Health Minister Kim Wilson confirmed eight new cases of COVID-19 in Bermuda, with only one linked to overseas travel.
Speaking at the Government briefing, she said the latest positive results were identified in the 2,044 test results received between November 20 and 22.
The one case linked to overseas travel came from a visitor who arrived on an Air Canada flight from Toronto on November 6, who tested positive on the day 14 test.
The individual involved was in quarantine because they had close contact with someone else who tested positive on their arrival test on the same flight.
“The remaining seven new cases had no link to travel,” said Ms Wilson.
“One of those new cases is classified as local transmission with a known contact,” she added.
“In other words, this was a resident who had close contact in a social setting with a known case currently under investigation.
“The remaining six new cases are related to a workplace setting.”
Only two of the six cases are currently under investigation – the eight new cases are all adults.
“Four are also residents classified as local transmission with known contact having had close contact in the same workplace setting.”
To date, Bermuda has recorded a total of 235 confirmed cases – 22 are active and none are in hospital.
While 204 have fully recovered, nine deaths have been recorded.
There are currently three cases “under investigation”.
“Persons remain under investigation until a linkage is found or up to 28 days, whichever is longest,” the Minister said.
“If no linkage is found, these persons will move to local transmission with and unknown contact or source.”
She also stated that while Bermuda’s status is still listed as “sporadic cases”, it is likely to change to “clusters of cases”.
“This is because some of our active cases are within well-defined clusters and have not been directly linked to imported cases.”
What that means in terms of travel restrictions moving forward, remains to be seen.
But she did say that working from home, or remote working should be encouraged.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Ayoola Oyinloye, said: “For the avoidance of doubt, if you have been asked to quarantine please stay at home for the period of time that you have been asked to quarantine.”
This after three schools and a nursery were impacted by restrictions.
“Because this involves children, we expect that the caregiver would need to quarantine with the child,” he added.
The CMO also confirmed that the quarantine applied to all members of a household unless the child and the caregiver could separate themselves from the rest of the family.
The Minister stressed that “it’s critically important for members of the public to recognise that there are protocols in place and that the Ministry of Health team will be the ones to communicate to those persons affected what steps need to be taken”.
“If you do not hear from the Ministry of Health team, don’t rely on social media,” she added.
Earlier today, Premier David Burt tweeted: “The information reaching my office is that precautions around the country have not kept up & thus it is likely that there will need to be stricter enforcement.
“The Cabinet will consider additional restrictions tomorrow (Tuesday) to prevent any outbreak to ensure our economy stays open.”
With the recent uptick in cases and foreseeable change in country status, I would like to re-emphasise 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. Imagine that everyone outside of your household is a potentially incubating carrier of COVID-19 – Would you shake their hand? Would you share a meal with them in a tight space with little ventilation?
I know that we are all suffering from pandemic fatigue but we must not give up now – with so much at stake. We have given up so much for so many months – and we are so close, with a vaccine in sight. We need to hang in there a while longer. The vaccine is not here yet and if we are not careful we could be over-run with COVID-19 before it even gets here.
The current uptick in cases this month has taught us several things:
Firstly, more focus is needed with respect to ‘education bubbles’ – Even if a school class is separated from another, it does not count as a bubble if they all play together at lunchtime, for example.
Secondly, additional rigor is needed with respect to workplace guidance.
There is an abundance of workplace-specific guidance on the Government website coronavirus.gov.bm but I will provide you with a few key points now as it relates to office environments:
- Remote working should be encouraged, if possible;
- Consider using team ‘bubbles’ for office staff. [i.e. one week half of the staff are in the office; the next week the other half are in];
- Encourage employees to stay home if unwell;
- Encourage employees to wash hands or use hand sanitizer often;
- Employees should work six feet from others or three feet if wearing masks;
- Staff should hold virtual meetings when possible. Where remote meetings are not possible, staff must be six feet from others and no more than 10 persons in a meeting;
- Employers should review options for increasing ventilation – consider air purifiers, for example;
- Employers should also review how persons enter and leave the work space. How can you reduce the overlap of employees and increase disinfection?
- Where located in a multi-office building, identify designated entry and exit points to minimize worker contact while moving through the worksite;
- Employees should wear a mask whenever moving around the office;
- Management and workplace leaders need to know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and not allow those with symptoms remain in the workplace;
- And, finally, consult the Return to Work Recommendations for Businesses at coronavirus.gov.bm. There is special guidance for returning to work after travel.
All workplaces, schools, churches, clubs, bars, restaurants – everyone! – must review their COVID-19 policies to ensure they are strictly in accordance with public health protocols. This includes recording the names and contact details for all patrons.
Members of the public can report infractions by calling 211.
The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing its guidelines to see if they need to be adjusted in light of the uptick in new cases.
Finally, if you are unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, call your doctor and get tested. It is important that you do not turn up to your doctor’s office without first calling ahead. Also, please have your ID with you when getting tested.