The recent surge in COVID-19 in Bermuda has local resulted in contact tracers working around the clock to track the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking at the latest briefing on Saturday, Health Minister Kim Wilson warned that the the UK variant, now present on the island “spreads like wildfire”.

“We’re seeing it in Bermuda. We are seeing it from the last two weeks and the reality is all of this is preventable,” she said.

“It’s very discouraging to know that we have to keep repeating ourselves day in and day out about what the public health guidelines are, when some people purely for selfish reasons, are just ignoring it and then the rest of us are all adversely impacted.

“We recognise that the contact tracing caseload has intensified tremendously and in fact, following the last surge that we had we wee able to galvanise ourselves and add more resources to the contact tracers,” she added.

“However, regrettably as has been stated the high level of transmission with respect to this particular virus they are becoming overwhelmed. Each case may have 25 close contacts.

The Minister also noted that one of the cases had 80 close contacts.

“So the case workers are obviously working overtime.

“These are individuals that are not only working enormous amounts of time under enormous stresses away from their families.

“But we could assist them by doing what we’re supposed to do, which is with respect to the physical distancing, keeping our bubbles small, wearing our masks and so forth.”

Meanwhile, a new set of COVID-19 restrictions went into at 6am this morning in a bid to “arrest” the current spread of the virus after 81 new cases were confirmed this weekend and the number of active cases climbed to 294.

“Our island is at a serious juncture as our public health system is being significantly challenged,” said Premier David Burt.

“The teams are struggling to keep up with contact tracing and the work that is necessary to control this outbreak. The severity of this outbreak and impact on individuals and healthcare systems could be further magnified if we do not arrest its current spread.

“Our first duty as a Government is to do what is in the best interest of the island and her people.

“That responsibility cannot be tempered by convenience, frustration or fatigue. We are unwavering in our determination to keep Bermuda safe and to strike the necessary balance to preserve life and ensure economic survival.”

As a result, the following changes to the Public Health Emergency Regulations went into effect this morning:

1. Churches / indoor religious services save for funerals are closed to congregants but open to a max of 10 clergy or those persons required to facilitate services for broadcast.

2. Indoor dining is prohibited save for hotels whose indoor dining is restricted to hotel guests only. Outdoor restaurants and bars can remain open.

3. Indoor gyms are to be closed, as well as bowling alleys, indoor cinemas, museums, or any other indoor place of public resort. Outdoor facilities such as golf courses, tennis courts, parks, and outdoor gym equipment can remain open.

4. Retail stores to be restricted to 20% of approved fire occupancy at any one time.

5. To minimise mixing of school age children, where we have seen a significant level of cases – Schools and camps are to be closed. However, licensed day care facilities will be allowed to open following strict public health guidance and  will be visited by public health officers.

6. Remote working will now be mandatory where at all possible.

“All other regulations that were in place previously, will remain in place, including personal care services, which are allowed so long as masks do not have to be removed,” said Premier Burt.

“The curfew will remain from 11pm – 5am.  Simply put, indoor activities that require you to remove a mask are not allowed.

He also noted that the Government will take a “look at what adjustments are necessary in light of vaccinations status and others” in days ahead.

“But on a broad level – now is the time for a shift of behaviour,” Mr Burt said.

“This situation is very serious and we must all take personal responsibility for our actions, and collective responsibility as a community to protect our brave frontline healthcare workers.

“We must be vigilant and use what we have at our disposal. We have the tools to keep this virus at bay, but the only thing that will help us all is if we follow the rules and stay at home. We will have more details on Tuesday at our next press conference, but for now there is only one message; we need people to remain at home.

“It would be an understatement to say that it is disheartening for Bermuda to be where we are,” he added.