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Video: Govt Press Conference On Covid-19

[Updating] The Government is holding a press conference this evening [Aug 6] to update the public on Covid-19.

Update 5.54pm: The Government said, “We received 655 Covid-19 results today. All 655 results received were negative. Total confirmed cases remains at 157. Bermuda’s real time Covid-19 reproductive number (Rt) 7-day average remains below 1.”

Update 7.49pm: Minister Jason Hayward’s full statement follows below:

1 Year Residential Certificate Policy

The Government’s 1 Year Residential Certificate initiative, which invites individuals to work remotely from Bermuda has received a very positive response. To date we have received 73 applications. Unfortunately, we are receiving incomplete applications which cannot be processed. However, completed applications will be approved tomorrow, enabling persons to start the process of relocating to Bermuda over the next few weeks. The requirements are basic and I would implore all applicants to submit completed applications. It must be emphasized that applicants for the One Year Certificate must have the means to support themselves while working remotely, and cannot seek work in Bermuda.

Bermuda’s successful management of the Coronavirus pandemic and our COVID-19 testing regime places us in a unique competitive position to attract new residents to the island. The exposure and promotion of the 1 year residential certificate have led to interest in businesses seeking to relocate their entire operations to Bermuda. The Economic Development Department in the Cabinet Office is working with Bermuda Business Development Agency to provide advice and planning to the companies who are looking to relocate.

We have also had inquiries from ABIR about the relocation of some of their staff to the Island and will communicate directly how those plans can be executed.

Financial Assistance and Supplemental Unemployment Benefit

The COVID-19 crisis continues to negatively impact both our local and world economies. Bermuda has experienced a significant contraction of its labour force. During the peak of the State of Emergency, more than 10,000 persons found themselves either unable to work, laid off or unemployed.

Based on Government data from the Temporary Unemployment Benefit Database, as of yesterday August 5th, 2020:

  • 1.There were more than 5,670 persons that had returned to work and therefore are no longer on the Temporary Unemployment Benefit;
  • 2.There were roughly 4,682 that have not yet informed the Government that they have returned to work;
  • 3.As of the end of next week, there will be roughly 900 persons who will still remain on the benefit
  • 4.Of those who remain on the benefit next week, we expect that:
    • 675 will be Bermudian;
    • 36 will be Spouses of Bermudians;
    • 10 will be Permanent Resident Certificate holders;
    • And 180 will be Work Permit holders

The Government announced that the temporary unemployment benefit which was introduced at the onset of the Pandemic will transition persons to either Financial Assistance or longer term unemployment support. The purpose of this transition is to ensure that persons who require ongoing assistance from Government receive the appropriate level of support based on their personal and family circumstances.

With the economic impact of the Pandemic continuing to affect many in Bermuda, there will be persons in our community who remain in need of assistance to obtain the basic necessities of life such as food, shelter, and health insurance. In order to be eligible for continued support, it is essential that persons who require ongoing support apply to Financial Assistance.

Many have asked why they should apply for financial assistance if they are not eligible, due to the fact that they own real estate. The answer is that the Financial Assistance application will also be used to determine eligibility for the new supplementary benefit, so it is important that all individuals who require ongoing support complete the Financial Assistance application process. To be clear, only Bermudians and Spouses of Bermudians will be eligible for further benefits.

The Department of Financial Assistance began issuing applications on the first floor of Global House, 43 Church Street, Hamilton to persons in need of additional support. Individuals unable to collect an application are reminded to contact the Department to make alternative arrangements. For additional information, persons can call the Department of Financial Assistance Hotline at 297 7867.

When filling out the application, the forms must be 100% completed for the applicant to be considered for assistance. Once all the required information is on the form, they must be submitted in the mailbox located on the first floor in Global House.

The financial assistance process is necessarily rigorous. All applications will be vetted and applicants notified accordingly. Should it be determined that you are approved to receive continued assistance, you will begin receiving the approved monthly award payments. Please note that the Financial Assistance program is mainly ‘cashless’ meaning that vendors are paid directly for and on behalf of the client.

Also as a reminder, financial aid given is only a temporary measure to support those in need. As such, individuals who are receiving benefits must immediately notify the Government when they commence any form of employment as they will no longer be eligible.

Compliance with Immigration Law & Policy

The Ministry of Labour wishes to remind Employers of their responsibilities toward employees as enshrined in the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act and the Work Permit Policy.

The Ministry is fully cognizant of the financial challenges facing many employers. However, it must be noted that unless there is a written, mutual agreement stating otherwise, it is the Employer’s responsibility to repatriate guest workers to their place of origin. Furthermore, if a work-permit holder has changed employers, it is the current employer’s responsibility to repatriate their workers. It should also be noted that an employee whose contract has been terminated due to the conditions set out in section 30 [3] of the Employment Act 2000 are entitled to redundancy pay.

Additionally, employers and employees are reminded that once an employment contract has been terminated or a Work Permit has not been renewed, there is no automatic right to reside and seek further employment in Bermuda. Individuals who wish to reside and seek employment must apply to the Department of Immigration for permission.

Guest workers should also be aware of their visa status [i.e. current or expired] and take the necessary steps to enable repatriation to their home countries. It is the responsibility of every individual to ensure their travel documents are in order well in advance of any need for overseas travel.

Lastly, if you think someone is illegally working, living, or employed in Bermuda, you should contact the Department of Immigration at https://www.doiapps.gov.bm/immigrationtips/ or by calling 441-296-5202.

Update 8.04pm: Minister Renee Ming’s full statement follows below:

Good evening Bermuda,

I wish to begin by extending my thanks to all of you for ensuring that this past Cup Match holiday weekend was as incident-free as possible.

For the most part, residents adhered to the guidelines as set out by the Ministry of Health.

While there were a few situations of note which required Police attention, overall there was broad cooperation from our community.

I wish to also commend our joint community engagement teams comprising of the Bermuda Police Service and the Royal Bermuda Regiment who were actively visible over the Cup Match holiday.

All our uniformed personnel worked around the clock to ensure public safety on land and sea.

As indicated by the BPS earlier this week, there were around 27 arrests made between last Wednesday night and Sunday night.

These were for a combination of outstanding warrants, drinking and driving and assaults.

There were some bladed article or knife incidents which required arrests, and just over 60 traffic tickets issued for speeding and other offences.

Over the holiday period, I had an opportunity to visit the Coast Guard at their headquarters in the West End.

I received an impressive and detailed overview of their operations, inclusive of their planned patrol activities over the holiday period.

The Coast Guard has been operating 24/7 during this pandemic period to enforce emergency regulations on the water; to ensure mariners are in compliance with Bermuda’s existing maritime laws; and to respond to search and rescue incidents up to 12 nautical miles from shore.
From all accounts, it was an extremely busy day on the water over the long holiday weekend, and wish to take this opportunity to publicly commend each member of our Coast Guard for their commitment and service.

A note about our 2020 Hurricane Season – which as we have seen has been quite active.

I am urging residents to remain vigilant in ensuring that you are properly prepared in the event of a severe storm or hurricane – particularly against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a reminder, residents should ensure they have the basic supplies in their hurricane kits.

This includes restocking your typical non-perishable food supplies, making sure you have fresh batteries and smartphone battery packs, flashlights and other items to aid in an emergency.

A change to the usual hurricane kit should be the addition of appropriate personal protection equipment [PPE] for you and your family.

There should be enough PPE to last for at least seven [7] days for each member of the household.

Residents should also carry out routine activities like updating emergency plans, checking on home and marine vessel insurance and making key repairs around their home.

Emergency and key contact numbers for medical and social services should also be updated.

As a reminder, Hurricane Season is from June 1 – November 30, and as we shared earlier this year, global meteorologists have indicated that this year’s season will be busy due to warmer temperatures.

Please note as I have said previously, we continue to be in the throes of a pandemic.

Bermuda, we have managed very well so far, but it is going to take every one of us to continue to do our part and assist where we can.

If you visit any establishments please adhere to the requisite guidelines.

This includes if you attend any gatherings of up to 50 people.

Please make sure you are taking the right steps to protect yourself and others.

And if at any time you see any breaches of the COVID-19 guidelines please do not hesitate to call the hotline on 2-11.

Regarding the disappearance of Miss Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, I urge the public to please come forward to provide the Bermuda Police Service with any advice or information regarding Ms. Dillon-Burgess’ disappearance to please call 717-0854 or 717-0864.

Alternatively people can also make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers on 800-8477.

Thank you.

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

I hope you all had an enjoyable Cup Match.

Today there were 655 test results received by the Ministry of Health, and none were positive for COVID-19.

Bermuda now has 157 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:

  • there are 4 active cases, who are
  • all under active public health monitoring, and
  • none is hospitalized or in critical care;
  • a total of 144 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains 9.

The average age of all of our confirmed positive cases is 59 and the age range of all of our positive cases is from 18 to 101 years.

Overall, 54% of all cases are Black, 42% are white and 4% are other or unknown.

The source of all local cases is as follows:

  • 53 are Imported
  • 85 are Local transmission, with known contact
  • 19 are Local transmission with an unknown contact, and
  • none are under investigation

Bermuda’s country status remains “Sporadic Cases”. The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is less than 1.

I want to thank all residents who continued to follow public health guidelines over the Cup Match holiday; those who avoided large gatherings of people, those who wore their masks when they couldn’t physically distance themselves from others, those returning travellers who followed the required testing and quarantine protocols…thank you all.

I also want to thank the hard-working testing teams who did not take a break and continued to work throughout the holiday. COVID-19 did not take a break and neither did they. They have been working around the clock to test visitors, returning residents and members of our community. They are a relatively small team, given the demands of their work – and we are looking to expand their ranks…

The testing teams are increasingly stretched due to the volume of travellers arriving in Bermuda on a daily basis. As such, the Ministry of Health is seeking medical personnel to assist our testing teams with the swabbing of individuals for COVID-19.  In particular, we are seeking those with a background in medicine, nursing, dentistry and Emergency Medical Technicians, whether retired, practicing or students in-training.  Individuals will be compensated for their time and should contact coronavirus@gov.bm for more information or to express an interest.

And now, some good news coming out of the Ministry of health this week…yesterday we opened the COVID-19 testing site for travelers at the historic Perot Post Office.

Thank you to both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Public Works teams for making this happen – in particular Project Manager Mr. Dean Parris and acting Permanent Secretary Ms Shivon Washington. They put this together so quickly and really did a phenomenal job!

Improvements have already been felt by both staff and travellers attending their required COVID tests. I visited yesterday and the facility is perfectly located, beautifully set up, and enjoys plenty of shade for persons waiting for their turn. This means that waiting times and lines should shorten at all testing sites, now that we have this specific site just for travellers. The Perot site will operate Monday to Saturday; on Sundays all testing will take place at Southside.

Following the previous COVID-19 modelling, updated parameter values were used to re-estimate the worst case scenario for a one year period following the introduction of COVID-19 in Bermuda. Parameter values are updated over time as more is learned about the epidemiology of COVID-19.

The base for a new worst case scenario uses an average annual reproductive number of 2.4 and lower hospitalization and mortality rates than previously applied. This new model results in an estimated 1600 hospitalizations [1,658] [range is approximately 1300 – 1900 [1,130-1,884]]; and 264 deaths [range 113-377] over a one year period.

However, as before, this worst case scenario is impacted by additional control measures of case isolation and general contact reduction, including personal hygiene measures, wearing of face masks, physical distancing, etc. Highly effective use of these interventions can reduce these estimates – at best – to approximately 100 hospitalizations [range 69-114] and 15 deaths [range 6-21] over a one year period.

It is also important to recognize that there is a difference between the modelled world and the real world and that all possible scenarios cannot be envisioned. Effective application of public health measures is key in keeping infections, hospitalizations and COVID-19 related deaths low throughout this pandemic.

The updated modelling will be shared on the coronavirus website next week. Please be reminded that the models produce estimates to support public health preparedness and planning and are not predictions of the expected effect of COVID-19 in Bermuda.

Shifting gears a little to address the challenging case that has received much attention this week regarding an intellectually disabled person going through the court system, I want to give full assurance that specialized health professional, court and corrections teams are working to create a solution for this case.

No one wants to see individuals with intellectual disabilities incarcerated and teams have sought to find a solution within our abilities and resources to care for him. The safety of every individual, as well as staff and other residents is equally important, and finding a solution that accommodates all is a challenge in a small community that lacks specialized resources.

Managing complex intellectual disability and/or forensic mental health cases often requires low or medium secure units with staff that have specialized training. This is not just a matter of facilities, but, more importantly, of specialized manpower in short supply world-wide. So it is not viable for any small community to set up stand-alone resources for every possible scenario. In larger jurisdictions, such scarce specialized resources service large geographical areas.

Creating solutions for individuals outside of existing services takes time, but the inter-agency team continues to work hard to address gaps in local services and seek the best solution for the individual that ensures safety and appropriate support for his needs.

Finally, I want to update that the Government is concerned about the growing number of uninsured and underinsured in light of increased unemployment due to COVID. This risk to individuals and the health system is deeply worrying and we are looking at what healthcare reforms may be needed in an expedited way to ensure that care is available for these persons.

Before closing, I want to end by returning to COVID-19 and reminding us all that while we don’t have local transmission at this time, the behaviours we are observing are putting us at risk.

Remember that people are travelling to and from places with community transmission. It only takes one imported case to spread COVID among the community, which is why we advise against non-essential travel and better adherence to physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing.

I have to applaud the venues where we see consistently good adherence to these essential preventive measures: supermarkets, retail stores and buses. They have proven that we can see good compliance and operate safely.

However, I am increasingly concerned about the settings where compliance levels are not good: at private social gatherings, in particular at people’s homes; and on boats, where little physical distancing and mask wearing is practiced at all. These have become the highest risk settings presently.

I ask people to remember that COVID is among us. Letting our guard down when we socialize is the activity putting us most at risk today. Please wear your masks at all times.

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

Today I’m joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, and the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Jason Hayward. For this evening’s press conference we will start with an update from the Minister of Health Minister.

Minister Of Health Reads Her Remarks

Thank you, Minister of Health, and I would certainly like to echo the sentiments which you shared regarding the testing teams. Certainly, they have been going, and that is from the ones who are doing the collections, to the couriers, to the testers, to the administrative staff, the project managers and also the persons inside of the lab. The performance of these teams over the last few weeks, has certainly made Bermuda’s testing regime the envy of the world.

I want to thank all of the persons who are participating, especially working over the holiday and working long hours to make sure that we keep up with this extraordinary demand.

I would also like to add to the Minister’s comments by informing the country that the Governor informed me yesterday that the United Kingdom’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund will be sending a final shipment of personal protective equipment to Bermuda, bringing the total amounts of personal protective equipment supplied under this programme to $1.3 million worth.

Additionally, the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund is also ensuring the Ministry of Health will continue to have access the UK’s Telemed Service, the medical resource comprising international healthcare specialists who provide advice against the fight of the novel coronavirus.

On behalf, the people of Bermuda and the Government of Bermuda, I would like to thank the UK Government for the additional shipment of this equipment. The Bermuda Government has spent millions of dollars on procuring PPE to protect our workers on the front line and this additional shipment will further bolster supplies that we’ve already procured on Island.

I will now invite the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming to give an update on her ministries activities over the holiday weekend.

Minister Renee Ming Reads Her Remarks

Thank you Minister of National Security.

And I share the sentiments about a largely peaceful weekend. There was a one incident of note, but on the whole, it was certainly an enjoyable and different Cup Match.

The next Minister to speak will be the Minister of Labour, Minister Jason Hayward who will provide details on the next step for those persons on the temporary Unemployment Benefit and will give an update on other matters, inside of this ministry. Minister Hayward.

Minister Jason Hayward Reads His Remarks.

Thank you, Minister Hayward.

Today, I will speak about three pressing issues that I believe are pressing for entrepreneurs, families, and employees. The first is the Work from Bermuda Residential Certificate that the Minister of Labour just highlighted. As he stated, since we’ve launched initiative we’ve received a large amount of international media attention, and it is unsurprising as the story has many facets.

To healthcare workers, this certificate signals, our successful management of the Coronavirus.

To global business, it shows that Bermuda is expanding its economic options, and for companies that are already domiciled in Bermuda, they’ve received an increase in clients looking to relocate here.

Additionally, the Bermuda Business Development Agency has received queries and requests for more information from Australia, Canada and the United States inquiring about setting up a Bermuda entity and redomiciling to Bermuda. And this is all due to the fact of our collective successful management of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Also, for additional activity for our local insurance companies the BDA is currently working with them to create health insurance options for one year residential certificate holders. The Bermuda Tourism Authority, who are also stakeholders in the one year residential programme report they have generated more than 30 international news stories around the initiative, with 526 million news impressions, which represents almost a million dollars in media value.

The launch of the Work From Bermuda website was designed to specifically inform potential applicants about the lifestyle aspect of the move to Bermuda, and resources to make the transition easy.

The One Year Residential certificate, is just one of the economic programmes we’re offering to change the adverse effects that the pandemic has had on our economy. And the first batch of applicants will start hearing from the Ministry of Labour, tomorrow.

In reality, remote workers and digital nomads can start arriving in Bermuda, as early as next week. The promotion of this programme will continue for the rest of this year, and into 2021 and further information can be found at workfrombermuda.bm.

Over the last few months we have done everything in our power to collectively manage the Coronavirus on our shores. And this success has only been possible with the support of everyone in Bermuda. I and others have stated, that Bermuda is facing a serious economic challenge, and we will for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

However, it is important that we now do our part and participate in growing our economy, and like fighting the coronavirus, it will only be possible with the support of everyone in Bermuda.

Of course, it sounds basic, but we must do our part to support Bermudian business. We should eat at our restaurants, you must buy from Bermuda based shops, and we must support farmers, fishermen, seamstresses, landscapers, and if you have a vacation planned, spend those vacation dollars in Bermuda. As local hotels are offering staycation rates for residents and many of them reported that they were full over the Cup Match weekend.

I do recognize that there were many Bermudians who are concerned about the opening of our airport to regularly scheduled commercial traffic. However, as we’ve highlighted today, we’ve successfully developed and implemented the most stringent testing regime in the world. And the welcoming of visitors has a real impact on our economy.

Let me highlight what it means in real numbers, just so we can understand the July airport and tourism figures.

Even though there were not a large amount of arrivals, the amount of visitors and non-residents who entered the airport were 1,725. This equated to $6 million of visitor spending. However, it enabled hotels and other persons to get back to work. This means that 919 persons who were previously unable to work in the tourism sector were able to return to work.

The unemployment benefits savings were $1.2 million. And, it was $400,000 of revenue to the Bermuda Airport Authority, which will offset any future charges from Skyport Bermuda. Opening the airport was a good decision, and it was the right decision to support our families who desperately want to make sure they have an opportunity to earn, and to provide for their families. And though our testing regime is rigorous, and though it was quite a battle to make sure we decided on what it was ending up being, visitors are coming, and visitors are enjoying their time here. And this week, Bermuda even welcomed its first super yacht charter under our new Superyacht Legislation.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority will step up its marketing efforts, as they are now more flights to Bermuda in August than there were in July. It is important that we continue to capitalize on the fact that we have successfully managed this pandemic through our excellent testing programme.

Today, I was pleased to participate with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and Bermuda Credit Union press conference to announce an initiative that reduces 50% of the red tape that small business owners face, and helps entrepreneur, access funds, guaranteed by the BEDC much faster.

Previously, entrepreneurs had to go to the BEDC, seek their approval, and then go to a financial institution, seek their approval and if successful, then receive the funds.

Under this new agreement, the Credit Union and the BEDC have agreed underwriting terms, meaning the entrepreneur who needs funding will go to the Credit Union and if they meet their criteria, the BEDC will guarantee up to 75% of the loan. This will put money into the hands of the small business owner faster, giving them the financing they need to launch, any new business enterprise sooner.

It is hoped that the island’s three retail banks will soon begin to start offering this service as well. However, we are thrilled to launch this streamlined programme with the Bermuda Credit Union.

The BEDC has also created the Business Sustainability Funding Programme and has so far, provided support in excess of $4.5 million to 80 local businesses with several more applicants about to be notified that their application was successful.

The BEDC continues to provide ongoing support to entrepreneurs and has implemented a new series of webinars that provide information on a variety of topics such as marketing, support for getting your business online, and privacy to make sure that businesses can thrive inside of our new economic climates.

It is important to recognize that Bermuda is indeed moving to a new economic normal. However, collectively, we get to help to define what that normal looks like for ourselves.

As I said, it is important to support our local economy, so that more and more persons can get back to work. And it is only working together that we will ease the financial difficulty that we are facing. There certainly are challenges ahead of us. But as we have seen, there are also opportunities, and we must as a people continue to be creative.

I’m going to move from the economy to touch on the matter of education and school opening.

Bermuda’s public schools will open to receive school staff and students in their respective buildings, next month. School begins for staff on September 1, and for students on September 9. All of our schools will be adopting a hybrid model for teaching and learning, which includes both in class and remote teaching and learning. One question that parents have been asking is how will students be accommodated in school with physical distancing requirements?

Based on our COVID-19 status of no community transmission, the Department of Health will allow for three feet physical distancing and the use of Plexiglas separations where applicable. This will enable schools to accommodate the majority of their students in school buildings.

Stringent safety and health protocols, will be developed by the Department of Health technical officers and schools are required to enforce the protocols throughout the school day. These protocols are currently on the Department of Education’s website and are being updated as new information is being received from the Department of Health.

The Department of Education has been working on a number of fronts related to reopening schools. Some of these include preparing facilities, securing extra cleaning and hygiene supplies and additional IT devices for students and staff and extending WiFi access in our schools and finalizing the essential curriculum and proficiency scales, while organizing enhanced training for staff.

The Department of Education officers have also participated in meetings with representatives from the Department of Transport to discuss the transportation plan for our students. The Department of Education is also currently engaged in communication and consultation to ensure that stakeholders, especially our valued teachers are fully informed of reopening plans, and can prepare accordingly.

I urge all Bermuda public school families to attend the town hall zoom meetings with the Commissioner of Education, technical officers and officials from the Department of Health, or follow along in the respective Facebook groups set up for the different school levels. Parents will have the opportunity to ask questions about school reopening in September, during these meetings, and I will highlight these meetings.

Saturday, August, 8: preschool meetings from 11am until 1pm; primary school meetings from 6:30pm until 8:30pm.

Monday, August 10: middle school meetings, from 4pm to 6pm; and senior school meetings from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

On Monday, August 24, Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.
All meetings can be accessed live on Bermuda public schools’ Facebook page.

Before I take questions from members of the media, I would like to say two things.

First, I’d like to let members of the public know that I received an email last week, indicating that the Government of Bermuda at these press conferences should do something about many plastic water bottles that we use at each press conference.

My team took this to heart, and we have secured some reusable water bottles. I thank the Information Commissioner’s Office for reusable bottles that are now available for participants in the weekly press conferences, and as Minister of Health, informed earlier, she said it’s about time you got with the programme. Yes Minister of Health.

Finally, I would like to wish a very happy 101st, birthday to Mr. Walter Seymour of Sunnyside Park. Last year I was fortunate enough to attend his 100th birthday celebration, and I’m thankful that God has given him one more year with us on earth.