David Burt, the Premier, spoke to the country last night on the Government’s continued preparations in the growing Covid-19 crisis.
What follows is the full text:
Good evening everyone
The virus known as Covid-19 or the coronavirus, is having a tremendous impact on our society, our economy and the way we interact with each other.
Naturally, we are anxious about the future and the health and safety of our loved ones. It must be stressed that at this point there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bermuda.
Despite that, we are taking precautions based on the guidance of our health professionals at the Ministry of Health and their partners at the World Health Organisation. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball, and her team at the Ministry of Health have provided me with the latest update on the steps we are taking to keep our people safe here at home.
Dr Peek-Ball and her team have been working tirelessly around the clock, nights and weekends on this issue, all while often being forced away from their families. On behalf of the people of Bermuda, I thank them.
Preparation for Covid-19 didn’t just start last week. Since the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern in January, the Public Health Emergency Response Team led by the Chief Medical Officer has been preparing Bermuda, ensuring that additional supplies for our healthcare system were ordered, effective containment policies were being identified and contingencies for any conceivable outcome were prepared.
Bermuda is following the examples of countries such as Singapore which have successfully managed Covid-19, contained the spread of this disease and minimised the loss of life.
With the announcement that everyone arriving to our shores will be required to self-quarantine, Bermuda is moving to another phase in our efforts to protect our borders and reduce the risk of importation of possible Covid-19 cases and to contain the possible spread of this disease. This was a difficult decision, as it essentially shuts down our borders and our tourism industry, but controlling community spread of Covid-19 and preserving the safety of our Bermudian people is paramount.
Starting today, the Emergency Measures Organisation Covid-19 team Chaired by the Minister of National Security, Wayne Caines, and supported by a well-qualified and experienced team of public health officers and security service chiefs will be coordinating the Government’s response to Covid-19, managing the developments as they occur and providing regular updates to the public to keep Bermudians informed.
This situation is rapidly evolving and your government is responding swiftly as circumstances require. If Covid-19 does arrive in Bermuda an action plan is in place to contain its spread.
As it stands today:
• There are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bermuda. All suspected cases to date which we have received results for are negative, with many persons testing positive for the flu
• International shipping lines remain open with regular shipments of food and supplies continuing throughout this situation. I can also confirm that we have contingencies in place in the unlikely event that this is disrupted
• Covid-19 testing continues to be performed at the Caribbean Public Health Agency facility in Trinidad and the Government is investigating all options to increase the speed by which we can test and receive accurate results
• Covid-19 testing kits have been ordered, and a private jet is on standby to bring them to Bermuda as soon as they are ready to ship,and we expect that we will have on-island testing capability later this week
• We have called for every Bermudian to strictly practise social-distancing, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face
• We have postponed all government public events
• We have called on the public to suspend public gatherings of 50 people or more
• We are restricting access to hospital patients and our vulnerable Bermudians such as the seniors at our rest homes
• We have Introduced emergency legislation to assist in the containment of Covid-19
Now, I would like to speak to our parents with children in the public school system and to our teachers. Our public schools are remaining open for now. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has published recommendations on school closure based on available science, reports from other countries, as well as in consultation with school health experts. Those guidelines have proven successful in other jurisdictions that have managed containment well and, as such, we are following them.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that early, short to medium-term closures of schools does not impact the spread of Covid-19 the way that proper handwashing or home quarantine has in countries that have successfully managed this disease.
If we decide to close a school, it will happen only when specific conditions are identified by health professionals and when it is in the best interest of Bermuda. Our schools are being prepared if Covid-19 arrives in Bermuda with the disinfection and cleaning of schools having been increased, social-distancing measures in place and proper handwashing being enforced.
Like many Bermudian parents, my daughter is a student at one of our public schools. Our Minister of Education Diallo Rabain’s daughter is also a student in our public school system. Her safety and the safety of her classmates is at the forefront of our minds, and we are monitoring this situation as closely as possible, with every resource at our disposal.
Again, there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Bermuda.
It has been said that in times of crisis, truth is the first casualty. Rumours are flying rampant, creating panic and a drain on human resources. This is not helpful. I strongly discourage the spreading of false information, which may incite fear and panic in the community.
I encourage every resident to get their information from official sources — the Bermuda Government website, coronavirus.gov.bm, and Government’s Treefrog app, as well as government social-media pages. These are updated as information is received and confirmed.
Any situation posing a risk to the safety of the general public will be communicated through official Government of Bermuda channels.
I want to remind each of you that the most effective way to contain the spread of Covid-19 is to practise proper hygiene, engage in frequent, proper handwashing, maintain social-distancing and, if you are feeling ill or on self-quarantine, please stay at home.
If the preventative and containment measures recommended by the Government are not followed, it could lead to the overwhelming of our medical system and the deaths of friends, family and neighbours. Together we must do everything we can to avoid this situation.
I, like many of you, have elderly parents, parents who are in the group most vulnerable to Covid-19. Like you I am deeply concerned about their safety and keeping them safe.
None of us wants to lose a loved one before their time. Therefore, we are all in this together.
Making it through this difficult period demands that we have:
• Effective use of all of the Government’s resources to prevent the spread of Covid-19
• Responsible citizens that strictly follow all of the recommended containment and self-quarantine protocols
• A responsible business community that is compassionate to our displaced workers, while assisting in reinforcing our containment measures and working alongside the Government
Thankfully, most of us are keeping calm, and we are resisting our natural habit of hugging and shaking hands, and are maintaining our social distance. We are following self-quarantining guidelines and washing our hands. We are supporting our healthcare workers as they lead the fight on the front lines. Our business and union partners are doing their part to keep Bermuda up and running.
Coming together and working together during times of need. That’s who we are ... that’s what being Bermudian is all about.
To give comfort to our workers, many of whom, particularly in the tourism industry will be impacted by us effectively closing our borders, tonight I am telling you that you are not alone and you have not been forgotten.
The Minister of Finance today announced a raft of measures to not only protect our economy but to provide for assistance to those who have been laid off due to Covid-19. Bermudians in the hospitality industry who have been impacted will be receiving information from the Government tomorrow on temporary assistance that will be provided to them.
We are working with our utility providers to ensure that these services are maintained during this situation and that those economically impacted will not be cut off. Similarly, our local banks will need to do more to assist, and if they do not take sufficient steps voluntarily, the Government will not hesitate to make provisions in law to ensure that Bermudians are not negatively impacted.
In closing, I must repeat that we are all in this together.
We must not succumb to fear, anxiety or panic, and we must maintain our social cohesion. We all are concerned about our families, and we all want to ensure that everything is being done to protect them. We must remain calm, we must remain strong and we must remain united in our stand against this threat.
I am confident that Bermuda will stay united, we will stay calm, we will all take sensible precautions, we will help each other, and together we will overcome this.
Thank you and may God bless the people of Bermuda.