Health

Burt: Bermuda must be ‘nimble’ on Covid-19

  • Giving direction: David Burt, the Premier, addresses the public on Covid-19 coronavirus, at a press conference, flanked by Cheryl Peek-Ball, Bermuda’s Chief Medical Officer, left, and the Cabinet (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Civil servants were told to cancel “non-essential travel” yesterday, but no ban will be imposed on large public gatherings at present, the Premier announced.

However, David Burt advised people to practise “social distancing” and highlighted that some businesses had staff working on a remote basis.

He added that plans were ready to be implemented if schoolchildren needed to be sent home.

Diallo Rabain, the education minister, later confirmed that a plan had been developed from earlier virus scares.

Mr Rabain added: “We are in the process of reviewing that plan.

“Rest assured that we do have a contingency plan that’s being worked on and will be ready within the next few days.”

Mr Rabain said that the plan would allow for pupil instruction to continue if schools were forced to close.

By presstime yesterday, Bermuda remained free of confirmed cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, which was declared a pandemic on Wednesday, by the World Health Organisation.

Infections worldwide topped 133,000 cases with more than 5,000 deaths.

The Premier said the island awaited additional test results and that “our hope is that those tests will also be negative”.

Test kits for the virus are expected to arrive next week.

Mr Burt said the island was “fortunate due to our isolation and the fact that it is not high tourism season”.

He added that “the most important thing to do is to slow the spread”.

He said: “The Minister of Health has said previously that it is an inevitability it will arrive here.”

Mr Burt explained that countries that took “aggressive action to slow the spread”, avoided having their healthcare systems inundated with cases.

He added: “Our public health response is about minimising transmission to make sure our public health system is not overwhelmed.”

Mr Burt said a public health emergency response team, similar to the Emergency Measures Organisation, had combined “all relevant agencies”.

Mr Burt added: “There has been a daily flow of information to the public as we are determined to learn lessons from those countries where the virus is spreading more rapidly.”

He said the island had the ability to be “nimble” and minimise the impact of the virus.

He added: “There are some realities for which we must prepare, even if things do not reach a crisis point.”

Mr Burt said that the Government had prepared for public employees to work remotely if required.

Extra protective equipment such as gloves and masks have been ordered, along with thermal imaging equipment to scan arrivals at Bermuda’s ports of entry.

He admitted there had been “some gaps early on”, but that “strict screening” continued at ports.

Mr Burt added: “All essential service will continue functioning and shipping is not expected to be disrupted.”

Daily updates will be posted on the Government’s website at www.gov.bm/coronavirus.

Carnival cruise lines announced yesterday it had suspended operations of its Princess Cruises, which does not visit Bermuda, until May 10.

A cruise that was due to include a stop in Bermuda later this month has been cancelled, its operators said yesterday.

The Divina, operated by MSC Cruises, was scheduled to arrive at Dockyard on March 26 for a 24-hour visit.

A spokeswoman for the cruise line said: “MSC Cruises has revised its itineraries for its ships, that were due to call at Italian ports in connection with the Italian Government’s decision on March 9 to introduce further strict measures that have impacted the country as the Covid-19 coronavirus public health emergency continues to evolve.

“Some ship itineraries have changed up until April 3, the date set by the Italian Government for emergency coronavirus measures, and in some instances beyond this date.”

A government spokesman, however, said they had not received any notification about the cancellation.

The spokesman said: “MCS has not officially released the Bermuda space for March 26 to 27 at this time. The Ministry of Tourism and Transport has not received any cruise ship cancellations affecting April’s cruise ship schedule.”

Divina was the only ship scheduled to dock in Bermuda this month, with the next expected on April 3.

The MSC Cruises website showed that the ship’s itinerary was to sail from Miami to New York, from where it would travel to Bermuda before going on to Europe, with a stop at Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

The Divina was expected to have 4,203 passengers and 1,751 crew.