Eighteen months into dealing with COVID-19 in Bermuda, Health Minister, Kim Wilson has warned that “we will most likely be living with it for the foreseeable future”.
But until, “hopefully, we have established sufficient immunity for it to be in the same category as the flu or a cold”, she said the fresh outbreak of COVID-19 is being fuelled by “people going to work with actual symptoms”.
Based on the current rise in the number of active cases, stemming what she termed a fourth wave of infections will not happen any time soon.
Speaking at a technical briefing yesterday, she said: “This is not acceptable behaviour.” And she chastised the local community for “complacency” as “more and more people are not taking this seriously and are not following public health guidelines”.
“Despite the risk, people are going out in public and to events before getting test results,” she added.
Recent outbreaks have included schools and summer day camps, with infections now being seen in younger people, But people in the 30 to 39 year age group top the list of present cases.
The Minister also maintained that it was “primarily an outbreak of the unvaccinated”, with fully vaccinated people incurring “very few” serious cases of infection and no deaths.
On that note, she urged resident who were able to work from home and/or remotely, to do so.
Business owners were also urged to take the necessary precautions with contingency plans.
Sadly, the island recorded another death due to COVID in Bermuda this week, bringing the number of people who have lost their lives to this virus to 35.
The number of active cases also climbed to nearly 500, with confirmation of another 225 new cases reported on Tuesday (Sept 7).
The Minister’s full statement:
I want to start by expressing my concern with the increase of positive coronavirus cases. There is a level of complacency and risky behaviour contributing to the spread of the virus in our community.
More and more people are not taking this seriously and not following public health guidelines and safety measures.
Households are mixing without considering how easily the virus can be transmitted, and mask-wearing is inconsistent.
And despite the risks, people are going out in public and to events before getting their test results, and they are going out in public and going to work with actual COVID-19 symptoms. This is not acceptable behaviour and adds to the uptick in positive cases in the community.
Bermuda has been living with COVID-19 for 18 months, and we will most likely be living with it for the foreseeable future. That is, until, hopefully, we have established sufficient immunity for it to be in the same category as the flu or a cold.
I will remind everyone of the basic precautions they must take to stop the spread of this virus.
· Avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation
· Avoid crowded places with many people nearby and close-contact settings like close-range conversations.
· Wash hands with soap and water frequently and use hand sanitiser when handwashing facilities are not available
· Six feet physical distancing must be maintained at all times, including during greetings, unless you are wearing a mask.
· Avoid shared lunch rooms and gathering, unmasked, outside for your smoke breaks etc. Your work environment and colleagues are not in your bubbles.
· Masks must be worn indoors and outdoors where six feet physical distancing is not possible. This does not include while eating or drinking or participating in high intensity exercises.
Businesses should also take appropriate precautions to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infections and outbreaks during the pandemic and to protect their employees and patrons.
Every business should have a contingency plan in place in case one of their employees gets infected. We have sufficient guidance to assist, but with the large volume of cases we have now, the Ministry of Health cannot respond to the many individual requests from businesses dealing with possible outbreaks.
Currently, there are several clusters of cases identified by the Case Management team at the Ministry of Health. This reflects the contagious nature of the Delta variant.
At this time, our contact tracers are focused on high-risk settings, and anyone who has tested positive must do their own contact tracing. Inform close contacts and email their contact information to the Ministry of Health case management team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When the Ministry of Health receives your list of close contacts, letters will be sent to those identified close contacts with quarantine guidance. If you receive a close contact letter, please read it carefully.
You should quarantine for 14 days and then get tested to ensure you are not still infected; the virus can incubate for up to two weeks.
Also, please be patient with our contact tracers as they aim to contact the increased number of persons confirmed positive with COVID-19. If a friend or colleague has told you that they have tested positive and you are a close contact, please do not wait for the contact tracer to contact you.
Put yourself in quarantine. As I said earlier, the pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future, and part of living with COVID-19 is knowing what to do when you are identified as a positive case or a close contact. There is an abundance of guidance on gov.bm. Please take the time to use the portal as a source of reliable information.
Our contact tracing team, as well as our COVID-19 testing team and the MDL lab, are all stretched thin and working extremely hard to manage this public health crisis. I am grateful for their hard work, commitment and patience. We owe them a debt of gratitude for unselfishly going above and beyond the call of duty to keep us safe and prevent further spread.
The safety of the entire island is paramount, and our public health measures are in place to protect the community. We must all do our part and take personal responsibility for our actions to reduce further transmission.
In closing, the vaccine against COVID-19 is one of the single most important measures to keep our community safe. It is highly effective at preventing symptomatic disease and death.
This current outbreak is primarily an outbreak of the unvaccinated.
Since the start of the vaccination campaign, Bermuda has had very few serious coronavirus infections among vaccinated people, and we have had no deaths of fully vaccinated people.
From January 11, 2021, when Bermuda’s vaccine campaign began, to August 31, 2021, Bermuda’s COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are as follows (chart attached).
Hospitalisations (including repeat admissions) totalled 133, of which:
· 116 were not vaccinated
· 12 were partially vaccinated
· 5 were fully vaccinated
There were 22 deaths, of which:
· 19 were not vaccinated
· 3 were partially vaccinated
· 0 were fully vaccinated
A primary purpose of the COVID-19 vaccines is to prevent serious illness and death, as this data illustrates.
To be clear, even among the partially vaccinated, these deaths could not be attributed to the vaccine.