A bank clerk disinfects banknotes in the Suining Bank in southwest China – Image: Chinatopix Via AP

Tests kits for the deadly strain of coronavirus will arrive in Bermuda by next week, with 400 cases of hand sanitiser.

This from Premier David Burt, who confirmed last night (March 6) that supplies will be handed out at various locations around the island, starting with groups most at-risk like seniors.

“That is the reason why we have mobilised a full and complete government response.” said Mr Burt.

“The Minister of Finance has made emergency spending available.

“The Bermuda Hospitals Board, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, is currently sourcing DNA-testing equipment — those items will be on-island next week. This will enable us to commence rapid testing,” he added.

But he said: “There are some questions of shortages of particular equipment, as the number of people infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus topped 100,000 worldwide this week.

Medical face masks ran short in Bermuda last month.

Seoul, South Korea – Disinfection professionals wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution – Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

“All of that has been communicated to Public Health England,” he said.

The National Health Service (NHS) in England will assist in securing supplies for the island.

“We’re looking at eliminating duty on these particular items. We are doing everything possible to make sure we can keep the people of this country safe,” the Premier added.

He also noted that to date, the island “remains on the lowest risk for international travel” with no confirmed or suspected cases of the virus yet.

Mr Burt also stressed that “incredibly stringent steps” were in place “at all of our ports”.

And as we head into the peak tourism season, which includes hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers in the months ahead, he said: “All cruise ship lines serving Bermuda have been contacted.

“They have shared their individual policies for the health screening of passengers,” he added.

David Kendell, the Director of the Department of Health, explained: “By liaising closely with shipping agents, government personnel are preparing for the planned arrival of all cruise ships to the island.

“Under the International Health Regulations, all ships must forward a Declaration of Health form to the Department of Health which must be received at least 24 hours before the ship’s arrival.

“The declaration will detail any instances of infectious diseases on-board and lists any previous ports of call.

“By having this information in advance we can make decisions based on risk assessments and in line with the International Health Regulations as to whether or not we need to intervene in any way.

“We also carry out full inspections of cruise ships on request in order to issue Ship Sanitation Certificates.”

Extra nurses in the healthcare profession were also being trained in investigation and case management to deal with suspected cases of COVID-19 in the local community.

And 911 telephone operators had changed their usual call-handling methods with enhanced questioning of callers to handle situations that involved possible cases of the deadly virus to ensure the appropriate emergency services were used.

Information will also be sent out to churches with tips on the prevention of respiratory illness to hand out this weekend.

Health Minister Kim Wilson added: “I would like to re-emphasise the importance of practicing good hand hygiene, social distancing and common sense.

“It is important to remind members of the public that if they feel unwell with respiratory symptoms, to please call ahead before entering any healthcare facility.”

The Sail2020 international conference on artificial intelligence, due to take place in Hamilton between April 27 to 29, was called off yesterday because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisers posted on their website: “We are sad to announce our decision to postpone Sail2020.

“We could not in good conscience ask you and others to take the risk of exposure to Covid-19, or potential quarantine.

“Many of our speakers are also now unable to participate. We will post our new date as soon as it is confirmed.”