Premier David Burt opened the latest COVID briefing by offering his “deepest condolences on behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda to the families of the two people who, as announced by the Minister of Health over the weekend”.
Reflecting on “the latest in our community to have succumbed to the coronavirus”, he said: “This is a harsh reminder that this virus can be fatal, and that we must do all that we can to protect ourselves and one another.”
He was speaking as the number of people suffering from COVID-19 in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit climbed to six on Tuesday (April 6), with another 28 new positive cases confirmed by local health officials, taking the total number of active cases up to 670.
“Bermuda, we are at a critical stage in our battle against the coronavirus,” said Premier Burt.
“We have seen active cases continue to rise, and with that an increase in hospitalizations and two more lives lost to this virus. At the same time we are poised to further expand our vaccination programme.
“Though we acted to mitigate further spread, we are dealing with a highly transmissible variant that has transmitted rapidly prior to the implementation of the latest restrictions put in place last week,” he added.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Kim Wilson said there were 21 patients currently in hospital – down from 22.
Six of the new cases were imported, including four returning residents who arrived on a flight from Miami on March 31 and tested positive on their day four test.
Another resident arrived from Miami on March 21, who tested positive on day 14 and a visitor, who arrived here from Atlanta on March 27 tested positive on day 8.
Nine other cases were attributed to local transmission from known sources and 13 cases are now under investigation.
Moving forward, the Premier said Cabinet would meet next week to decide whether or not there will be more restrictions.
“I say that the Government is determined to balance public health with safe and continued economic activity,” said Mr Burt.
“We recognize that poverty is also a public health crisis in our world today, and that the pandemic has caused financial strain, increased anxiety and stress.
“With this in mind we have no desire to increase restrictions, but as the Government, we must make the decisions that are necessary and not the ones that are convenient. If we begin to see an upward trend in case numbers and positivity rates, further measures will be implemented,” he added.
“The Cabinet will meet next week to consider the latest data, to see where we are and will make announcements next week of any changes to not only, the restrictions in place but also differing measures that will be implemented at our borders.
“We can avoid having to go further with restrictions if we all do our part.”
Highlights of the Premier’s full statement:
We have learned that we do not see the full impact of an outbreak in the community until about 2-3 weeks later, which is the point at which we see increased hospitalisations. This is where we are currently. In the same measure, when restrictions are implemented we are not likely to see their true mitigation effect until at least 2 weeks after they were first introduced.
The Government is looking closely to see if the measures we have taken are having their expected effect in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and moving us to a place of a reduction of cases. We have seen evidence from previous outbreaks that these measures do work. And we have observed subtle indications that they are beginning to take effect in this current outbreak.
The 7 day average of our positivity rate of testing which saw sustained increases peaked on April 2nd, but that trend can change quickly as we saw higher positivity rates today of 3.8% which is above the 7 day average.
Our 7 day average of the Real Time Reproductive number has also started declining, from a peak of 2.47 on March 23rd, now down today to 1.26. The fact is, that is still to high, that means that the virus is still spreading in the community, and that is not a position of where we want to be.
What this means is that it appears the mitigations put in place are having their intended effect, however the situation remains delicate and can change quickly.
Now as much as ever is a time for caution, cooperation and continued vigilance.
If we do see a continuing trend of decreasing new cases, decrease in the positivity rates for testing, and a reduction in the R number, then it will confirm what we are doing now is working and therefore we must continue on this path.
The Government is focussed on making decisions based upon the data.
Continuing to increase our vaccination numbers is essential in our desire to bring normality back.
As the Minister of Health announced we have now administered 42,038 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Out of that total 46 percent of our eligible population has received at least one dose, equating to 38% of our total population. 34% of our eligible population has received both doses of the vaccine, which equates to 29 percent of our total population.
I thank all of those who have been vaccinated, and all those who have registered and are awaiting their appointments. You have helped us to progress, but we still have work to do. If you have not already done so, please register and help Bermuda move closer to its goal of herd immunity with 70 percent of the population vaccinated and protected.
I know that this is a difficult time for many individuals, and businesses. For those who cannot currently work due to business closures or mandatory quarantine the Government is committed to supporting you through the unemployment benefit which you can apply for at: uba.gov.bm. For businesses affected by mandatory closures, if you have not already done so, you can apply for grants through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation at: bedc.bm. There is assistance available to your business.
Also in Cabinet, the matter of Parents unable to work due to the fact of schools being closed was addressed. That hardship isn’t lost on us, we are working on a solution and will look to discuss that more.
I also understand that there are many who are struggling emotionally, whether through stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness. For those persons, the Emotional Wellbeing Hotline is now open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm to 9pm. If you or anyone you know requires extra emotional support, please call 543-1111.
To anyone who is going through a difficult time, please do not suffer in silence. There are people who are here to listen, and who want to help you if you are in need.
Useful information on how to cope with stress, as well as a list of psychologists you can book a private appointment with can also be found on the Bermuda Psychology Association’s website: Bermudapsychology.com
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