Ashton emphasises resolute approach to virus

  • Words of warning: Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Chief of Medicine (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda could face a future of “economic turmoil and rampant disease” if the community fails to be vigilant in preventing the spread of Covid-19, a leading doctor warned.

Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Chief of Medicine, said that while the economy must open back up, people must not become complacent.

Speaking on the Bermuda Government’s Facebook Live session yesterday, Dr Ashton said: “What is clear now is our economy cannot sustain a continued quarantine or lockdown.

“The critical message is that until we have a cure, a vaccine or herd immunity, we have to up our game with a duel strategy. We have to do even better with physical-distancing, masking and hand washing, and testing, tracing and targeting.

“It is a national commitment to each other and, if we fail, the alternative reality is of economic turmoil and rampant disease.”

Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, said contact tracing, where individuals monitor who they have been in close contact with in case they are infected so transmission can be traced back, is more important than ever.

She said: “It is important for people to understand their role. Our health system could become overcome.

“Moving forward, we are back in our usual social circles. If we become complacent with physical-distancing, we are more likely to transmit the virus person to person, in that case it is important you know who you have been around.

“It is important to limit your social activity, at this point we are not back to normal.”

The World Health Organisation earlier welcomed preliminary results about corticosteroid based dexamethasone in treating critically ill patients.

Dr Ashton said: “The information about dexamethasone is exciting because we have used it for critical care patients and we have it at the hospital. The concern is that it can suppress the immune system, so it needs to go through the rigours of peer review; you have to wait for a consensus in the literature. We might not have the luxury of waiting too long.”

Dr Peek-Ball said that, despite the urgency for treatment for Covid-19, “the scientific process cannot be abandoned”.

Asked when shielded people could resume normal activity, Dr Ashton added: “That happens at the finish line, unfortunately. Until you have a cure or vaccine or have herd immunity or any combination, shielding will be a necessary part of our strategy.”