Health Minister Kim Wilson confirmed that two returning residents on board a Delta Air Lines flight on Wednesday (July 15) tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 363 test results received on Thursday.
And one of those passengers “did not adhere to the required quarantine period” and decided to go back to work before their arrival test results came in.
The matter is now under investigation by the police.
Speaking at the latest briefing, the Minister said: “It saddens me terribly to have to tell you that unfortunately, one of those persons involved did not adhere to the required quarantine period and attended their workplace before actually waiting to receive their arrival test, which turned out to be positive.
“Consequently, the case management team is busy now contact tracing all of the persons that this individual was in contact with on the island, in addition to the nearby passengers on the flight.”
Ms Wilson noted that “matter has been reported to the police for them to commence an investigation”.
The latest round of test results brings the total number cases up to 152, with six active cases.
The good news – none of them are in hospital.
Meanwhile, the island’s testing capacity was getting “stretched” with the influx of travellers, so much so that the Minister said testing would be reviewed based on public health risks.
As it stands now, the island has a one-month supply remaining of the nasal swab tests and 11,000 saliva tests in stock.
Antibody testing had also resumed at Southside in St David’s on July 5, she added.
She also noted that the day three test for travellers was being moved to day four after their arrival and the day seven test would be moved to day eight.
And travellers to Bermuda will soon have the requirement for a pretest within five days to be moved to seven days.
But she said the island will not be dropping the pretest requirement for incoming travellers, despite delays in the United States getting test results.
In light of the increasing prevalence of COVID-19 in the US, she said: “We are anticipating we will see more positive cases coming to our shores.
On that note the Minister said those found positive with this virus will be required by law to isolate from others.
Premier David Burt had high praise for the island’s efforts thus far, saying “collectively, Bermuda rose to the occasion”.
But he warned: “While most of us have done well by following the guidelines, we all have to remember: it only takes one undetected case of this highly contagious virus to set us back.”
He said the quarantine breach was “disturbing” and noted that out of the six imported cases over the past two weeks all arriving passengers were returning residents.
Now that the resident who broke the mandatory quarantine is under investigation by the police he said Cabinet will take a look at introducing more quarantine requirements for returning residents who did not have a pretest for COVID-19.
He also lamented the fact that visitors were complying with restrictions against this virus while residents were turning out to be the ones breaking the rules.
Highlights of the Minister’s full statement:
As the volume of travellers increases our testing teams and capability is becoming increasingly stretched. Therefore we are reviewing the testing regime to make adjustments based on public health risk and testing capacity.
Incoming travellers are tested on arrival at their port of entry. They then have to comply with further tests on subsequent dates. One change we are implementing is that the day 3 test will be moved to day 4.
As such, persons who arrive on the BA flight on Friday will have their follow-up test on Monday. This will apply to all travellers, whether visitors or residents, except for residents who need to complete their quarantine; they will be allowed to test on day 3, which is Sunday, in order to complete their quarantine period on receipt of their negative result.
We hope this will have a two-fold benefit of encouraging residents to obtain a pre-departure test [although not required] and also make the testing schedule less arduous for our visitors.
Second, we are aware of the challenges for travellers obtaining test results within 5 days and so, will be extending the period permitted to 7 days very shortly. It will be reflected on the website when this goes into effect.
Lastly, we are gearing up to assist the quarantine process with the Aqua quarantine bracelets. Travellers without a pre-departure test – that is largely residents – have to quarantine until they get a second test result on Island [currently on their 3rd day]. The intention is that they will be fitted with an aqua bracelet until they obtain a negative result.
In addition, persons who do not have a pre-departure test will be asked to undergo a saliva test on arrival in addition to the nasal swab in order to assist us in validating the saliva tests so that we can deploy them sooner. This applies to residents as ALL visitors must obtain a pre-departure test.
Additionally, the requirement to undergo a Day 7 test will change to Day 8. This is safe from a public health perspective and it will help ensure that testing sites are not swamped on certain days.
Residents who refuse all testing must quarantine for 14 days; and very shortly will do so with an Aqua bracelet.
Our goal is not to add layers of red tape and complexity to the lives of incoming travellers, but to protect us all from a COVID-19 outbreak. Our number 1 priority at all times is – and must be – the safety of our island and the protection of seniors and other clinically vulnerable persons for whom COVID is a life-threatening risk.
Independent of today’s new COVID cases, over the past few days, there have been several enquires made by companies from across various industries with regards to staff travelling overseas and then returning to work. The main question being: When can they safely return to work?
The answer to this depends on a number of factors. In particular, it depends on if your employee works in a high risk setting such as one with medically vulnerable individuals or institutionalized populations, such as a healthcare setting, for example…
If so, then those employees may want to consider avoiding non-essential travel. Of course, this is not always practical and, in those cases where workers have family overseas, an ability to travel and see loved ones could have a detrimental effect on that individual’s mental health. In those cases, we have to ask ourselves ‘What is the safest way for these individuals to return to work after travel?’…
The gold standard is 14 days of quarantine with prescribed testing procedures to provide that extra layer of security. As a Manager, ask yourself, Could this employee work from home during these 14 days?
If they must return to work (with two consecutive negative test results), determine how they can minimize their contact with others as much as possible. Each employer must decide what this looks like for their employees. However, the Ministry of Health is currently in the process of developing further guidance on this issue, which will be disturbed shortly and posted to the Government website.
In closing, I want to urge residents to continue to wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer before and after entering any store or public building, shield our medically vulnerable, avoid congregating in large groups, and continue to wear your mask and keep six feet apart if you are not wearing one…And, yes, this means wearing masks at work if you are in close contact with others, such as during face-to-face meetings.
As I have mentioned before, there are three preventative behaviours which HealthIQ looks at to assess how we are doing as a country in our response to COVID-19. Two of those three [mask wearing and physical distancing] are currently ‘in the red’…which means we need to do better if we want to keep ourselves and our community safe.
I think when COVID-19 first arrived in Bermuda, there were those out there who doubted the difference these seemingly ‘small’ measures could make to the overall picture…But now I think we can all see that they were, in fact, KEY to our success; not just contributory factors.
On a positive note, today we passed 10,000 HealthIQ users so we have reached the target to put that indicator on our scorecard in the green. Please continue to sign up on HealthIQ.bm and report your status regularly.
Today’s two new cases and the quarantine breach are a reminder to us all that we cannot be complacent. How we go forward now depends on you, Bermuda.
- Top Feature Photo Courtesy of TNN