Covid-19: All negatives in hundreds of tests

  • Graphic by Christina White
  • Graphic by Christina White
  • David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

There have been no new cases of Covid-19 since Friday out of 528 test results received, Kim Wilson, the health minister, said this evening.

There are also no patients being treated in hospital for the illness, which has infected 144 people on the island.

The announcement came as the island prepared to move to Phase 3B of restrictions against the virus this Thursday.

Ms Wilson said saliva tests for coronavirus were en route to Bermuda and would arrive “very shortly”.

She commended the roughly 500 people who have availed themselves of pop-up testing so far.

She said of the three most recent cases of the virus, two were under still investigation and one had been linked to a household contact.

Ms Wilson spoke as David Burt, the Premier, gave condolences to the family of a 22-year-old man killed in an attack over a National Heroes Day weekend marred by violence.

The Premier added: “This holiday weekend was a distressing time for many in Bermuda.

“The actions of a few have changed the lives of family and friends who lost a loved one through the senseless death of a 22-year-old Bermudian.”

Mr Burt was joined by Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security; Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, and Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour.

Mr Caines listed a series of incidents that had roiled the island, beginning with a stabbing at the Heron Bay shopping plaza in Southampton on Friday.

He reminded the community that the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s powers were limited to enforcing Covid-19 emergency regulations.

Mr Caines added: “They do not have police powers.”

There were 2,571 boats out on the waters over the long weekend, with social distancing proving impossible to maintain in the popular Paradise Lakes area of the Great Sound.

The disturbance shortly before 8pm on Saturday at John Smith’s Bay in Smith’s ended with “massive dispersal” once police arrived, with two arrests made.

A man is being treated in hospital after a shooting at about 9.30pm on Saturday in St George’s, with suspects still being sought.

There were also calls over gunshots at 11pm in the Middletown area of Hamilton.

On Sunday, a man was fatally stabbed near the Rubis gas station on South Road in Warwick, after three men attacked another group of men near the facility.

Three suspects are being sought, with one person in police custody.

Mr Caines said police had upped their patrols around the island in response.

He also said 91 per cent of prison inmates had been tested for coronavirus, with no cases found among prisoners or staff.

Stephen Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police, said there were “forthcoming arrests” expected over the weekend’s events.

Mr Corbishley voiced concern over knives, which he said were carried by some of the people at the brawl by John Smith’s Bay.

He pointed out that the island had now seen “two homicides involving knives’.

Mr Dickinson gave updates on his ministry’s Covid-19 fiscal plan.

He said the unemployment benefit scheme for workers laid off during the pandemic had thus far provided $38 million to 9,700 workers.

There are now 3,500 people back at work, Mr Dickinson revealed.

Extending the programme from 12 weeks to 16 weeks is likely to cost a further $6 to $10 million.

Mr Dickinson said there had been 4,807 applications for withdrawals from pension plans, 972 of which were approved, to the total value of $10,955,501.

He said the Government planned to remove the requirement for applicants for pensions breaks to be retired.

There will be further amendments, up for debate this Friday in the House of Assembly, suspending for one year the employee and employer contributions to pensions and social insurance from July 1.

Mr Dickinson said a payroll tax break for restaurants and bars would cost the Government an estimated $750,000 to $1 million in lost revenues, but help keep the hard-hit establishments afloat.

He said that assistance would be reviewed on a quarter by quarter basis.

Mr Dickinson also said talks were ongoing with unions representing public officers over cuts to ease the Government’s financial burden.

The Covid-19 economic advisory committee, announced on May 20, met last week to discuss “quick wins” to grow the international business sector, as well as additional help for hospitality and retail.

The next meeting will hear of additional support for small and medium-sized businesses, and discuss “work to refine our economic modelling”.

Mr Hayward gave his first update to the country since his appointment to Cabinet.

He announced that Parliament this week would debate amendments to the Employment Act 2000 to protect businesses from payouts to staff made unemployed.

If the legislation is approved, the span from April 1 to June 30 will be excluded from the four-month period in which layoffs are mandated to become redundancies.

Mr Hayward said the worst-hit sectors during shelter-in-place restrictions had been restaurants, with 1,815 people laid off; hotels, at 1.345; construction, at 1,256; retail, at 991 and small businesses, at 921.

Mr Hayward said there had been “400-plus” employment complaints to the Labour Relations Department.

Of these, 14 were work-permit related complaints.

He noted that international business had emerged from Covid-19 restrictions as the most successful sector in keeping staff working.

Mr Hayward said he was “not sure how accurate” accounts were of large numbers of work permits being turned down by the Department of Immigration.

But he said he had requested any employers who wished to appeal permits getting denied to make their grievances known.

Mr Hayward added that he had requested the department’s technical officers to monitor work permit appeals.

He said a balance needed to be struck on the employment of local and expatriate workers.

Mr Hayward added: “The aim of the Ministry of Labour is to increase labour across the board. That’s Bermudian workers and non-Bermudian workers.”

He said: “What we want is more equitable treatment between the two groups.”

The press conference on Covid-19 opened at 5.50pm in the Cafetorium at the Berkeley Institute.

The Royal Gazette is providing a live video on this page.

The next update will be given on Thursday.