COVID-19 Update Premier’s Remarks 6 April 2021

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Good evening Bermuda.

I begin by offering my deepest condolences on behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda to the families of the two people who, as announced by the Minister of Health over the weekend, are the latest in our community to have succumbed to the coronavirus. 

This is a harsh reminder that this virus can be fatal, and that we must do all that we can to protect ourselves and one another.

Beginning tonight our press conference format will change slightly. We will aim to give shorter statements, while highlighting the most important information to the public in regards to COVID-19.

Tonight I am joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson who will provide us with an update on the latest COVID-19 test results, and vaccination statistics.

Following the Minister, I will review our current status and the factors the government is taking into account when deciding whether or not more measures are required, and I will provide a brief update regarding schools on behalf of the Minister of Education who will join us at the end of the remarks to answer questions from the media. Members of the Media should note that the Minister of Education will be giving a full press conference tomorrow at 5:30PM. 

We are joined by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ayo Oyinloye who can answer any medical questions from the media.

We are also grateful to have the Bermuda Hospital Board’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Wesley Miller, who can answer any questions regarding the Hospital.

First we will hear from the Minister of Health…

Thank you Minister.

Again I thank you and your team at the Ministry of Health and all of the women & men on the frontlines working hard to help us manage this current outbreak.

Bermuda, we are at a critical stage in our battle against the coronavirus. We have seen active cases continue to rise, and with that an increase in hospitalizations and two more lives lost to this virus. At the same time we are poised to further expand our vaccination programme. 

Though we acted to mitigate further spread, we are dealing with a highly transmissible variant that has transmitted rapidly prior to the implementation of the latest restrictions put in place last week. 

We have learned that we do not see the full impact of an outbreak in the community until about 2-3 weeks later, which is the point at which we see increased hospitalisations. This is where we are currently. In the same measure, when restrictions are implemented we are not likely to see their true mitigation effect until at least 2 weeks after they were first introduced. 

The Government is looking closely to see if the measures we have taken are having their expected effect in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and moving us to a place of a reduction of cases. We have seen evidence from previous outbreaks that these measures do work. And we have observed subtle indications that they are beginning to take effect in this current outbreak.

The 7 day average of our positivity rate of testing which saw sustained increases peaked on April 2nd, but that trend can change quickly as we saw higher positivity rates today of 3.8% which is above the 7 day average. 

Our 7 day average of the Real Time Reproductive number has also started declining, from a peak of 2.47 on March 23rd, now down today to 1.26. The fact is, that is still to high, that means that the virus is still spreading in the community, and that is not a position of where we want to be. 

What this means is that it appears the mitigations put in place are having their intended effect, however the situation remains delicate and can change quickly. 

Now as much as ever is a time for caution, cooperation and continued vigilance. 

 If we do see a continuing trend of decreasing new cases, decrease in the positivity rates for testing, and a reduction in the R number, then it will confirm what we are doing now is working and therefore we must continue on this path. 

The Government is focussed on making decisions based upon the data. 

Some have asked if further restrictions are imminent. In response I say that the Government is determined to balance public health with safe and continued economic activity. We recognize that poverty is also a public health crisis in our world today, and that the pandemic has caused financial strain, increased anxiety and stress. 

With this in mind we have no desire to increase restrictions, but as the Government, we must make the decisions that are necessary and not the ones that are convenient. If we begin to see an upward trend in case numbers and positivity rates, further measures will be implemented. 

The Cabinet will meet next week to consider the latest data, to see where we are and will make announcements next week of any changes to not only, the restrictions in place but also differing measures that will be implemented at our borders. 

I will now speak briefly about Education.

The Ministry of Health regulations currently in place apply to all public and private schools. There is no expectation that this will change next week, therefore, to ensure there is no disruption to learning and services, all public and private schools will transition to remote learning starting on Monday, April 12th, 2021 until at least Friday, April 23rd, 2021. The Minister of Education will provide a full update during a press conference tomorrow at 5:30pm 

We can avoid having to go further with restrictions if we all do our part. In addition to adhering to all regulations, join the 22,651 people who have downloaded the WeHealth app to assist our Contact Tracers and help to end this outbreak sooner.

Continuing to increase our vaccination numbers is essential in our desire to bring normality back. 

As the Minister of Health announced we have now administered 42,038 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as of yesterday. Out of that total 46% of our eligible population has received at least one dose, equating to 38% of our total population. 34% of our eligible population has received both doses of the vaccine, which equates to 29% of our total population.

I thank all of those who have been vaccinated, and all those who have registered and are awaiting their appointments. You have helped us to progress, but we still have work to do. If you have not already done so, please register and help Bermuda move closer to its goal of herd immunity with 70% of the population vaccinated and protected. 

As I close, I know that this is a difficult time for many individuals, and businesses. For those who cannot currently work due to business closures or mandatory quarantine the Government is committed to supporting you through the unemployment benefit which you can apply for at: uba.gov.bm. For businesses affected by mandatory closures, if you have not already done so, you can apply for grants through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation at: bedc.bm. There is assistance available to your business. 

Also in Cabinet today, the matter of Parents unable to work due to the fact of schools being closed was addressed. That hardship isn’t lost on us, we are working on a solution and will look to discuss that more. 

I also understand that there are many who are struggling emotionally, whether through stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness. For those persons, the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline is now open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm to 9pm. If you or anyone you know requires extra emotional support, please call 543-1111.

To anyone who is going through a difficult time, please do not suffer in silence. There are people who are here to listen, and who want to help you if you are in need.

Useful information on how to cope with stress, as well as a list of psychologists you can book a private appointment with can also be found on the Bermuda Psychology Association’s website:Bermudapsychology.com

As a reminder, to get accurate, reliable and timely information please subscribe to the Government’s WhatsApp service. 

Add the phone number 504 6045 to your contacts and send us a simple message saying hi and you will receive messages from the Government of Bermuda. That number again is 504 6045, and you will receive updates from the Government of Bermuda.

Additionally, you can get Government updates by downloading the Treefrog app. IT is available at the Apple store, or in Google Play, in the search bar just type Treefrog Bermuda, and download that free app today. 

My colleagues and I are now happy to take questions from the media.

 

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