Minister: Modifications Due To Increase In Cases

November 27, 2020 | 27 Comments

“As a result of the uptick in the incidence of positive cases, the Government is revisiting our Covid-19 directions with a view to making modifications,” Minister of Health Kim Wilson said in the House of Assembly today [Nov 27].

The Minister said, “Today I can report that Bermuda has five new confirmed positive cases of Covid-19. This means that we now have a total of 247 persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 27 active cases, all under public health monitoring, and none are hospitalized or in critical care. A total of 211 persons have recovered, and the total deceased remains at 9.

“It is extremely disappointing and, yes, unnerving that the number of positive cases continues to rise.

“In addition, we have two outbreaks, which are not linked, where there has been a sudden increase in the number of positive cases after a period of low prevalence. We find ourselves in the situation of having one or more persons becoming infected as a result of being a close contact with a positive case. These active cases are within well-defined clusters that, initially, at least, were not directly linked to imported cases.

“Testing, along with rigorous and unrelenting contact tracing, is vital in our fight against the novel coronavirus. In the past two days alone, we have tested close to 1500 people in a massive screening exercise to locate those with Covid-19, investigate their close contacts and issue quarantine instructions as necessary. This number include some 500 frontline service workers – and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the testing teams and restaurants for tackling this so quickly.

“These screening efforts will continue, with additional testing opportunities being made available, including drive through options.

“As a start, additional testing will be stood up this weekend, and the Ministry is expanding its testing opportunities next week. You can find the latest information on the testing pop-ups at coronavirus.gov.bm.

“As a result of the uptick in the incidence of positive cases, Mr Speaker, the Government is revisiting our Covid-19 directions with a view to making modifications.

“In recent weeks, I have begun to inform the public of changes to be made with respect to public health Regulations, Orders and Notices.

“First, and in view of the extra vulnerability of our seniors, the Ministry announced it will be restricting care home visiting. Only essential visitors will be allowed inside the home, although restricted outdoor visiting will be permitted. This will impact the availability of activities in these homes, including daycare. This restriction on care home visitation begins today.

“Second, a number of changes are being made with respect our traveller requirements and protocols, pursuant to the Quarantine [COVID-19] [No. 3] Order 2020.

“The pre-travel test, which visitors are required to have, and residents are strongly encouraged to get, must be taken no more than five days prior to arrival in Bermuda, and the negative result uploaded to the Travel Authorisation webpage. Right now, the period for that test is no more than seven days before departing.

“The Order also provides for returning residents to be fit with an electronic monitoring device. This bracelet works with an app to be downloaded onto your phone. For those being fit with the bracelet, there will be an additional $30 charge and for those needing to rent a mobile device, there will be a charge of $50. These additional charges simply cover costs.

“Amendments to the legislation are being made now, and the Travel Authorisation webpage is in the process of being updated. We anticipate the updates will be in place no later than Friday, 4 December.

“Let me be clear: this Government does not want to resort to business closures, nightime curfews or reinstating shelter in place; but we are prepared to make the difficult decisions if it becomes necessary to do so. To prevent this from happening, it is important that the entire community follows the rules.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker and Honourable Members,

As our Bermuda community now knows, our country status, as it pertains to COVID-19, has changed from “sporadic cases” to “clusters of cases”.

This has implications for how all of us live.

Today I can report that Bermuda has five new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

This means that we now have a total of 247 persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 27 active cases, all under public health monitoring, and none are hospitalized or in critical care. A total of 211 persons have recovered, and the total deceased remains at 9.

Bermuda had conducted one hundred and five thousand, three hundred and forty-seven [105,347] tests to date.

Two of the new cases are categorized as imported, and three are under active investigation.

It is extremely disappointing and, yes, unnerving that the number of positive cases continues to rise.

Mr Speaker, you may be wondering what “clusters of cases” means…

Until now, the cases of COVID-19 in Bermuda were imported and intermittent or sporadic. There was no clear sign of further, locally acquired transmission of the coronavirus. This ensured our ‘real time reproduction’ number average over the last seven days – that is, the average number of people who become infectious – was below 1.0 for several months. In this situation, our country status was “sporadic cases”.

However, some weeks ago the number of people testing positive began to increase and become more regular. This is largely as a result of the much higher prevalence of COVID-19 in the origin countries, and our gateway cities in particular. It has pushed our real time reproduction number over 1.0, to 1.22.

In addition, we have two outbreaks, which are not linked, where there has been a sudden increase in the number of positive cases after a period of low prevalence. We find ourselves in the situation of having one or more persons becoming infected as a result of being a close contact with a positive case. These active cases are within well-defined clusters that, initially, at least, were not directly linked to imported cases.

In these circumstances, Bermuda is now classified as having “clusters of cases” per the World Health Organisation.

To this mix we add five new cases for which contact tracing has begun.

Mr Speaker, testing, along with rigorous and unrelenting contact tracing, is vital in our fight against the novel coronavirus. In the past two days alone, we have tested close to 1500 people in a massive screening exercise to locate those with COVID-19, investigate their close contacts and issue quarantine instructions as necessary. This number include some 500 frontline service workers – and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the testing teams and restaurants for tackling this so quickly.

These screening efforts will continue, with additional testing opportunities being made available, including drive through options.

As a start, additional testing will be stood up this weekend, and the Ministry is expanding its testing opportunities next week. You can find the latest information on the testing pop-ups at coronavirus.gov.bm.

Mr Speaker, COVID-19 is a sneaky disease. A person can be infected without feeling or showing any symptoms which would indicate that person is sick. In this asymptomatic state, one person has the ability to infect many others, through the air, just in the course of going about their normal life activities – which is why wearing a face mask, maintaining proper physical distance and having good hand hygiene are so important.

For those who do begin to exhibit or feel some or any symptoms of having COVID-19 – fever, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache, congestion or runny nose, fatigue, muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat – the Ministry advises that you contact your GP in the first instance. If you live or work with someone who shows signs of having COVID-19, speak up! Let your relative/friend/co-worker know the next step is to contact their doctor, who will assess their symptoms.

Mr Speaker, it is important to state that when and if there is a need to quarantine, you will be informed by the Ministry of Health. We recognise that a number of establishments are making their own decisions to close when someone associated with the organisation is identified as either positive for COVID-19 or a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
This is not necessary.

If, based on the scientific evidence, and as a result of the contact tracing investigations, there is a need to quarantine groups of people connected with a particular company or business, you will be informed. Otherwise, the Ministry expects that establishments will continue to operate as they normally would.

To repeat: the Ministry will advise when quarantining is necessary.

Mr Speaker, I can assure Honourable Members that the Ministry of Health is not operating in a ‘business as usual’ manner. We have stepped up our screening, as I’ve just mentioned; and, we are working more closely than ever with GPs, communicating the urgent need to identify patients potentially infected with the coronavirus and upgrading the portal so that they can make appointments for their symptomatic patients immediately.

Mr Speaker, we know that ‘pandemic fatigue’ has set in. We all suffer from it. You might leave home without your face mask and think, “This one time, it doesn’t matter”. It does matter. Each and every time.

As a result of the uptick in the incidence of positive cases, Mr Speaker, the Government is revisiting our COVID-19 directions with a view to making modifications.

In recent weeks, I have begun to inform the public of changes to be made with respect to public health Regulations, Orders and Notices.

First, and in view of the extra vulnerability of our seniors, the Ministry announced it will be restricting care home visiting. Only essential visitors will be allowed inside the home, although restricted outdoor visiting will be permitted. This will impact the availability of activities in these homes, including daycare.

This restriction on care home visitation begins today.

Second, a number of changes are being made with respect our traveller requirements and protocols, pursuant to the Quarantine [COVID-19] [No. 3] Order 2020.

The pre-travel test, which visitors are required to have, and residents are strongly encouraged to get, must be taken no more than five days prior to arrival in Bermuda, and the negative result uploaded to the Travel Authorisation webpage. Right now, the period for that test is no more than seven days before departing. However, as the availability of pre-travel testing has improved, and the number of imported positive COVID-19 cases has increased, it is prudent to make this change at this time.
Mr Speaker, the Order also provides for returning residents to be fit with an electronic monitoring device. This bracelet works with an app to be downloaded onto your phone. For those being fit with the bracelet, there will be an additional $30 charge and for those needing to rent a mobile device, there will be a charge of $50. These additional charges simply cover costs.

Amendments to the legislation are being made now, and the Travel Authorisation webpage is in the process of being updated. We anticipate the updates will be in place no later than Friday, 4 December.

Mr Speaker, once landed, travellers are subject to ‘mobile quarantine’ restrictions, and these, too, are being reassessed.

The Ministry will provide clarity around what travellers can and cannot do between arriving on the island and receiving their Day 14 negative COVID-19 test result.

For example, currently, if you have both negative pre-arrival and arrival tests, you are able to move around the island and obtain necessary provisions like groceries. However, you should work remotely, rather than go into your workplace and interact with colleagues.

The instructions for travellers for their first 14 days on island will cover activities such as indoor dining, workplace attendance and meetings, public transport, school, bars and nightclubs, day care, camps, gyms, spas, beauty salons, barbers, theatres and museums, religious establishments, contact sports, and weddings, funerals and other large gatherings.

It will make clear to travellers what is permissible after receiving arrival, Day 4, Day 8 and Day 14 negative test results.

Mr Speaker, the incidence of positive cases is manifesting itself in a variety of settings, and we must be more vigilant about how we live our lives now.

In that regard, the Government is also assessing adjustments to the Public Health [COVID-19 Emergency Powers] [No. 3] Regulations, which apply to residents and visitors alike, not just travellers.

One such change was announced recently, namely a reduction in the size of large groups from 75 to 50 persons.

Mr Speaker, gathering in large groups, especially where food and drink are involved, will naturally lead to a relaxation of our adherence to public health protocols. This is inevitable. Mask wearing decreases, we stand more closely together and, if the venue is noisy, we shout.

However, as I have indicated already, COVID-19 is easily transmitted from person to person in the air. Therefore, it is important to keep gatherings small and contained. This cannot be repeated too many times: it is critical that your social bubble be very compact. This is no time to be making new friends and attending large house parties!

In addition to reducing the size of large groups, the Government is reviewing the current mask mandate with a view to broadening its application.

Mr Speaker, technical officers at the Ministry of Health are engaging with stakeholders regarding the changes being considered. However, we cannot afford to be complacent nor can we relax at this juncture. All of us have worked too hard to stifle this disease and put our economy on the road to recovery.

Let me be clear: this Government does not want to resort to business closures, nightime curfews or reinstating shelter in place; but we are prepared to make the difficult decisions if it becomes necessary to do so. To prevent this from happening, it is important that the entire community follows the rules.

The situation we find ourselves in is extremely serious. However, we know more about the virus now than we did in March and April this year. So, decisions made with respect to ‘rollbacks’ are based on our improved knowledge of, greater experience with, and more tools to detect and treat the coronavirus. Any decision regarding restrictions are founded in good public health rationale. One of the most important factors is the possibility of our healthcare system being overwhelmed.

Fortunately we still have no confirmed case requiring hospitalisation.

The increase in positive cases is being very closely watched, and everyone should expect further rollbacks if circumstances dictate.

That said, the Government is aware of the need to find a balance between public health and economic ‘health’.

As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, the Ministry will closely monitor the impact of the public health measures being modified now, and keep the public informed.

The Ministry of Health staff have worked tirelessly for months now, to keep all of us safe. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their dedication and commitment. It is truly “above and beyond”.

In closing, I would like to re-emphasise to the community the crucial importance of following public health protocols – wear your mask, practice physical distancing, cover your cough, stay home if you’re sick and avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings. To this I will add, “Get tested!”

The Bermuda community has done an excellent job so far of sticking to the public health guidance. Let’s keep up the good work!

Thank you, Mr Speaker

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Comments (27)

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  1. ella says:

    The innocent will have to suffer for the guilty – each day I am feeling annoyed & frustrated!

    • Cotton Wool Brigade says:

      So true – and happens all the time. Some fool screws it up for the rest of us.
      It’s a shame the government can’t trust its populace to follow the rules, and returning residents will now be treated like criminals (tracking bracelets/guilty until proven innocent).
      Having gone through the tracking bracelet process, it’s no laughing matter. I was suicidal and I could have quite easily have harmed someone else in my house. No one from the health department called. Ever. I could have died/murdered and they didn’t care enough to pick up their phone to check in.

      • Really? says:

        Stop being so dramatic! Get the help you obviously need but don’t bore us with your theatrics!

      • saud says:

        The cotton wool brigade (also paid up members of the ‘nanny state’ or the ‘nanny society’) are those who believe that humans are incapable of looking after themselves and must be protected i.e. wrapped in cotton wool from all of life’s ‘nasty’ elements.

  2. hmmm says:

    Isn’t it worth it to close the country down and put the brakes on the economy if we can save a life? Surely the life of one person is worth more than the livelihood of everyone!

    • Portia says:

      No, because you aren’t SAVING lives, you are destroying countless lives to “save” a life for a virus that has a 99.99% survival rate. Your rationale is ridiculous.

    • Cotton Wool Brigade says:

      Sorry…we’ve lost how many lives since the airport reopened? What’s that? Zero, you say?
      Yeah, let’s shut the island down for 25 people who have caught the flu, but no one is seriously ill or in hospital.
      Makes total sense to put even more people/businesses out of of business for the sake of 25 people who aren’t sick enough to go to KEMH.
      Look forward to rebuking your next ill-thought out suggestion.

      • saud says:

        “Look forward to rebuking your next ill-thought out suggestion.”

        LOL, you haven’t rebuked anything…just revealed your ignorance.

  3. NoVote says:

    Why isn’t it mandatory for residents to have a predeparture test?
    We are having to send tourists home and quarantine locals who sat on the plane near returning residents who can’t be bothered to take a predeparture test and test positive on arrival or day 4? Makes no sense.

    • Computer Guy says:

      @NoVote Covid testing isn’t always readily available. Perfect example, where I currently reside, the only way to get a covid test is to a) be symptomatic b) believe you’ve been exposed or c) lie regarding a OR b….even with that you still have contact the authorities and be screened before you go in for a test. So it’s good for residents to be able to comeback without the test. I didn’t mind having to be quarantined as long as I was able to spend time with my family (who also consented to being in quarantine) whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. Some of us have been forced to spend a lot of time alone during covid and it’s good to be able to be around family. The government has done a good job of keeping things under control. It was honestly inevitable for covid to flare up again. That is literally happening everywhere around the world now. As we’ve also seen, pre-departure tests aren’t 100% fool proof as there’ve been people testing positive at the airport, as well as on day 4, 8 and 14, despite having a negative pre-departure test. Mandatory quarantines with regular testing in Bermuda are probably the safest way to go short of stopping all flights to the island. I’ll end with this…..mandatory quarantine is like a seatbelt…it only works if it’s used properly.

      I still don’t like how they’re forcing residents only to wear and pay for monitors. That’s a slap in the face, every should be getting them. Regardless of if you have a pre-departure test or not.

      • Bill says:

        @ computer guy could agree more with your reply. Yup it does suck that government was only giving and now charging residents for the monitors. $75 for travel authorisation forms and now $30 for monitors. A predeparture test is around $200. All is see is money grabbing from businesses and Governments trying making a buck of this virus. Another eg Gorhams charging $89 for 50 pack of masks when you can buy the same off amazon for $10.

    • Bill says:

      I dissagree, if you look at the stats people have tested positive after 4 days with obtaining a predeparture tests. The problem is that people with a predeparture test are roaming around the island freely within the 7 day incubation period and potential infecting others.
      The people that have not taken a predeparture test are in a manditory 8 day quarantine with monitoring braclette and at home. They are only alowed to go out after a negitive 8 day test and mobil quarantine till their 14 day negitive. Two standards.

    • Cotton Wool Brigade says:

      Because it’s illegal to stop a resident from returning home. Simple as that.

      • Pure Madness!!!! says:

        This is true, I was told by a reputable source that someone (government/health dept, airlines) actually allowed a resident to return knowing that the person was positive for Covid. How insane is that? How many people were infected by this lack of consideration for others health and life? Like WTF… Thus in my opinion day 4 and day 8 positive cases….

  4. Ringmaster says:

    I’ve said it many times. If a resident wants to go abroad and return without the same requirements set out for visitors then they should be quarantined at a secure location at their expense for 14 days. No different to mid year when the air bridges operated. Clearly some people are not staying home as required, but why should the majority who are taking the right precautions suffer for the few?

    • Bill says:

      @ Ringmaster This makes no sense. The people that can roam free are the visitors and some residents that have gotten a predeparture test (within 5 days of travel) and a second negitive test at the airport. They could have been infected after their predeparture test or during travel on the day and passed the required initial testing here. Thinking they are all clear and now spreading it. The residents with no predeparture are the ones with monitoring braclette staying home for 8 days till after a negitive 8 day. What you should be saying is everyone who comes in needs to stay in for 8 days and if they are staying with others in the same household they too have to quarantine. “Quarantine at a secure location” was ridiculous and think it was a money grab from the Government.

    • Micro says:

      This is exactly what needs to happen. Any travel that isn’t essential (ie emergency/medical) should result in mandatory quarantine at a government approved facility on their own dime.

  5. knew it says:

    Lockdown is coming again, be prepared everyone. Its out in the community now.
    I was out on Friday night at a Front Street establishment and I was not at all impressed with the way in which people failed distance enough, masks not being worn by patrons, persons moving about short distances without masks. My friend and I finished our drink and cut a trail. We’re now watching our LOCAL TRANSMISSION levels rise.

    • Cotton Wool Brigade says:

      Oh yes. The boogeyman (covid) is coming to get you!
      Please…how many people are in hospital? NONE.
      If you’re worried, don’t go out. Simple.
      For those of us who want to return to some sort of normality and are willing to take the risk, let us do it. No one is forcing you to do the same.

      • Anbu says:

        Then put on a mask u prick. Nobodies telling u disobedient little children u cant go out. Just follow the f%#@ing rules. Dont be surprised when people have had enough.

      • Aged says:

        This comment didn’t age well did it?

  6. Bill says:

    I dissagree, if you look at the stats people have tested positive after 4 days with obtaining a predeparture tests. The problem is that people with a predeparture test are roaming around the island freely within the 7 day incubation period and potential infecting others.
    The people that have not taken a predeparture test are in a manditory 8 day quarantine with monitoring braclette and at home. They are only alowed to go out after a negitive 8 day test and mobil quarantine till their 14 day negitive. Two standards.

  7. Wahoo says:

    Schools, restaurants/bars and offices now all reporting cases that sounds like it is pretty much everywhere to me folks. Lock down is inevitable thanks to reckless people, thanks to the people who have their big noses stuck out over their masks, thanks to the people who just had to nip over to the states.

  8. Sabrina says:

    Which makes more sense?

    A) Continue to allow travelers to wander around in “mobile quarantine” after a negative pre-test and test, even though tests are starting to show as positive at 8 days? Continue to allow people to come into contact with these travelers, forcing offices and entire years of students (and their families) into 14 days quarantine?

    Or

    B) Require travelers to properly quarantine for at least 8 days?

    If your response is B, please sign this petition and share it around you. The more people sign it, the more likely we are to be heard by the government.

    http://chng.it/R6Mvfkgg

  9. Bermudian says:

    Mandate all travelers to the island (including residents) to quarantine until a negative 8 test. All household members would have to quarantine as well. It will be a pain, yes, but right now we all have to adjust to the new norm. Monitor bracelets are a great idea.

  10. Question? says:

    Residents have to wear a monitoring bracket? Is that only if they haven’t had a pre-departure test?

    We need the same rules for everyone.

  11. Bright & Early says:

    Wow Covid is finally here yest we haven’t seen anything yet. Be prepared and remember maybe some of us are not at much risk and will only get a mild case. Look at the hospitals in the US now overwhelmed with cases of Covid. Its difficult not to shut our airport down but then again Canada is now in Lock down again and so is UK until December 2,2020 and maybe further so they don’t want further outbreaks as they are trying to reduce the number of people infected. I think that we don’t know the total number of people that are now infected in Bermuda its all Hush Hush and the results are not being transparent for the general Public. I am not a happy Camper….Please wear your mask it is very important and don’t socialize with large groups. Its worth it to stay home for awhile its only temporary…… Keep safe…

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