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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 [Dec 30] to update the public on Covid-19.

Update 6.58pm: The press conference has concluded, and we will post the full statements as soon as we receive them, as as a brief summary for now, the Minister confirmed 7 new cases. She also reminded us all not to gather in large groups and that the curfew will be in effect for New Year’s Eve, and also added that preparation is underway to receive the first batch of vaccines.

The Deputy Premier said that 17,500 people have downloaded the WeHealth Bermuda app so far, and urged everyone to download it, and he also reiterated the plans for Gombey performances on New Year’s Day, being done in small groups, with spectators must wearing masks and social distancing.

Update 7.35pm: Minister Renee Ming’s full statement follows below:

Good evening Bermuda,

This evening, I will address occurrences during the Christmas holiday and emphasize our need to continue to act responsibly during the looming New Year’s celebrations.

First, I wish to thank all of Bermuda for making responsible decisions and taking the necessary precautions to protect them and their families. Generally, we had a relatively peaceful holiday period.

This is a testament to our residents who adhered to the health guidelines and advisories which encouraged people to celebrate in small bubbles this holiday season.

It is with much dismay and sadness on my part, to have received reports of a shooting incident on Monday night. I am sure that most of Bermuda shares in this sentiment.

As in the past, I again condemn the actions of the lawless few who seek to wreak havoc in our neighbourhoods and communities.

Monday night’s incident was particularly awful, as from many accounts it put innocent bystanders in harm’s way, with bullets indiscriminately hitting people’s homes.

Thankfully the young man who was hurt is not facing life threatening injuries, however we cannot let incidences like this become the norm.

So, I’m urging anyone with any information to please cooperate with the Police and help us stamp out all forms of violence and anti-social behavior – particularly as we embark upon a new year.

Also in keeping with public safety, Bermuda as a reminder, the curfew is still in effect until January 4.

So between 11.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m., no one should be on our roads, or out and about unless you have an exemption.

As you would have seen, the Bermuda Police Service issued a public reminder that if you intend to be on the roads in the evening hours, please plan ahead by ensuring you have enough time to get home before the 11.00 p.m. curfew.

Over last weekend’s holiday period, the BPS’s COVID Compliance Team in partnership with the Bermuda Reserve Police monitored our curfew checkpoints.

These checks resulted in 15 persons being found in breach of the curfew. These individuals have subsequently been reported for summons.

Tomorrow and into the weekend, the BPS will be out on the roads enforcing the curfew as well as speed limits to ensure the safety of the motoring public.

They will also be conducting road sobriety checks, so again, we are encouraging you to make responsible decisions over the holiday period.

At the Department of Corrections, in an effort to continue to protect our Corrections Officers, staff and inmates, all visits by members of the public to our facilities remain suspended. We will assess the reinstatement of visitation next month.

As you will have heard the Acting Premier say, an agreement has been reached with our five active Gombey Troupes so that they can have modified performances on New Year’s Day.

The Ministry of National Security assisted in ensuring that specific guidelines were put in place so that these performances can occur.

I think it’s important to reiterate the guidelines:

  • Do not follow the troupes.
  • Wear a mask at all times.
  • Keep 12 feet away from performers.
  • Keep six [6] feet away from other spectators – unless you’re members of the same household; AND
  • Do not gather in crowds.

Ideally we would hope you enjoy the gombey performances from your own home.

Other than the Gombey performances, no large events have been approved for the holiday weekend. Remember group gatherings are still limited to a maximum of 10 people per group.

Lastly, as we embark upon a new year, I wish to close this one out by extending my humble thanks and appreciation to all our Officers in the various Departments that comprise the Ministry of National Security.

I’m referring to Officers in the Bermuda Police Service, the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service, the Department of Corrections, the Royal Bermuda Regiment, the Disaster Risk Reduction Mitigation Unit, the Customs Department and the Gang Violence Reduction Team, the Cybersecurity Section, and the support staff at the Ministry Headquarters; including one team member who demonstrated strong leadership and oversight to the team at the Airport who have the responsibility for placing the quarantine bracelets on residents and visitors to Bermuda.

Throughout this year, these individuals, who, under strained conditions, adverse situations and testing moments, ensured that our emergency services and agencies operated seamlessly.

Through a pandemic, through hurricanes, through back to back vehicle fires, and most recently an island-wide blackout, the men and women in these departments have stood firm for the people of Bermuda.

There were some extraordinary examples of courage.

I’m referring to Sgt. Damir Armstrong and Corporal Nathan Frick, the two Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers who were recently awarded Commander-in-Chief Commendations for their acts of bravery in the line of duty.

We also acknowledge our team of Emergency Medical Dispatchers.

Their empathy and clarity when responding to emergency fire and medical calls to assist people who are undergoing traumatic experiences must be applauded.

They do it often under stressful circumstances, and I publicly recognize their extraordinary efforts during this most difficult year.

And a special thanks to our Gang Violence Reduction Team who have visited those families, neighbourhoods and communities that have been devastated by gun and knife violence this year. They have provided support and guidance and have helped calm some of the most tenuous situations.

These are just a few examples of the countless acts of sacrifice and commitment that we have witnessed this year. I truly wish I could highlight them all.

But to all of you on the frontlines, know that we are heartened by your service.

I wish to thank all of your families for also sacrificing your absence away from your homes to ensure that our island remained safe.

I am thankful to each Head of Department in the Ministry for ensuring that they have robust strategies in place to reduce the impact of the pandemic on the workforce.

They have all implemented measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and as necessary, have worked diligently with the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit to manage Covid-19 exposure risk and to ensure that all of their procedures and policies are in line with the guidance provided by the Ministry of Health.

I know the people of Bermuda join me this evening in collectively thanking you for continuing to safeguard and protect us under the unprecedented circumstances of 2020.

On behalf of the Ministry of National Security, thank you for your stellar service and I wish you and your families a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Update 8.12pm: Minister Kim Wilson’s full statement follows below:

Good Afternoon Bermuda,

I hope you all managed to find your own way to make Christmas feel special this year.

This weekend I was saddened to confirm that Bermuda had experienced our tenth COVID-19-related death.

I know that the loss of another ‘one of our own’ to COVID-19 came as devastating news to our entire community over the Holiday Weekend, and our hearts go out to the loved ones of the deceased during this extremely difficult time.

I will now provide today’s daily statistics…
There were 715 test results received by the Ministry of Health since the last update and 7 were positive for COVID-19.

Four of the new cases are classified as local transmission with known contact/source as associated with known cases.The remaining new cases are classified as under investigation. These cases are among residents with no currently identified links to other known cases or history of travel in the past 14 days.

Additionally, since the last update, 9 cases have recovered.

Bermuda now has 602 total confirmed positive cases. Their status is as follows:
There are 162 active cases, of which –

  • 158 are under public health monitoring and
  • 4 are hospitalized with none in critical care;
  • a total of 430 have recovered, and
  • the total deceased remains at 10.

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 38 years [median: 36 years] and the age range is less than 5 years [age group: 1-4 years] to greater than 80 years [age group: 80-100 years].

To protect privacy and confidentiality, age information will not be provided on the hospitalized cases [where there is less than 5 hospitalized cases].

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:

  • 157 are Imported
  • 361 are classified as local transmission of which:
  • 334 are Local transmission with known contact/source and
  • 27 are Local transmission with an unknown contact/source
  • 84 are Under Investigation

As investigations proceed, transmission categories may change. Today’s update has 2 cases moving from under investigation to local transmission with known contact/source and 1 case 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 [0.55] and Bermuda’s current country status is “Clusters of Cases”.

With New Year’s Eve approaching, I want to remind everyone of the 11pm curfew, which will still be in place tomorrow night. For many of us, this will mean celebrating in a much different way this year. Some of you may choose to celebrate in your own home at midnight with those in your household… And some of you may even pick another time zone in which to celebrate if you wish to bring in 2021 with others…but, please, remember the rules – no gatherings of more than 10 people. Now is NOT the time to socialize in large groups with people from multiple households.

As I said last week, the Ministry’s contact tracing investigations strongly suggest that it is social mixing or gatherings of people that are most likely to produce local transmission and positive cases.

Remember that over the course of only one weekend in November, there were three gatherings of people at two venues that resulted in more than 80 people testing positive for COVID-19 and more than 550 being quarantined. One weekend.

We cannot be irresponsible about COVID-19 – a virus that is so easily transmissible. I would again urge you all to stop and think about your loved ones before you engage in any potentially risky health behaviours this New Year’s Eve… especially consider our elderly family members and the medically vulnerable. Our vulnerable populations require all the protection we can possibly give them by shielding them from this virus.

Also, can I just say, that if you live with a senior or medically vulnerable person in your home, and they stay in while you constantly come and go – mixing with lots of people outside of the home – you are NOT shielding them. Yes, they may be staying in, but you are bringing the outside world to them. Your actions are their actions. Your germs are their germs.

As I have said before, it’s so important for young adults to realize that even healthy people in their 20s and 30s can catch the coronavirus, spread it to others, and suffer from severe illness resulting in hospitalization, lasting health problems or even death.

Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.

I want to remind members of the public about current visiting restrictions at the hospital which were put in place from Wednesday 23 December…

Long term care residents and isolation patients on any ward will no longer receive visitors, while acute and critical care patients will be able to have one designated person visit for one hour. The Gosling [Children’s] ward will allow limited visits by parents only, and Maternity Ward visiting will stay the same as before, with one designated support person able to attend the birth and visit once a day if the mother stays longer than 24 hours.

I now want to give a quick update regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine…

Preparations are currently underway for the receipt of the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine in the New Year. This will include just over 9,000 doses. We are working to ensure that it is accessible to everyone who needs it first; among those to receive the first doses will be healthcare workers, essential workers, care home residents and the medically vulnerable.

The Ministry of Health has been closely monitoring the roll-out of the vaccine across the United Kingdom – noting, in particular, any side-effects experienced by recipients. The common side effects are flu like symptoms including fever, headache and body or muscle pain.

Questions about pre-existing conditions and allergies are asked prior to the vaccine being administered but on rare occasions it happens that a person might not be aware of the severe allergies they might have. Medical staff who administer the vaccine are equipped with the knowledge and equipment to observe and respond appropriately.

We are currently in the process of locating additional sites across Bermuda from which to administer the vaccine, although, in the first instance, a central vaccination facility is being planned. Rest homes will be serviced by a mobile team which administers the vaccine. It is key to note the vaccine will be available strictly by appointment only.

Before I close today, I wish to remind travellers that those returning to the island without a pre-arrival test will have an electronic monitoring bracelet fitted and pay $300 fee.

Additionally, a further reminder regrading travel – the Ministry has put 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.

I will make a comment about quarantine, generally…
When the Ministry directs you to quarantine for a specific period, you are told the date that you will be booked for another test so that Public Health Officers can make a decision as to whether you are ready to be released from quarantine. For example, if the quarantine is for 14 days, you will be booked for a follow up test on day 14. However, we know some people are booking their own test on day 3 or 5 or 8 in the hope that a negative result will release them from quarantine more quickly. It won’t. There is no point booking your own test – or for an employer to demand that you do so – because the quarantine period is determined by the Ministry, and the decision to release someone from quarantine is made by the Ministry. It is also extremely irresponsible to move about the island, going to different test sites or your doctor’s office, when you could be positive for COVID-19. Stay put.

In closing, I would like to remind the public about the availability of the Community Mental Wellbeing Hotline – 543-1111. The line is open Monday to Saturday, 5-9pm.

Thank You.

Update 9.24pm: Acting Premier Walter Roban’s full statement follows below:

Good afternoon everyone and good afternoon to members of the media who are here for today’s press conference.

I am Walter Roban the Acting Premier, sitting in for the Premier David Burt who is currently taking a well-deserved break.

I am joined today by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson and the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming.

Before I turn over the presentation to Minister Wilson, I would like to start this press conference by offering the sincere condolences on behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda to the family who unfortunately lost an important member of their family this past week as a result of the coronavirus. I know we all were saddened to hear of this when it happened. No deaths from the virus since May. We all were moved by the announcement that someone had passed.

The tenth person to die as a result of the coronavirus here in Bermuda.

The reality is that the pandemic is still with us and there was a family, as a result, who was left with an empty chair over the holiday. We all understand, as a result of the past three to four weeks, that this virus is still with us. We must remain vigilant if we are to fight and defeat it.

I will now turn over the presentation to Minister Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health. Minister.

Thank you Minister Wilson. I would like to personally thank Minister Wilson and the team under her leadership for all their outstanding work. It is clear over recent weeks they have been under considerable amount of pressure. You have all worked very long hours. Minister Wilson and her team deserve this country’s gratitude. They certainly get it from myself and they deserve it from every resident of this island.

I now ask Minister Ming to make her presentation.

Thank you Minister Ming.

I join Minister Ming in condemning the acts of violence that took place on our streets on Monday night. I encourage those who have information about this incident and any other gun related incidents to contact the Bermuda Police Service. If you know something, you should say something.

I would also like to express my appreciation to Minister Ming and the team under her at the Ministry of National Security for all their work, especially the departments that Minister Ming referenced tonight. They have all, along with the Ministry of Health team, done service beyond their call. And certainly the team and all the departments and person in the Ministry of National Security have been working 24 hours to keep Bermuda safe. So I wish to thank them on behalf of all of us.

This Christmas was different for most of us in Bermuda. There were smaller gatherings and for some families, there were no gatherings at all. Many stayed in their social bubbles and exercised extreme care while moving around over the Christmas holiday weekend.

I also heard some heartwarming stories of families who found interesting and new ways to share the Christmas spirit using technology. There were Zoom and Skype calls. What’sApp is a tool that keeps many connected. To everyone who worked to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, thank you.

While our Christmas celebrations this year may not have been how we have traditionally spent the holidays, there is one tradition that we have been able to modify in order for it to take place. Yesterday I issued a joint press release with the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, Senator the Hon. Dr. Ernest Peets, giving the guidelines of how and where the Gombeys will perform on New Year’s Day.

I extend a sincere thank you to all Gombey troupes who worked with Government agencies to find a solution that will allow them to perform safely for the public. The guidelines include the troupes performing between noon and 10pm, in groups no larger than 10, and no spectators will be allowed within 12 feet of the performers.

Spectators must wear masks and keep six feet apart from each other.  This will be enforced by marshals. The guidelines for observing the Gombeys can be found on coronavirus.gov.bm.

I extend my appreciation to everyone who worked hard to make this possible. Gombeys are an important part of Bermuda’s heritage and I am extremely pleased that we can start the new year by observing and celebrating this aspect of our culture.

I will now talk about help that is available to those who are not working due to no fault of their own and what this government is doing to support them. In recent weeks, the Ministry of Finance has paid $234,000 to those who are not working and others who have been directed to quarantine.

The first group are verified employees of bars, night clubs and members clubs that have had to close due to current COVID-19 restrictions. The total benefit for these people is $500 a week for the period that these restrictions are in place.

The spirit of this benefit is to compensate individuals who work at these establishments and are unable to earn their ordinary salary.

The initial benefit of four weeks or $2,000 has been paid to individuals who completed and submitted the application, this included verification from their employer. The Government may extend the benefit further, if needed.

Those who have submitted their application and not received information or payment should contact their employer to make sure they complete the necessary documentation.

So far 74 people have been paid a total of $148,000.

The other group that has been approved for financial support are individuals who have been directed into mandatory quarantine or isolation by the Ministry of Health. These individuals who are unable to earn their ordinary wage can apply for this benefit.

Starting on 18 December, these individuals have been paid biweekly. The benefit payout will be calculated at 60% of an individual’s remuneration with a maximum of $500 per week. 116 applications have been approved and a total of $86,600 has been paid.

I will now move to my ministry, Home Affairs where fraudulent activity has been brought to the attention of the Office of Consumer Affairs. There are some members of the public who are going into retail establishments and saying they are Consumer Affairs Enforcement Officers in order to deceive retailers.  The offenders operate in small groups to intimidate retail staff. This is an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1999 and the offender is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for six months.

Consumer Affairs Enforcement Officers are issued with badges and appropriate ID. If you are approached by someone claiming to be from Consumer Affairs, immediately ask for identification to verify the person is who they say they are.

If the person does not provide their badge and ID, immediately contact the Bermuda Police Service and provide a physical description. If you know the person, give their name to the Police as well.

If you find that you have been a victim of this fraudulent behavior please file a complaint immediately with the Office of Consumer Affairs. Call 297-7627 so they can investigate and prosecute the offenders.

I will now discuss the WeHealth Bermuda app.

The app was launched on 11 December. In the almost three weeks since the launch, nearly 17,500 people have downloaded the app. If you don’t already have the app, you can download it from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. You can find it by searching for WeHealth Bermuda.

It is free.

The WeHealth Bermuda app is designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by notifying app users of potential exposure to COVID-19. It is one of the most sophisticated apps available anywhere in the world for helping to control and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

When smartphones that have the WeHealth Bermuda app installed, enable Bluetooth and Exposure Notifications, are near each other, the app uses anonymous Bluetooth signals to determine how close together the devices were, and for how long.

Once a person receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, and if they have the app on their phone, they will be issued with a randomized verification code by The Ministry of Health. He/she will enter the verification code into the WeHealth Bermuda app which will automatically and anonymously notify other app users that an infected person was within close proximity, even if they don’t know that person.

Because the WeHealth Bermuda app does not use or collect personal information, these notifications will be completely anonymous.

The app is free and once you download and install it on your smartphone, there’s nothing else you need to do. The app will run in the background and alert you to any exposure risks.

To help contain the spread of the coronavirus, wear a mask, wash and sanitize your hands, physically distance and download the WeHealth Bermuda app.

Encourage your friends, family and coworkers to download the app, too.

If you have questions about WeHealth Bermuda, visit www.gov.bm/wehealth or email covidapps@gov.bm.

In closing, I must remind everyone of the restrictions that remain in place over New Year’s Eve. The 11pm – 5am curfew remains in effect. There can’t be gatherings of more than ten people and you are strongly encouraged to remain in your social bubbles and no more than three households coming together.

As with Christmas and other events this year, we will find new ways to bring in 2021. Many of us will be in our homes, celebrating with family and friends near and far using the technology that is available to us.

2020 has been a year we will all remember. We have had to change our behaviour, modify our work and school schedules and routines, we have learned to wear masks, clean our hands regularly and physically distance. Throughout this, we have recognized what is truly important in life and hopefully grown closer to those we love.

There are many in our community who may need extra support emotionally. We have all experienced high levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. If you need someone to talk with, the Bermuda Psychology Association continue to support the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline. The phone number is 543-1111. I’ll repeat it … 543 1111. The line will be operated Monday to Saturday, from 5pm – 9pm.

Please call if you need someone to talk with. The hotline receives calls from people who are:

  • feeling anxious;
  • caregivers caring and coping with family members with Dementia;
  • seniors who may feel isolated;
  • having a hard time with the isolation;
  • caring for their loved ones and just want to chat.

There is no charge for those who call. Funding is made possible by the Bermuda Foundation with support from the Health Innovation Fund.

We have worked together as a community to understand this pandemic and the role we each play in help to stop the spread.

I must thank everyone, especially Bermuda’s essential and healthcare workers, public officers, helping agencies, and charities for their hard work this year. Additionally, there are many who do not fit into these categories who must also be recognized.

Our strength was tested in ways unimaginable in 2020. We bent but did not break. We have proven that we are creative, resilient and determined. We identified new ways to provide products and services and we built on the successes that allowed us to survive alone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We helped and supported each other.

On the eve of a new year, I again thank everyone who has made a difference.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2021. Happy New Year Bermuda.