Saliva tests for Covid-19 could be introduced in the next few weeks, MPs heard yesterday.
David Burt, the Premier, said that he hoped the procedure — less complicated than present methods — would be operational “as quickly as possible”.
He told a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly that the new tests were discussed at a health advisory council meeting on Thursday.
Mr Burt said: “One of the things of which we’re actually looking to advance is the saliva testing, which they’re doing in other places, which can use the similar PCR equipment to what we have but can actually detect virus through a saliva sample, versus the PCR test where you have to go up the nose.”
He explained: “In this particular instance this is something that could be more widely available, could be something that is easier, and my directive to that group was to get that up and running as quickly as possible, so the target which they had is three weeks and I said I would like to see if we can get it done in ten days, let’s figure out exactly what are the parameters around this and let’s get ready, because that can help us scale up our testing.”
Mr Burt added: “It’s the exact same stuff that’s being done in Hong Kong upon entry.”
He was speaking after he asked MPs to extend restrictions on movement in the Emergency Powers (Covid-19 Continuing Precautions) Regulations 2020 until June 30.
Mr Burt said that rules for Bermuda’s phased reopening were designed to strike a balance between public health and the economy.
His motion to extend the regulations, which will expire on May 31, was approved without objection.
MPs heard earlier that failure to follow regulations could have a dire impact on the island.
Mr Burt said that he understood that businesses had been hit hard by government efforts to fight the pandemic.
He added: “The temptation to operate outside the regulations may be economically tempting.”
However, he warned: “The consequences of such could spell economic ruin and, of course, could also lead to health challenges.
“Compliance with the public health measures is pivotal to our progression to subsequent phases.”
Mr Burt said that rules unveiled as part of the island’s move to Phase 2 of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday had been “painstakingly devised” to keep customers and the staff of businesses safe.
He added they “must be followed so that the progress we have made is not reversed by carelessness”.
Mr Burt said the new June 30 end date for the restrictions coincided with the finish of the state of emergency.
But he warned: “This does not suggest that as a date certain for our progression to Phase 3, but it provides the necessary latitude for whatever may be required based on the ongoing public health situation and advice.”
Ben Smith, the shadow national security minister, said that the Opposition supported the relaxation of regulations for Phase 2.
He added that a great deal of discussion had taken place to decide what rules would be put in place.
Mr Smith said: “There are many suggestions that are put forward that people want to move faster, in some cases, and other people from a more conservative point of view think that we are maybe moving too quickly.
“There are a lot of people working really hard behind the scenes in order to make sure that the decisions that are being made are covering a very thin balance between making sure that we are keeping our country safe and healthy and, at the same, trying to get the country moving again, because we all know the impact these changes have had on our economy.”
Mr Smith told the public: “Please go out of your way to make sure you are going to support the local retailers, that you are going to take the opportunity to go to the local restaurants, to order the takeout, order the delivery, try to get those industries moving again.”
He added that a “large part” of the population would not be able to support businesses with cash.
Mr Smith said: “They don’t have the money. They are having a hard time just surviving, just being able to get food for themselves and for their family.
“So on top of us going out and making sure we’re supporting industry ... make sure that you are also looking out for your neighbours.”