Much to the chagrin of those looking for an end date, the COVID-19 curfew goes back into effect as of midnight tonight (March 3) until 5am – seven days a week until further notice.

The decision was taken by the Cabinet in the wake of an “emerging outbreak” of the coronavirus, which may be linked to the UK strain, or variant.

As of tonight, it’s back to closing for local businesses at 11pm, something Premier David Burt said the Government took “no joy in reimplementing such measures”.

“I take no joy in reimplementing such measures. However we will continue to do what is necessary to control any outbreaks so we can contain the coronavirus on our shores,” said Premier Burt.

“We learned our lesson in November and we will not make the same mistakes again.”

Speaking at the COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday (March 2), Health Minister Kim Wilson said the island experienced a surge in the number of cases within the last two weeks when at least half of the 17 active cases were the result of local transmission.

The new cases amounts to an “emerging outbreak”, she said – all as a result of what transmission at a single event.

“There was a party on February 18 that someone attended who was a traveller with a bracelet on and everyone at the party saw this person with the bracelet,” said Premier Burt.

“And now we have an outbreak of the variant. That’s where we are. No one likes it. People want to live normal lives. But we have seen the impact of having to bury people. We have to make decisions for the greater good of the country,” he added.

“This is very serious news,” said Ms Wilson.

“As investigations into this emerging outbreak continue, the number of cases has also increased and the risk of transmission that increased with large gatherings of persons represents a clear and present danger.

“The wider community does not deserve to be placed under more strict public health measures because of the actions of a few.

“Bermuda, we cannot have another spike in positive cases.

“You will recall that as recently as last November, there were three events at two venues over one weekend that resulted in 81 people testing positive and more than 550 people being placed in quarantine.

“Many of those people were financially disadvantaged as a result of their inability to go to work,” she added.

Meanwhile, head of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory (MDL), Dr Carika Weldon said there is a new rapid variant PCR test to identify the variants considered to be the most virulant.

To date, 35 of 365 cases between last November and March were the UK variant, while one was the South African strain.

The first case of the UK strain was imported by a passenger who arrived on a British Airways last December.

All of the cases of the UK variant arrived on island on BA flight until mid-January.

Since then, it has been imported by passengers arriving from the US.

On the Government’s vaccination programme, the Minister said 20,705 people have received one dose – 7,235 people have received both shots.

The total goes up to 21,387 when the vaccinations administered on Monday (March 1) are included.

A new shipment of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive in Bermuda later this month.

Highlights of Premier David Burt’s full statement:

Vaccinations are important, but we must also continue to know the threats that face us today as the coronavirus remains a threat to our wellbeing as a society.

Both the Ministry of Health and the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory team have worked extraordinarily hard to ensure that we have the tools to tackle this pandemic. But from the very start, I have always stated that it only takes one person to set us as a country back.

One person to cause harm to our economy. One person who can set off the chain of events that will have more students getting set back on their education by not being able to go back to school. One person who can cause a chain of events that can cause an outbreak that can put persons in the hospital or, unfortunately, lead to more dire consequences, as we have seen recently.

Despite our hard work and our progress to date, I am disappointed that we have recently seen a rise in active cases due to what seems to be a single event. This increase is further evidence that COVID-19 is still a threat and can easily spread if persons do not follow the regulations that the Government has implemented to manage the impact of the coronavirus in our country.

This includes the protocols in place at our borders and the traveller continuum, which requires persons who are not vaccinated to follow specific guidelines until testing negative on day 14. It is imperative that travellers follow these guidelines until the end to protect themselves and others. We came under immense criticism for requiring travellers to wear wristbands, and the fact that persons would be at an event with these wristbands in contravention of the rules that have been put in place is careless. And those who hosted them are reckless as well, putting themselves and others at risk.

What is more concerning,…that the single event and our current outbreak is of a version of the coronavirus that is known to be more transmissible – that of the UK Variant.

All measures will be reviewed, and an update will be provided again in two weeks’ time.

As a country, we must not let the freedoms we enjoy allow us to forget that we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves and our fellow Bermudians safe. Though we may go about our individual lives every day, the battle against the coronavirus is one that we must continue to face together.  One set of careless people can have an impact on the wider segment of the country. It is unfortunate, but this is where we are. This outbreak is real, and we will take the measures necessary to control it.

We must focus on our vaccination programme, and any wider outbreak will take us away from our vaccination programme into outbreak prevention. We must keep our schools open so our students can learn and not be further set back in their educational pursuits. That is the priority of the Government of Bermuda, and we will continue to make decisions that are in that best interest.

Many Bermudians have asked, especially on social media, about what kind of summer season we can expect to have, the types of activities to be enjoyed, and which events they may be able to attend.

The answer to that is determined by our actions today. What we do during the weeks and months leading to our summer season will influence our circumstances for the upcoming summer.

If we want to enjoy our summer and all that Bermuda has to offer, we must ensure that we remain sensible and vigilant in our decision making so that we can eventually put the pandemic behind us.

The COVID-19 press conferences will move to every other week. The Minister of Health and I will be back with you on Tuesday, March 16th. Until that time, we ask that all Bermudians remain mindful of the presence of coronavirus. Ensure that any event you attend, establishment or home that you enter, is adhering to the appropriate regulations and not putting anyone at risk. Let’s continue to work together to keep each other safe.