The Ministry of Health has confirmed that five more people were tested for the potential deadly strain of coronavirus when they arrived in Bermuda last week.
As of Sunday, March 8, 22 people were “self-monitoring with public health supervision” as a precaution against Covid-19.
But the five people tested are “under self isolation”.
No official word on where that “self isolation” is taking place. Whether or not they have COVID-19 will not be known until early next week, when the results are expected back from the Caribbean Public Health agency.
Meanwhile, a Ministry spokesperson said: “A rapid response team will be created in collaboration with community healthcare professionals to increase capacity for detection of potential cases of Covid-19.”
Last week the Government announced that “religious organisations were sent guidance to share with their congregations to assist in spreading the word about preventive measures the population can take now”, over the weekend.
The document urged the public to wash their hands thoroughly, avoid touching their faces and not to go to work, school or social gatherings if they fall ill.
But the decision to distribute that information to churches as opposed to others like elder care facilities in Bermuda has come in for criticism by local bloggers.
One blogger asked: “Will church people get preferential access to healthcare as well in Bermuda?
“Will test kits be available to churches before the rest of us?”
That blogger also stated: “The CDC has recommended people do not take cruises. In Bermuda, churches get preferential access to government information, restricted to them only?”
Another blogger wrote: “I guess the churches were informed because they represent groups of people in confined spaces in what for us is the very early stages of a potential outbreak.
“However I have seen a lot of religious gibberish on social media from religious leaders of how somehow they will be immune to the virus because of prayer and the blood of Jesus etc.”
Another social media critic said: “You would think elder care facilities would be first.”
Others expressed concern about the peak tourism season approaching with the anticipated arrival of hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers.
One blogger wrote: “There is a real lack of information on what will happen if there is a cruise ship outbreak particularly if the ship is in port.
“We know we do not have the on Island facilities, manpower, equipment, supplies to handle something like the Diamond Princess outbreak.
“We therefore need a plan agreed with the cruise lines on how they will deal with this and the passengers and crew should be made aware of these procedures before they sail.
“The US has recently advised its residents they are travelling at their own risk and they can not expect the US Government to fly them home.
“That being said we would still have to consider situations where for example a large group of passengers, 100-200, who were on shore excursions when the outbreak is announced refusing to return to the ship.
“It may be easy to say we have the power to force them to return and the Police and Regiment would ‘carry them on” but the practicality and international optics of that do not bear thinking about.
“Another issue is that the UK have offered assistance to the Overseas Territories in the form of on island advisors and training for our labs in the use of the virus test kits and other issues.
“There has been no word on us taking that offer up, other Islands such as Cayman have.”
To date, more than 3,800 people have died of the virus around the world since COVID-19 appeared in China – more than 108,000 people have been infected.
There have been no confirmed cases in Bermuda.
In the statement issued on Sunday, the Ministry said travellers who have been in affected areas should be prepared to self-quarantine until a risk assessment has been completed by a public health officer.
That officer will then assess what public health measures should be implemented based on the travellers’ risk level.
“Public health measures may include active monitoring or supervision of self-monitoring by public health authorities, or the application of movement restrictions, including isolation and quarantine, when needed to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19 in Bermuda.”