Army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Daegu, South Korea – Image: Kim Hyun-tai/Yonhap via AP

Health Minister Kim Wilson told MPs on Friday that Bermuda has a shortage of face masks as residents continue to guard against the spread of the deadly strain of coronavirus.

Talks are underway with the government agency Public Health England to import more masks, with a view to establish one centralised area for distribution.

And while to date, the island remains free of Covid-19, the Minister warned that the world could be facing a pandemic in the weeks ahead.

In her words, she said it was “just a matter of time before we are face to face with this new public health threat”.

“We are in a phase of preparedness for a potential pandemic. We must focus on preparing for this situation.

“According to the WHO, we must prepare to detect cases, prepare to treat cases, prepare to follow contacts, and prepare to put in place adequate containment measures to control the spread,” said the Minister.

The Public Health Response Team, comprising people from 15 sectors, meets at least twice weekly to discuss risks, update on preparations and and identify vulnerabilities in the community.

“We are well aware of the many concerns of the public, and within the Phert working groups we are endeavouring daily to address these concerns,” she added.

Customs officers have received heightened training and must ask all travellers where they have travelled in the past 21 days.

“All passengers, Bermuda residents and visitors, must be asked this question.

Tourist outside the Colosseo monument (Colisee, Coliseum) in Rome – Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP, Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

“Depending on the answer, travellers may be referred to a public health officer for further risk assessment and advice,” she said.

People are required to self-quarantine in their homes for up to 14 days, and monitor themselves for signs of illness such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.

“The challenges presented by individuals having to be quarantined can be quite complex, and require co-operation of individuals, their workplaces and schools.

“Individuals under self-quarantine will have to miss work or school and should avoid all public spaces.

“They must avoid public transportation and places where people gather such as faith gatherings, sports events, and concerts, for example.

“Pandemic preparedness policies are required by schools, workplaces, and employers to enable people to stay home when sick or when being quarantined, without penalty.”

The Minister also called on the island’s hotels and guest accommodations to implement “robust sanitation programmes and infection prevention and control policies”.

“They must be able to identify early any guest who may be ill with a serious infectious disease so that prompt advice from medical and public health professionals can be sought,” she said.

“The tourism sector is collaborating closely with health to maintain a healthy tourism product.”