Good afternoon Bermuda.
Thank you for once again letting us into your homes for today’s update on COVID-19 in Bermuda and the work being done to safely reopen our economy and get people back to work so they can provide for their families.
This evening we will hear from the Ministers of Health, Finance and Education. We also have Dr. Michael Ashton, Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Infectious Disease Specialist and we are joined also by the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne Caines and also the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball, in case there are any questions.
Tomorrow we officially begin Phase 2, with expansion of services. As a reminder, this phase of safely getting back to work includes:
- Retail stores will be open for in-store customers and will follow the same alphabetical shopping days in place for grocery stores;
- Beauty salons and barbers will be open under strict Public Health requirements;
- Restaurants will be open for outdoor dining only;
- Restaurants, and licensed bars with outdoor facilities will only be permitted to open with the approval of the Ministry of Health and the Environmental Health team;
- Outdoor weddings and funerals will be permitted, with a maximum of 20 persons in attendance, subject to the proper wearing of masks and appropriate physical distancing. These two services are the only times where more than ten persons can be gathered. Apart from that, the restrictions for gatherings of ten in public and private remains.
- Requirements for those boating to be from the same household have been removed. But still only a maximum of 10 people will be allowed on any vessel, subject to appropriate physical distancing. Additionally, we have determined that the same provisions will be applied to allow commercial or charter boat operations. A maximum of 10 persons, including crew, subject to appropriate physical distance. Tying to another boat is still prohibited, and boats are still required to be off the water by 7pm.
- Playgrounds will be open, and licensed daycare centers can apply to the Minister of Health to, again, open their doors for childcare.
- The use of outdoor gym equipment in our public parks, is now to be permitted with the public reminded to sanitize the equipment, prior to use.
- Remote working and working from home is still required, where reasonably practical.
- Buses have begun operating on a limited schedule, and all businesses are still required or permitted to operate between 7am and 9pm, as the 10pm to 6am curfew will remain in effect.
Now, the Minister of Health will provide the latest update on COVID-19 and Dr Ashton will provide an update on the convalescent plasma at the Bermuda Hospital's Board, and also answer any related hospital questions.
THE MINISTER OF HEALTH READS HER REMARKS
Thank you Dr. Ashton and thank you Minister of Health.
There are many who are worried about the future of what the economy may hold. The Minister of Finance has been working diligently to ensure that we'll be able to navigate the difficult economic waters ahead. I will now ask the Minister of Finance to update Bermuda on his continued efforts.
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE READS HIS REMARKS.
Thank you, Minister Dickinson.
Many have questions about the future of the school year, and the impact this virus has had on Public Education. The Minister of Education will now provide an update on what Phase 2, means for Education, Minister.
THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION READS HIS REMARKS.
Thank you Minister of Education.
For each of the Ministers here, I extend a sincere thank you, to you and your respective teams of hard working Public Officers in your individual Ministries.
On Friday, the House of Assembly will be conducting a virtual meeting, enabling the people's business to continue in spite of COVID-19, and in accordance with physical distancing regulations. As promised, we will be tabling a resolution to require a one year reduction in Ministers and Member’s salaries. This Government is leading by example, and we're determined to do our part to reduce the cost of Government, so that we can deliver on our mandate of providing programmes that support our people. I'm grateful to the support of my parliamentary colleagues and the Progressive Labour Party, and also I've consulted, as I said on Monday, with the Opposition.
This is especially important in these times, and in the principle of those who have more being asked to do more starts with us in leadership. Therefore, at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting Ministers of the Government elected to take a 15% reduction on their ministerial salaries. The Government has been clear throughout that we will not ask Public Officers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.
This Friday the House will debate:
The Development and Planning (Draft Bermuda Plan 2018 Extension) Act 2020, which will enable consultation on the Bermuda Plan to be extended in response to the disruption caused to the original process by the pandemic; and
Extension to Regulations for Phase 2 to 30th June. To be clear, there is no hard or fast date for the end of Phase 2. However this extension allows the government the flexibility to respond effectively to any changes related to COVID-19. This timeline will also correspond to the end of the State of Emergency on 30 June.
Also on Friday, there'll be a number of bills tabled in the House of Assembly. The Summary Offences Amendment Act, to provide changes to curfew regulations. The Emergency Powers Amendment Act and Amendments to the Statutory Instruments Act, which will ensure that in future declarations of a State of Emergency, any particular item of Emergency Regulations will be tabled in the House of Assembly for Parliamentary scrutiny.
The Cost of Living Commission Amendment Act, which will require groceries and other stores to transmit pricing information, as requested by the Minister responsible for Consumer Affairs, electronically to the Government for publishing and sharing.
The Merchant Shipping Amendment Act.
Bills to suspend pension contributions in the private sector for one year, and suspend mandatory Social Insurance Contributions for one year, as was mentioned by the Minister of Finance in his statement.
And, there will also be a Bill introduced to suspend pension contributions from Ministers and Members of the Legislature. All of those bills will be debated in two weeks.
To listen to the proceedings of the House of Assembly, you're welcome to go to parliament.bm. You can listen on radio at 105.1 or you're welcome to listen in at bernews.com.
The Government of Bermuda continues discussions with airlines and charter companies to arrange flights home for Bermuda residents. If you are a person who is ordinarily resident in Bermuda and you are still seeking to return home, please complete the Returning Bermuda Residents Home form which can be found on coronavirus.gov.bm. Click on COVID-19 forms. While we work to arrange flights from many destinations including the Caribbean, it is important to know the number of residents who would take a flight to Bermuda if one was available.
I know that there are many persons in Canada who are looking to return home as well, but I was pleased to know that we could repatriate five Bermudians who were stranded in Canada on a private jet flight which came in earlier this week.
If you have previously listed your interest with the Ministry of Tourism and Transport or the Airport Authority, you do not need to complete this form again as they have your contact details already.
Before I move on to my closing. Just a quick update from the Southside testing facility. They will be taking their testing on the road. There will be a West End pop up drive-through testing site, located at the Warwick Academy, this Friday from 4pm to 7pm. This is by appointment only, and there will be no walk-ins for those of you in the west end. So, if this trial is successful, there will be more pop up testing facilities throughout the country, so that people will not have to drive all the way to Southside and may be able to be tested inside of their communities.
Dr. Weldon advises that they can test up to 72 people, but bookings must be made online at coronavirus.gov.bm, and you can click the link at the very top that says Health Screening Registration to check the availability. When you go there please make sure that you click the Warwick Academy booking option.
I will conclude tonight’s briefing with a word of encouragement to our community, and a look ahead to what is expected from all of us and what is required to put more of our people safely back to work.
We have made remarkable progress in combating a global pandemic that no one could have prepared for and that many countries have simply struggled to manage. The effort that we have made; working together, leaning on each other, being there for each other has been not for days, not for weeks but for months.
As a people and as an island we have done exceedingly well. I remain hopeful that together with the rest of the world we have been changed by COVID-19, and this experience for the better and that the change within us lasts long after this pandemic has been relegated to the pages of history.
Now is the time for us to continue to work together. Continue to practice the Public Health measures which we have learned over the last few months.
We know physical distancing works. We know washing our hands works. We know limiting contact with others works. We must remain disciplined and continue to take responsibility for our actions that keep ourselves, our families and our community safe.
As we enter Phase 2 there will be greater retail opportunities together with the ability to eat out, visit licensed establishments and get the grooming that you may have been used to. Now is the time for us to think about how we can continue to keep each other safe.
Now is the time for us to hold each other accountable, and for us to make sure that we remain unified and focused. Now is the time for us to step into a new future with new opportunities and a new way of working in what will become our new normal for some time to come.
Many have asked me, why do we still have a curfew? Why are there so many restrictions? Why can't I shave my beard or get a wax? Why can't we raft up? Why does my boat have to be in at 7pm? Why are there so many limits on our freedom?
The reason is simple. We are not out of the woods yet. We are still under a State of Emergency and we must not reopen our economy too quickly. Trust and believe, I want life to return to normal, yesterday as well. But just as much as I want my beard trimmed tomorrow, because we want it does not mean that it is safe to do so.
We must continue to work to limit the spread of this virus and as we continue to build our capacity to combat this virus. So, this weekend, and starting tomorrow, again, now is not the time to tear it. It is still cool out time. Let's keep putting in work, so that we can move into Phase 3.
With the House of Assembly’s virtual session on Friday, there will be no Friday press conference. The next press conference will take place on Monday the 25 May, and we will move to two press conferences a week format, with the conferences taking place on Monday, and on Thursday.
In closing, I just have a few things to say. On Monday I neglected to wish a happy 89th birthday to Mr. Allan C. Frith. So Mr. Frith I want to wish you a happy belated 89th birthday. And I would like to say special happy 40th birthday to Mr. Ralph Gumbo Bean, Jr., Captain of High Pressure, FC.