As of 6am Thursday morning, the curfew that was once part of the ‘new normal’ will be lifted, in what started as ‘Shelter in Place’ restrictions implemented early last year in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the latest briefing, Premier David Burt announced the most recent changes approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday (Feb 16).

Tonight will be the last night of the 12am to 5am curfew.

Other changes to the regulations approved include:

“All liquor licensed establishments will now be allowed to remain open until 12 midnight, giving them an additional hour of operations as they have previously been required to close at 11pm.

“The reasoning for this is similar to the rationale I provided two weeks ago for keeping a curfew in place. It is still critical to keep social mixing at a safe level, especially in situations where alcohol is consumed,” said Premier Burt.

“Businesses will no longer be required to close at 11 pm, and as long as they are not a liquor licensed establishment, they can remain open. The means that you can get your late night food again.

“These changes will come into effect on Thursday, February 18th, at 6am.

“Until these measures officially change, please continue to adhere to the curfew as it stands now – as the enforcement of the law will continue until Thursday morning. All measures will be reviewed by the Cabinet in two weeks,” he added.

“The Government is pleased to announce the end of the curfew and has no desire to reimpose such measures again. However, it is crucial for everyone to understand that the Government will not hesitate to take action and reimplement regulations should this become necessary to stop another outbreak.

“It would be understandable that members of the public will ask what the Government is doing to help ensure that ending curfew now does not lead to a rise in cases later. The Minister of Health stated at our press conference two weeks ago; saliva screening has been ongoing since September of last year for Bermuda Hospitals Board staff, long-term care staff and residents and select essential and hospitality workers.

“In order to be proactive and ensure we remain able to manage any spread of the virus, enhanced community and occupational saliva screening will start this weekend, beginning with local sports teams.” (more in Sports)

The Cabinet also agreed that all public health regulations will remain in place as follows:

Indoor funerals can hold up to 25% of the maximum capacity for the venue in which they are held.

Outdoor funerals can be attended by up to 50 persons.

Table size in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs remains at ten persons.

The maximum size for group gatherings in a private or public setting remains at 25 persons.

Boating curfew remains at 8pm.

The Premier also noted that “Bermuda is now #7 in the world in the number of vaccine doses administered relative to population size”.

“We are #5 in the world for testing per capita – and we would be higher if we included our saliva PCR tests in that figure. Through this work, we have managed the spread of the coronavirus, and therefore, we can further ease public health measures for Bermuda.”

Moving forward, he said: “The Government is determined to ensure that we do not hastily remove the legislative mechanisms that helped us successfully navigate this pandemic until we are confident that the coronavirus no longer requires Bermuda to be in a state of a Public Health Emergency.

“This Friday, February 19th, the House of Assembly will reconvene and will debate an extension to the Public Health Emergency Order upon the recommendation by the Minister of Health,” he added.

As noted by the Minister of Health, he reiterated that “the rules for vaccinated travellers will change effective Monday March 1st”.

“This is an early step that we can take as we look to increase safe tourism to Bermuda. It is the Government’s hope that our reputation as a COVID-19 safe destination, our reliable testing regime and our top 10 global ranking vaccination statistics will encourage vaccinated travellers to visit our island in the coming months,” said Mr Burt.

“As we prepare to welcome vaccinated tourists to our shores, we need to step up our tourism marketing.”

The Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) “is looking to capture more sports tourism and wedding business in Bermuda”, he added.

“To ensure that we can effectively market to this segment, a task force has been set up to streamline the process for large event approvals for both our local entrepreneurs and tourists who may wish to host events in Bermuda. This task force consists of representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Security, the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and the Ministry of Youth, Culture & Sport.

“I will also assure all Bermudians that our focus will not solely be on our borders and tourism. The Government is aware that domestically there is work to be done, to improve the everyday lives of Bermudians, and we will continue to execute plans to stimulate our domestic economy.

“Phase 1 of the Ministry of Public Works Economic Stimulus Program has over 100 applicants,” said Mr Burt.

“This program offers small and medium-sized contractors the opportunity to work on infrastructure construction projects. The Ministry estimates that projects will provide work for 243 people. I am thrilled that so many companies applied to be a part of this program and I want to commend the Minister of Public works and the team at the BEDC for ensuring such wide participation of entrepreneurs.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Kim Wilson said that more than 13,000 people had been given at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of yesterday, she said that number increased to 13,155, up from 12,568 last Friday, when 56 percent of the recipients were women and 44 percent were men.

To date, 15 percent of the island’s population had received one does of the Pfizer vaccine – four percent had completed the two-shot dosage.

A total of 3,467 doses were administered last week – that number has climbed steadily over the five weeks of distribution.

A total of 17,605 people have registered interest in receiving the vaccine – 49 percent were white, 21 percent were black, 20 percent did not give a race and ten per cent were “other” or mixed race .

The Minister also noted that there were no new positive cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Bermuda on Tuesday (Feb 15), with only four active cases – the lowest since October 7.

Three people were being monitored by public health officials and one was in hospital.