Quarantine centres are under consideration as the country prepares itself for a worst-case scenario over the potential killer Covid-19 virus, it was revealed yesterday.
Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, said there were “conceivable situations” that could require a quarantine to deal with the new strain of coronavirus.
She added: “That’s what we are working on the logistics of now.”
Dr Peek-Ball said that “several facilities” were being considered as quarantine centres — but declined to discuss what they were and where they were.
She added: “Those are matters that are under discussion right now. So I’m not able to give the details of that. That’s part of the information that’s being presented to the minister and Cabinet.”
However, Steve Cosham, the National Disaster Co-ordinator, said there were no “turnkey” buildings on the island that could be pressed into service if needed.
He added that the ten most suitable Government-owned owned buildings “in varying states of repair” had been identified and were being assessed for what work needed to be done.
Mr Cosham said: “We’ve looked at ones which are almost ready to go, but they will take budget and they will take time to get up and running.”
He added that the biggest had “about 20 rooms”.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said she had been assured by David Burt, the Premier, and Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, that money would be made available to combat the virus.
Ms Wilson, Dr Peek-Ball and Mr Cosham were speaking as they outlined the latest preparations as the virus continued its global spread.
Dr Peek-Ball said that a handful of people in Bermuda were at present being monitored for Covid-19.
She said that “roughly 95 individuals” who had arrived by air had been monitored.
Dr Peek-Ball added: “Approximately 29, as I recall, required active monitoring. At this time, the number is something like four or five people who are still under active monitoring.”
Dr Peek-Ball added: “That process expires after 14 days, so people are constantly getting on the list of monitoring and constantly falling off.”
Mr Cosham said that he had made recommendations to the Government about possible travel restrictions and that Cabinet would decide what, if any, measures would be adopted.
Dr Peek-Ball said that all quarantine conditions in Bermuda were self-quarantining.
She added that “practical considerations” were a major factor on whether mandatory quarantines could be introduced.
Dr Peek-Ball explained: “Home quarantine has been shown to be quite adequate worldwide, and quite practical, as opposed to putting people in special facilities.”
Michael Richmond, the Chief of Staff at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said that there were nine beds in the hospital’s adult Intensive Care Unit, all of which had ventilators, as did the hospital’s operating theatres and the Emergency Department, and four extra ventilators were also available.
However, he added: “Currently, we have more capacity than has been required, but in terms of how do we escalate that going forward, it’s not just about kit — it’s around personnel as well.”
Dr Richmond said that the hospital currently had a “ready supply” of protective equipment for staff and that the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David’s “would be used appropriately” if needed.
Dr Peek-Ball said that Government had planned for the “likely scenario” as well as a worst-case scenario.
She added: “I think the situation of monumental proportions, biblical proportions, is one that we are making the decision to spend less of our time on than the more likely scenario of large numbers of people simply being unwell in their homes.”
Dr Peek-Ball said that the Government expected that Covid-19 would hit Bermuda and that the scenario would likely to be similar to when H1N1, a strain the influenza A virus, arrived in 2011.
She explained: “There are individuals who are unwell and need the care of their family physicians.
“There are individuals who get sicker than that and need hospital care. And, on rare occasions, individuals die. There is the possibility of death.
“It’s for that reason that we stress that it’s important for us as a general population, to right now aim to be as healthy as we possibly can.”
Dr Peek-Ball said that people with chronic medical conditions and people older than 60 were at higher risk of illness.
Ms Wilson added that travellers to Bermuda would undergo a “travel risk assessment and could have their health monitored and movement on island restricted for up to 14 days”. She added that “ways to enhance the reliability of customs information from travellers” who arrived in Bermuda were being examined and that “we are in the process of finalising travel forms for arriving passengers requesting specific travel details such as where you’ve travelled and when”.
Ms Wilson said: “An incomplete disclosure of travel history could lead to a potential health risk for our community and therefore we want to appeal to every traveller to please be truthful.”
She said that three tests for Covid-19 had so far been performed, with negative results.
Ms Wilson added: “We are exploring additional testing options through Public Health England and the World Health Organisation and can give full assurance that Government will obtain the necessary equipment as it is available so that tests can be done locally.”
Ms Wilson said that Bermuda Hospitals Board “has escalation plans in place ... to cope with an influx of patients in the event of a pandemic”.
She added that “there are actions that can be taken to increase capacity, such as postponing elective surgeries, discharging stable patients, and using additional beds in other areas”.
But Ms Wilson said that “experience to date” suggested that about 80 per cent of people who contracted Covid-19 would have “mild to no symptoms and will not need hospital care at all”.