Health officials disclosed today that efforts are underway to pinpoint quarantine centres as Bermuda prepares for the worst-case scenario under the global outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Speaking at a news conference held this morning (March 4), Chief Medical Officer Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball said there were “conceivable situations” that could require a quarantine to deal with this virus.
“That’s what we are working on the logistics of now.”
Dr Peek-Ball noted that “several facilities” were being considered as quarantine centres.
But she stopped short of saying what they were or where they were.
“Those are matters that are under discussion right now,” said Dr Peek-Ball.
“So I’m not able to give the details of that. That’s part of the information that’s being presented to the minister and Cabinet.”
Steve Cosham, the National Disaster Coordinator, said there were no “turnkey” buildings on the island that could be pressed into service if needed.
But he said the ten most suitable Government-owned owned buildings “in varying states of repair” had been identified and were being assessed for what work needed to be done.
“We’ve looked at ones which are almost ready to go, but they will take budget and they will take time to get up and running.”
The biggest facility has roughly 20 rooms, he added.
Health Minister Kim Wilson said she had been assured by the Premier, David Burt and the Minister of Finance, Curtis Dickinson that money would be made available to combat this deadly virus.
Meanwhile, a handful of people presently in Bermuda were being monitored for COVID-19.
Dr Peek-Ball said “roughly 95 individuals” who had arrived in Bermuda by air had been monitored.
“Approximately 29, as I recall, required active monitoring,” she said.
“At this time, the number is something like four or five people who are still under active monitoring.
“That process expires after 14 days, so people are constantly getting on the list of monitoring and constantly falling off.”
She also stressed that all quarantine conditions in Bermuda at this stage, were self-qurantining.
Mr Cosham said that he had made recommendations to the Government about possible travel restrictions and that Cabinet would decide what, if any, measures would be adopted.
“Practical considerations” were a major factor on whether mandatory quarantines could be introduced, she added.
“Home quarantine has been shown to be quite adequate worldwide, and quite practical, as opposed to putting people in special facilities.”
According to Michael Richmond, the Chief of Staff at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, there were nine beds in the hospital’s adult Intensive Care Unit, all of which had ventilators, as did the hospital’s operating theatres and the Emergency Department, and four extra ventilators were also available.
“Currently we have more capacity than has been required, but in terms of how do we escalate that going forward, it’s not just about kit — it’s around personnel as well,” he said.
The hospital currently had a “ready supply” of protective equipment for staff and the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David’s “would be used appropriately” if needed, he added.
Dr Peek-Ball added: “I think the situation of monumental proportions, biblical proportions, is one that we are making the decision to spend less of our time on than the more likely scenario of large numbers of people simply being unwell in their homes.”
She noted that the Government expected that Covid-19 would hit Bermuda and that the scenario would likely to be similar to when H1N1, a strain the influenza A virus, arrived in 2011.
“There are individuals who are unwell and need the care of their family physicians.
“There are individuals who get sicker than that and need hospital care. And, on rare occasions, individuals die. There is the possibility of death,” she said.
“It’s for that reason that we stress that it’s important for us as a general population, to right now, aim to be as healthy as we possibly can.”
People with chronic medical conditions and people older than 60 were at higher risk of illness, she added.
The Minister noted that travellers to Bermuda would underdo a “travel risk assessment and could have their health monitored and movement on island restricted for up to 14 days”.
“We are in the process of finalising travel forms for arriving passengers requesting specific travel details such as where you’ve travelled and when,” she said.
“An incomplete disclosure of travel history could lead to a potential health risk for our community and therefore we want to appeal to every traveller to please be truthful.”
Three tests for COVID-19 were performed – all with negative results.
“We are exploring additional testing options through Public Health England and the World Health Organisation and can give full assurance that Government will obtain the necessary equipment as it is available so that tests can be done locally.”
With regards to the hospital, the Minister said the Bermuda Hospitals Board “has escalation plans in place .. to cope with an influx of patients in the event of a pandemic”.
“There are actions that can be taken to increase capacity, such as postponing elective surgeries, discharging stable patients, and using additional beds in other areas,” she added.
But she said: “Experience to date” suggested that about 80 per cent of people who contracted Covid-19 would have “mild to no symptoms and will not need hospital care at all.”