The Government will be holding a technical briefing this afternoon [Sept 22] to update the public on Covid-19 and the live video below should start at around 4.00pm.
Those in attendance at today’s briefing are expected to include Premier David Burt, Minister of Health Kim Wilson, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ayo Oyinloye and BHB Chief of Staff Dr. Wesley Miller.
The press conference comes in the midst of a major Covid outbreak, with the hospital increasing its alert level to the highest level, more than 50 people in hospital, over 1500 active cases and sadly, ten deaths in recent weeks.
At today’s press conference we expect the Government to release the latest test results today as well as other information, and the live stream below should start at around 4.00pm.
Update 4.05pm: It seems it will start a bit late, we are standing by to stream once it starts.
Update 4.58pm: This graphic was just shown during the Govt’s press conference:
Update 5.45pm: The press conference has concluded. They did not provide the latest test results, however they are expected to be released later. They did provide updated stats on the vaccination status of deaths and hospitalised cases and also said that more vaccines are expected to arrive tomorrow.
Update 7.30pm: The Government released the latest test results, you can see them here.
Update 7.38pm: Minister Kim Wilson’s full statement follows below:
I begin my remarks today by offering sincere condolences to the family and friends who recently lost a loved one to circumstances related to the coronavirus. This month we have seen quite a few deaths, and I realise that this is causing unbearable pain for so many families.
I ask everyone to please keep these families in their prayers. As well, keep in our prayers those currently in hospital with Covid-19 related illnesses.
As the number of active cases increases, primarily through community transmission, we need to remember that these are not just numbers; these are people getting sick and dying.
I am going to provide recent statistics on the footfall impact of Covid positive and Presumptive Covid positive Patients on the Emergency Room at the hospital.
The foot traffic between July 15 – 31, shows:
- 3 Covid-19 cases arrived at the hospital, out of
- 1280 emergency room visits
- And the percentage of Covid cases over total ER visits was 0%.
The foot traffic between August 1 – 31 shows:
- 34 Covid-19 cases arrived at the hospital out of
- 2394 emergency room visits
- And the percentage of Covid cases over total ER visits was 1.4%.
The foot traffic between September 1 – 20 shows:
- 212 Covid-19 cases arrived at the hospital out of
- 1341 emergency room visits
- And the percentage of Covid cases over total ER visits was 15.8%.
I provide this information so that the community can better understand the impact on the hospital of this fourth wave. The hospital is managing more than 200 Covid-related ER visits while also providing care to 58 inpatients, 14 of whom are in the ICU.
From January 11, 2021, when Bermuda’s vaccine campaign began, to Epi Week 37 ending September 18, 2021, Bermuda’s Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are as follows:
Hospitalisations [including repeat admissions] totalled 183, of which:
- 169 or 92.3% were not fully vaccinated
- 14 or 7.7% were fully vaccinated
There were 30 deaths, of which:
- 26 or 86.7% were not fully vaccinated
- 4 or 13.3% were fully vaccinated
Bermuda, this is serious.
I will now provide an update on our vaccination programme.
We have completed week 36 of vaccinations. Since January 11, Bermuda has administered a total of 86,676 vaccinations.
Of the 86,676 vaccinations given as of September 18:
- 52% are women and,
- 48% are men
83.8% of all residents over the age of 65 years have had at least one vaccination, and 82.6% are fully immunised.
To date, 67.8% of the population has been vaccinated [1 dose], and 66.2% of the population has been immunised [2 doses].
As we all know, the Delta variant is easily transmissible and widespread throughout our community. Everything we do should be focused on avoiding infection.
Vaccinations are our best defense against the further spread of the virus, so if you still have not decided to get vaccinated, please do your research and speak to your doctor. The sooner you get vaccinated, the better you can fight the virus if exposed to it. Equally important, you can protect others in the community, which is particularly important for those who cannot be vaccinated, such as our children who we want to get back in the classroom as quickly as possible.
We are expecting a new supply of Pfizer vaccines to arrive on island tomorrow evening, and I encourage anyone who wants to get vaccinated to register their interest as soon as possible on gov.bm/vaccines.
Booster vaccines will be available very soon.
At this time, the recommended target groups for booster vaccines are, in this order, persons who are:
- Over 65 years old,
- A healthcare or essential worker, and then,
- Over 50 years old.
We are not currently administering boosters, and appointments are not being scheduled for boosters at this time. The Ministry of Health is currently working out the delivery details, and we will advise the public once they are available.
Regarding Covid testing, as a reminder, community testing will be scaled back to enable the timely reporting of results, and testing is by appointment only – we cannot do walk-ins at this time.
Priority for testing will be testing at the border, symptomatic cases & close contacts, exit from quarantine testing, and vulnerable/essential population surveillance [rest homes, students, prisons, healthcare workers]. Asymptomatic casual contacts and SafeKey testing will not be a priority for the next couple of weeks. We are focusing our testing resources on the testing required to end this outbreak.
If you require time-sensitive outbound travel tests, contact one of the private labs, Helix Genetic and Scientific Solutions [helixbermuda.bm], or C & S West Limited [cswest.bm]. Both of these labs are certified to carry out Covid-19 testing and diagnostics.
To reduce the number of tests that go to MDL, for destinations that accept rapid antigen tests for outbound tests [all flights except flights to Boston and Canada], the Ministry of Health will be transitioning to these tests for outbound flights as soon as possible.
We are aware of the importation of antigen tests for personal use, and it is important for the public to know that there are many antigen tests which are fake, frankly. The Department of Health will continue to work with HM Customs to mitigate this.
The National Testing Policy is under review now, and we will be providing the public with information to assist understanding the best use for antigen tests and the role they can play in your personal health strategy. I must emphasise the antigen tests do not and will not replace the PCR test the Ministry uses for diagnostics. The PCR test is the gold standard. If you are experiencing symptoms, book a PCR test to be sure.
I look forward to sharing more information with the community in the very near future.
As a reminder, due to the high volume of positive Covid cases, our contact tracers are focused on high-risk settings, and anyone who has tested positive must do their own contact tracing..
To assist, a new automated notification email process will notify Covid positive patients and named close contacts of their status and their need to isolate or quarantine.
Specifically, when a test result comes back positive, persons will be notified via the email address provided on their test booking. The notification email will include necessary information on the steps the person who tested positive must take regarding isolation and other matters. It will also have a link to an online form that allows the positive person to list their close contacts. These close contacts will be notified about their exposure without disclosing who the positive person is. They, too, will receive information on what health measures they must take.
In closing, I will remind everyone of the basic precautions they must take to stop the spread of this virus.
- Avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation
- Avoid crowded places with many people nearby and close-contact settings like close-range conversations.
- Wash hands with soap and water frequently and use hand sanitiser when handwashing facilities are not available
- Avoid shared lunch rooms and gatherings when unmasked. Your work place and colleagues are not in your bubbles.
- Masks must be worn indoors and outdoors where six feet of physical distancing is not possible.
- If you or anyone in your household is feeling ill, even slightly ill, stay home.
- If you test positive, you need to isolate, even if you have no symptoms.
Businesses should also be extremely vigilant and take appropriate precautions to protect their employees and patrons from contracting the coronavirus.
Each of us has a role to play in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Please follow Public Health guidelines, and download the WeHealth Bermuda App.
Update 9.12pm: Premier David Burt’s full statement follows below:
Good Afternoon Bermuda, I would firstly like to extend my condolences and deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those members of our community whom we have lost during this outbreak.
All of those who have been so tragically affected by the coronavirus, including those persons in the hospital and at home, remain in my thoughts and prayers.
Bermuda, we must always remember that the statistics we read and discuss each and every day are real people. They are fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, real people who leave loved ones behind. They are friends to you and friends to me as well. Each time I hear of another reported coronavirus related death, I personally worry that it could be a friend of mine who I know is battling this disease in the hospital. Indeed, this is a challenging time for us all.
Tonight I want to assure the people of Bermuda that if we work together if we follow the current rules, we will make it through this outbreak. Students will be back in their classrooms, and parents will be able to go back to work. I know that it is hard to see past where we are right now, but we must.
There are some who have asked if the Government will impose stricter restrictions such as a lockdown to help the situation at our hospital. I am extremely concerned with what we are seeing at our hospital, but I must be honest with you, that will not change what is currently taking place there. More restrictions, such as a lockdown, will not bring immediate relief to our Doctors and Nurses who are doing everything within their power to save lives.
The hospital is currently overwhelmed due to the events that took place 3 to 4 weeks ago, where persons who were not following the regulations and public health guidance that were in place came into contact with a positive person and unfortunately brought the coronavirus home to their families and then, it spread further into the workplace.
The Government believes that the regulations we have are appropriate given our progress with vaccinations and increased community protection. However, this will only work if we as a community all do our part to follow these regulations.
The increasing numbers in our hospital are mainly due to persons who have not yet been vaccinated with preexisting conditions. Those persons are more susceptible to severe illness, which is caused by the coronavirus. Sadly, in Bermuda, vaccinations are not evenly distributed amongst populations. This outbreak is largely affecting the black community, where vaccination rates are far below average.
The number of positives we continue to identify is a result of our strong and reliable testing infrastructure. The fact is, however, that this infrastructure is being strained. The increased positive cases, which require additional verification to confirm the result is correct, is extremely taxing on all parts of our testing infrastructure.
The Government has bolstered MDLs resources to ensure that operations continue efficiently so that results can again be delivered within 24hrs. Additionally, as announced by the Minister of Health, we will transition to Antigen tests for outbound travel to further reduce the burden on all parts of our testing teams.
We continue to encourage persons to speak to their doctor about whether or not the vaccine is right for them, as this is the most effective way to protect themselves from the disease caused by this highly contagious virus.
This is especially important for those who work in a high-risk setting. Healthcare workers, caregivers for the elderly, teachers, and those with underlying health conditions, please do speak to your doctor and find out whether or not the vaccine is right for you.
I am grateful that we have seen a continued pace of vaccinations and a recent increase in vaccinations over the last month. More vaccines will be arriving in Bermuda tomorrow from the United Kingdom, which will ensure that we can maintain the pace of our current vaccination programme.
Continuing to increase community protection through vaccinations, and continued compliance by the community with current regulations, and the proper use of technology such as the WeHealth App and SafeKey will improve the island’s current situation.
When used properly, SafeKey can be effective in reducing the risk of coronavirus spread. Cup Match and the Emancipation Holiday weekend had no cases being traced back to those events as a result of the proper use of SafeKey and the proper enforcement of Safekey.
Businesses that have used it correctly have stayed open and seen a minimal impact on their everyday operations. Unfortunately, businesses that have not used it correctly have seen positive cases and had to close or seen a significant impact on their activities.
Weddings, funerals and other events that did not follow public health precautions that were in place, and or did not use SafeKey correctly have certainly added to this outbreak. Likewise for nurseries, camps, workplaces, raft-ups, and other settings where the law and public health guidance were not followed have resulted in a significant amount of positive cases.
I want to encourage all businesses to ensure that proper health protocols are being followed so that they can continue to operate and staff can continue to work in a safe environment. None of us wants to see local businesses shut down or anyone on this island unable to work, but it is up to owners, staff, employees, and customers to all do our part and follow the rules.
If you are attending an indoor venue or an event that is not following the rules, staff are not wearing masks, they’re not checking and verifying SafeKey correctly by comparing it to an ID, you could be in an unsafe environment, and you are putting yourself at risk especially if you do not have the protection against severe illness provided by the vaccine.
You should consider leaving that venue and calling 211 to report the violation of the law. As a community, we must all play a part in stopping transmission. It’s vital that we hold individuals and businesses accountable for following the rules needed to keep the community safe.
Time and time again, we have shown our resilience, our strength and our unity to get through the challenges we have faced. While the coronavirus will remain with us for some time, our goal remains to protect our people, our healthcare system, to get our students back in school, and to resume, as much as we can, our normal lives. And to certainly bring comfort and a sense of peace to our island. I have faith that we will successfully make it through this by continuing to work together as a community.
I will now invite the Minister of Health to provide an update to the country on the latest coronavirus test results, vaccination statistics and other matters from her ministry. After the Minister of Health, will be the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ayo Oyinloye, and the Bermuda Hospital Board’s Chief of Staff Dr. Wesley Miller.
Minister of Health.
Thank you, Minister Wilson, CMO, and Dr. Miller… The country certainly appreciates the valiant efforts of you and your team.
As I close, I thank all of the teams involved in testing, test results, contact tracing, surveillance, the Covid Hotline and more for all of their hard work, especially over the last few weeks. I have spoken to members of these teams directly, and I know that it has been extremely demanding and stressful work, but our country appreciates all that you do.
I also want to thank our doctors, nurses, hospital staff, paramedics and ambulance staff, firefighters, police, teachers, and all public officers. You continue to go above and beyond for Bermuda and deliver the critical care and services that we need, and you are greatly appreciated.
To senior citizens watching us this afternoon who are afraid to leave their homes, I understand your fear. The sound of ambulances racing to and from the hospital sends chills throughout my entire body as I fear that it may be another coronavirus case. If you are mobile and able to leave your house for a few hours and enjoy some sunshine, there are many places that you can safely visit around the island.
Our beaches and parks offer ideal spaces where you can take a chair, social distance and enjoy the fresh autumn breeze while reading your favourite book or allowing your grandchildren to ride their pedal bikes and swim. If you observe public health rules, it is safe to leave your home.
To the parents working from home, trying to balance their job alongside facilitating online learning for their children, I can sympathise. When I’m not able to stay home to assist my wife, I return home to see the drain on Kristin’s face after being a p3 and p1 teaching assistant throughout the day while trying to balance work.
And many of us, whether it be our colleagues or members of staff, are facing that and that is why we are working to make sure that we can get our schools open. These situations are heartbreaking, I recognise and understand that this is a very stressful time, and the surge of positive cases is causing anxiety. We encourage anyone who needs to talk to someone; please take advantage of the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline. It is available to help.
Dial 543-1111, and you will have access to a qualified, experienced mental health practitioner to talk to if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. This line will be open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm to 9 pm.
Bermuda, we are in a difficult situation. The division in our community will not help us move forward and will not save lives. What we need is unity and a sense of purpose. Our friends and family are dying, and our neighbours are in pain. Let us think about our community and our island.
It is vital that we do what is necessary to keep each other safe and bring this outbreak to an end. We can do it, and we will do it if we commit to doing it together.