News

Burt adamant about shared economic sacrifice

  • David Burt, the Premier, promised that the public sector will not be forced  bear the brunt of the economic fallout brought by Covid-19 on its own (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, again voiced his disapproval of how some residents behaved at the weekend when the lockdown was relaxed (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Premier said last night “nothing was off the table” as the Government looked for ways to share the sacrifice after a meeting with trades union leaders.

David Burt did not give details of the summit with union officials, but said the economic burden of the Covid-19 pandemic must not be carried on the shoulders of civil servants alone.

Mr Burt said: “As we are in this together, sacrifice will be discussed with all, worked upon by all and made by all, not just those at the lower end of the economic scale and not just by public officers.

“It makes no sense to make cuts to wages and for them not to get a cut to their interest rates or their power bills.

“Fairness is needed across the board, and this government will ensure that all are to be part of the equation.”

Mr Burt added: “It’s difficult to ask people to take a pay cut when a bank’s interest rates in this country were reduced by 0.5 per cent and the same bank in the Cayman Islands reduced their interest rates by 1.5 per cent.

“I don’t think that is right and proper. If the private sector doesn’t act in these particular instances, then the Government may be forced to do so.”

Mr Burt said the Government had already identified $65 million in potential savings and would continue to work with the unions to find more.

He said: “The talks were fruitful and I’m convinced that we understand the need to find solutions that will benefit all.”

However, Mr Burt added: “Our public officers have often been scapegoated, abused, disrespected and portrayed as the source and solution to most of our problems.

“Government certainly does not accept that. We reject that mindset entirely.

“We know the sacrifices they make and the tireless work that many of them perform, especially in the last few months as this country has battled this pandemic.”

Mr Burt said the Cabinet would meet today to discuss existing regulations to protect the community and more economic relief measures.

He added assistance would include the authorisation of one-time withdrawals from private occupational pensions.

Mr Burt said: “In times of crisis, you have to make extraordinary decisions.”

He added legislation on pensions would be tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday and that he hoped it would be fast-tracked to allow the Senate to approve it.

Mr Burt said he was disappointed that some members of the public had ignored mandated health precautions over the weekend and added that scheduled events, such as the Bermuda Carnival, were unlikely to go ahead because of social-distancing rules.

Mr Burt added that another repatriation flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Bermuda may take place on May 15.

He said that, between the Bermuda-bound flight and the return leg, at least 90 passengers would be required to make the flight possible and those returned residents would be quarantined for 14 days at a cost of $100 per day.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, added that 127 more test results had come back and all were clear.

She added that the total number of cases remained at 115.

Ms Wilson said 54 cases were still being monitored, with 16 patients in hospital and 54 now recovered.

The death toll in Bermuda remained at seven.

Ms Wilson said 142 residents and 198 staff from six care homes had now been tested, with 41 coronavirus cases identified.

She added: “With respect to testing at the two care homes with outbreaks, at Matilda Smith Williams Rest Home less than 50 per cent of those who tested positive were asymptomatic. At Westmeath, 90 per cent were asymptomatic.

“With respect to the first air bridge, there were 11 positive cases and all were asymptomatic. Quarantined passengers of the latest air bridge are being tested this week.”

Ms Wilson said the island was now in the top 12 countries for tests per capita on worldometers.info.

However, she warned that precautions should still be taken because people who tested negative could still contract the disease later.

She said: “Having a test does not mean you can stop the preventive measures.”

Lovitta Foggo, the labour minister, said the total figure paid out in Covid-19 unemployment benefits had reached $15 million, with $7.2 million paid out last week.

About 7,500 people have received financial support through the scheme since it launched on March 25.

Ms Foggo added: “My colleagues and I on a daily basis hear heart-wrenching stories of Bermudian families who are struggling to put food on the table, let alone pay their utility and other bills.

“We hear you.”

Ms Foggo praised the employers who held on to their staff despite financial problems and highlighted that some who had claimed benefits had now returned to work.

She added: “If you are back at work and had applied for the unemployment benefit, then you must notify Workforce Development and can do so by e-mail to unemploymentbenefit@gov.bm, including your name, social insurance number, date of birth and the date that you began work.”