prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases.

I got vaccinated yesterday, as did the Premier, Dr. Carika Weldon and many others – more than 550 in these first two days! We trust the science, and we are confident that this vaccine is safe. So far, I am encouraged by the outpouring of people registering for the vaccine. It was overwhelming at the call centre at first, but we have since increased our resources to handle the demand, and as I mentioned earlier, we have set up a convenient on-line form to register for the vaccine – https://forms.gov.bm/covidvaccine.

I want to congratulate Dr. Heather Armstrong and the entire vaccination rollout team who put together the plan for Bermuda’s COVID-19 vaccination program.  A tremendous amount of work has been done to get here, and we want to vaccinate as many people as possible so that we can help protect them, their loved ones, and also, help the Island to achieve herd immunity. According to most experts, if we are able to vaccinate 60 – 70% of the population, we can halt the transmission and spread of the virus. That is our goal.

Finally, I want to also remind everyone that the Ministry of Health is hosting ‘Vaccine Awareness – Join the Conversation’ on the Government’s Facebook page, YouTube, and CITV, live, Saturday, 16 January 2021, at 6 pm. This is an excellent opportunity for those who may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine specifically, and vaccines in general. This programme will allow viewers to post their questions online to have them answered by medical professionals.
Until we achieve herd immunity, though, don’t forget we must continue to avoid the 3Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

Thank you.

Update 10.15pm: Premier David Burt’s full statement follows below:

Good Evening Bermuda,

Apologies for the late start this evening. Yesterday, our island reached a significant milestone in our fight against the Coronavirus with the vaccination programme getting underway here in Bermuda.

The Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Opposition Leader Mr. Cole Simons, the Government’s Science Advisor Dr. Carika Weldon, seniors, essential workers and I received our first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Our decision to take the vaccine was to lead by example, and to build public trust. I am confident that this vaccine is safe, effective, and it is vital in our fight against the Coronavirus. I want to thank the professional and friendly team at the Vaccination Centre for making the experience as comfortable as possible, and congratulate the Team at the Ministry of Health for working to put together a smooth process.

Thanks must also go to Government House, who has supplied Vaccines and equipment. This was worked on by the former Governor, Deputy Governor and our current Governor – Her Excellency Rena Lalgie.

Today, I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, who will provide you with an update from her Ministry; Dr. Carika Weldon is also here and will speak about the science and development of the vaccine and how it works in the body and discuss genetic sequencing of the virus.


Thank you Minister, and thanks again to your team for their hard work.

I would also like to extend my condolences to the family who, since our last press conference, so tragically lost their loved one in the latest covid-related death. We as a country must continue our collective efforts so that less families have to say goodbye to their loved ones before their time.

The Government’s science advisor, Dr. Carika Weldon, will now speak about the science  and development of the vaccine and how retractable needles work, and also the results from our first round of genetic sequencing, Dr Walden.

Dr. Weldon…

Thank you Dr. Weldon and thank you to your team at the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory for all of your commitment and hard work throughout this pandemic, especially during the period of time before Christmas when I’m sure you were testing more samples a day than you ever imagined possible.

Before I begin my remarks, I wish to extend my condolences, on behalf of the Government of Bermuda, to the families who have recently lost loved ones in two tragic incidents on Bermuda’s roads.

Following the vaccination effort that started yesterday, there have been some who have questioned our decision to lead by example and demonstrate our willingness to take the vaccine, due to concerns about our safety.

In response, I would like to address this with two points:

Firstly, we were by no means the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To date more than 10 million people worldwide have taken this vaccine, including over 8 million in the U.S, 2 million in the U.K and millions more across Canada, the E.U and Asia.

Secondly, we as leaders must be willing to lead by example. Our aim was and continues to be to help instil confidence and trust, and to help combat vaccine hesitancy, especially within the black community here in Bermuda.

I appreciate the concern, but there is no need to be worried. We trust the science and we trust our advisors like Dr Weldon, and we can say with confidence that we made the right decision to take this vaccine.

Last week the Government announced an extension of the restrictions already in place.  These restrictions are still in place and will be reviewed by Cabinet next week. However, at this time, there is no expectation that across the board closures will need to be extended.

The Government is also aware of hardships that businesses and individuals are experiencing due to the restrictions that are necessary to control this outbreak.  I reiterate the Government’s commitment to continue to support persons and businesses affected.

The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has provided grants to support businesses. These grants are to support rent, utilities, employers’ overheads [social insurance & health insurance] to assist businesses affected by closures instituted to control the pandemic. The grant amounts will now be increased due to the extension of the closures announced last week.

In addition, individuals who work in establishments that are required to remain closed, and who were approved for unemployment benefits will have received additional payments from the Ministry of Finance last week following the extension of restrictions.

There is no expectation of a further extension of across the board closures. The Government will continue to work with businesses to share information in advance regarding the precautions required for a safe reopening of businesses.

Yesterday, a story was printed in the Royal Gazette with an inaccurate headline and story regarding taxes on rental income. This story caused concern and alarm with members of the public. The Royal Gazette has since corrected the online version of the story and issued a printed correction in today’s edition of the newspaper.

[Let me be clear] There have not been any discussions regarding the imposition of a tax related to rental income, let alone any decisions made in that effect. It is important that the public know that the headline was not accurate.

What I said was that I expect that the Tax Reform Commission, when appointed, would be able to complete their work so any recommendations that are made, to make our tax system fairer, would be made in time to commence implementation in the next budget cycle 2022/2023. I also provided an example of the fact that there are some persons/families that own dozens of property and pay no taxes on that income, wherein a struggling parent is taxed on income from 3 of their jobs via existing payroll tax.

We are committed to the values of ensuring that our system of taxation is fairer and works better for our workers, and provides even more relief to those persons who need it most by reducing payroll taxes.

As I bring my comments to a close, I wish to express a note of cautious optimism and hope as I did last week…

We now have another vital tool in our arsenal to help to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The vaccine is here, and the vaccine programme is underway. We will use it firstly to protect our seniors and those at high-risk by giving them the opportunity to register, and receive the vaccine if they have chosen to do so.

When we receive additional doses, they will be available to more residents. It is important to note, the vaccine will only be fully effective if a majority of residents choose to take it.

As the Government has stated many times, no one will be forced to take this vaccine, it is not mandatory for anyone. However, I encourage all Bermudians to learn the facts, speak to your doctor – and make responsible, informed decisions. Do not be deceived by misinformation and conspiracy theories.

I hope that seeing me, and my colleagues receiving our first dose has instilled confidence and trust in the effectiveness of the vaccine. But, if seeing us wasn’t enough, I think we can all take confidence from the strength Mr. Horace Rollins showed, who not only took the vaccine for himself, but to protect his wife as well.

Dr. Robert Gibbons, as a medical professional, understands the importance of vaccinations and was more than willing to get the shot along with his wife.  These gestures are the theme that has and must continue to emanate throughout the island as we continue the fight. That the decisions we make are not just about us, but they are about protecting those we care most about and our community.

This week we have taken a big step forward in our battle against the coronavirus, and though we still see some positive cases – today marks the first time in a few weeks that we are able to report no additional cases of local transmission.

Though we have successfully managed the recent outbreak, it is important to remember that since it started we have lost 3 Bermudians, and 8 Bermudians are in the Hospital battling this virus. Our collective decisions impact our fellow families.

We must not become complacent. Please continue to wear your masks, physical distance, adhere to the guidelines and restrictions that are in place, and if you have not yet done so, download the WeHealth Bermuda App which is another tool that will assist our battle.

As always, before I close, I must remind you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, if you’re a senior who feels isolated, or if you’re caring for loved ones and need someone to talk to the Emotional Well-being Hotline is there for you. The phone number is 543 1111, and the line is operated Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 9pm. Again, that number is 543 1111.

Thanks and I will now take questions from the media….