25 March COVID-19 Update from Premier David Burt

25 March, 2020

Good afternoon.

I want to start this evening with a thank you.

There are many people who are working around the clock to help put processes in place that make a difference to the lives of Bermudians during this unprecedented global pandemic. We have come together and we are all working together. Bermuda, with the rest of the world, is facing a new reality. We are operating together like never before.

Our only references are hurricanes when most of the time, we know they are approaching and when they will hit. We check on family members, neighbours and friends to make sure we all have the necessities in place. When the storm passes, we get up, dust off and move forward together.

COVID-19 is like nothing any of us have seen in our lifetime. The work and preparations we are putting in place will carry us forward for weeks or even months. I honestly can’t say when this COVID-19 era will be over. What I can say, is that we all must do our part. If we listen to the health guidance that has been given, practice social distancing, and if we wash your hands, ad stay at home, we can flatten the curve and make sure our health services and our hospital is not overwhelmed.

We each have a part to play and I truly appreciate all the effort by everyone who is helping to make a difference.

Update from Health

There are additional testing results today. Since the last time I was at this podium, two days ago, there have been 30 addition tests results have been received.  Out of those 30, there was only one positive result person tested positive for COVID-19 and 29 results received were negative. Out of the 51 tests conducted locally only one person thus far has tested positive for COVID-19.

The one additional positive results is an imported case. The person travelled to Bermuda on March 11 on the British Airways flight 2233. For those of you who were on the March 11 flight your self-monitoring period ends today. If you have not been unwell during this period, there is nothing else for you to do. If you have respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, a mild fever, please contact your doctor. Explain that you were on the March 11 flight and you want medical guidance. Do not go to your doctor’s office or the hospital. Please call ahead.

It is important that COVID-19 testing is timely, accurate and prioritized. The decision to test is based on both a clinical assessment by a physician and an assessment of the likelihood of infection with COVID-19.

The test is most accurate for persons who are symptomatic. As such, the immediate priority is for persons with symptoms and a relevant travel history or persons with symptoms who are close contacts of a confirmed case. Additional priority are hospitalized patients with respiratory symptoms and symptomatic health care workers. All symptomatic persons should immediately self-isolate and should contact their physician for an assessment to determine if COVID-19 testing should be done.

It is important to remember, that is still flu season and there are other conditions with similar symptoms of fever and/or cough.  Our aim is to test those most at risk and obtain accurate results. Testing of asymptomatic persons could result in false negatives due to premature testing. In other words testing a person without symptoms and getting a negative results does not rule out the possibility that they have COVID-19 and will become ill in the next few days; thus it could lead to a false sense of security.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 aims to identify the persons who have had different levels of contact with each person diagnosed with COVID-19. Initial focus is on close contacts. Close contacts are those that have had face-to-face contact within one metre for more than 15 minutes or direct physical contact with the confirmed case.

Casual contacts, any contacts that have not had close contact, are also identified. Upon interviewing the person diagnosed with COVID-19, contacts are then advised based on their level of contact and whether or not they are experiencing any symptoms. All contacts should monitor their health and may be required to self-quarantine. 

It is absolutely vital for persons to comply with public health measures and to practice social distancing to prevent any possible community spread.

We must recognize there is a global shortage of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment that is needed to keep our healthcare professionals safe and healthy. You do not need a surgical face mask if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection.

  • You may wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
  • If you are isolated and caring for someone at home with mild confirmed or probable COVID-19 then seek your doctor’s advice for wearing Personal Protective Equipment.

Third Sector Work

Under the direction of the Minister of Public Works the government is working with third sector organizations to provide support to Bermuda’s most vulnerable.

Many volunteer organizations have long standing community outreach programs aimed at helping different vulnerable segments of Bermuda.

These organizations rely monetary donations, the time of volunteer and in-kind donations to provide these much needed services, which include:

  • Preparing meals:
  • Providing housing and shelter for the homeless;
  • Counselling, providing accommodation and places of safety victims of physical abuse and sexual assaults;
  • Counselling for mental health;
  • Drug use addiction services; and
  • Distribution of medicine.

With the onset of this global pandemic, all of these existing community outreach programs have been impacted. Our first step was to identify the impact and determine what is required to maintain the level of community outreach that has come to be expected from already vulnerable persons.

To complete this a small, knowledgeable group of volunteers are coordinating with all of the volunteer agencies and religious organizations on the island.

At present we know that the following is being provided to the various vulnerable groups:

  • 3,320 prepared meals being delivered each week by 10 different community organizations
  • 44 persons being housed each night by 2 organizations:
  • 665 physical and mental health counselling sessions per month by 7 organizations
  • Two organizations provide drug use and addiction counselling services
  • One organization providing safety advice to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse
  • Five organizations distributing medicine to 1,175 people.

Once these community outreach programs have been stabilized, the next step is to understand what it will take to amplify these services by each of the voluntary organization.

The Ministry of Public Works will join this effort by providing personnel and transport resources to deliver these services in an efficient, timely and safe manner.

I would like to recognize the work of all of our community organisations and I would like to recognize Ms. Myra Virgil who is here from the Bermuda Community Foundation who have been instrumental in assisting with these particular efforts. Thank you.

EMO and National Security

As I have said and will continue to say. The self-quarantine measures that have been put in place are to protect everyone in Bermuda. Therefore, if you have been told to self-quarantine, you must do it.

The newly implemented Community Advisory Points resulted in delays yesterday. But as I indicated, we believe that the situation can be greatly reduced if people who have no real reason to be on the roads would simply remain at home.

The Royal Bermuda Regiment and the Bermuda Police Service will continue to carry out checks at the Community Advisory Points. We believe that these checks are having the desired effect, in keeping people at home.

Increasing Communications

The Department of Communications continues to look for ways to get information about COVID-19 to the public.

Starting today for two hours each day 12pm – 1pm and 5pm – 6pm - Monday to Friday, there will be live content on the Emergency Broadcast station – 100.1.

The Government television station CITV currently covers all press conferences live and provides COVID-19 updates six times a day for one hour. All government press conferences are broadcast on the various cable providers’

 local channels. You can also watch the press conferences live on CITV, Facebook, YouTube, and gov.bm. The Communications team is working to make sure every demographic in Bermuda has access to the information provided by Government.

Before I close to take your questions. Yesterday I had mentioned the issue of employers that are requiring their staff to work at their offices when they have the capabilities to work from home. I advised that I would be asking the Attorney-General to come up with additional regulations which will compel employers to allow their employees to work from home if there is no reason for them to be in their offices.

Those regulations have not yet been completed so I will be giving a further update on those particular matters tomorrow. However, I will urge all employers, before the Government takes the heavy handed approach, if your staff can work from home, let them work from home. This is not a time to joke, this is not a time to play. We have seen many of our fellow overseas territories have had to enact stricter controls due to the fact that their corporate communities were not cooperating.

Before this press conference, I spoke to the Premier of the Cayman Islands and also the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Island who indicated that because their corporate partners were not acting in the way that they should they have had to take stricter measures.

I sincerely do not expect or desire to take those stricter measures here, but if we do not have the cooperation of all of those persons in Bermuda then we will have an issue. The International Business sector has certainly taken the lead and I will expect the local business sector to follow. So for those of you employers who are requiring your staff, who are non-essential, to come into the offices, I strongly suggest that you send communications to them today to ensure that they are able to work from home.

We all must do our part and the Government does not want to do anything that it does not have to do but we will take action to make sure that we can contain the spread of this virus so that it does not overwhelm our population as it has many countries around the world.

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