Reports reaching Bermuda Real last week that the number of patients battling COVID-19 in hospital was climbing rapidly were confirmed late Friday night by the Premier, who said the total had reached 56.

Informed sources told Bermuda Real on Thursday (July 14), that the 28 patients reported in hospital the day before, had climbed to 40 patients.

Speaking in the Lower House on Friday (July 15), during the debate on an order to extend the deadline for COVID-19 public safety measures, Premier David Burt said the spike in hospital admissions was cause for concern.

The regulations, which make the wearing of masks mandatory in certain places like rest homes or on public transportation, were set to expire at the end of this month – an extension would run through to the end of September.

The order was presented by Health Minister Kim Wilson, who noted that the island recorded another two COVID related deaths within the last week.

The spread of the virus remains “uncertain and unpredictable”, she said.

“There are greater numbers of people visiting the hospital’s emergency department with symptoms, and admissions to KEMH are increasing,” said the Minister.

She also told MPs that a third of acute care wing beds were currently occupied by patients battling COVID-19, which is placing “significant pressures” on the island’s healthcare system.

“Furthermore two of our long term care wards are in quarantine due to additional cases. This means that people in acute care beds cannot be transferred to the long term care wards even if they are ready.

“A further knock-on effect is that the acute care beds become unavailable for those members of our community who are needing admittance following surgery. That can cause surgeries to be postponed,” she added.

But Opposition MPs questioned whether or not another extension was really necessary.

Shadow Minister of Health, Michael Dunkley, who admitted the current hospital numbers were “worrying”, stressed that other countries were “loosening up” COVID regulations.

But here at home he said Bermuda now qualifies as “one of the most restrictive places in the world”.

“Here we go again,” said Mr Dunkley.

“The Government continues to preach the message, but clearly at some time, you have to wean that child off the diaper.

“At some time we have to be weaned off these restrictions because enough is enough.”

The Premier dismissed the Opposition’s claims as nothing more than a political ploy to label the Government as overbearing.

“I worry for the hospital and we’re not going back, but people need to understand that this virus can kill you,” he said.

“And this new strain that we have is infectious and far more dangerous than the earlier Omicron strains and that’s why we’re seeing the level of hospital admissions.

“I asked the Minister of Health earlier – ‘how many people are in the hospital?’ Do you want me to tell you – 56.

“And here we have an Opposition who wants to vote down a public health emergency so that there’s no mask-wearing inside the hospital.”

The Premier concluded: “We are moving on, but we must maintain a level of protection for our most vulnerable.”