News

Phase 2: caution still the buzzword for Burt

  • Setting an example: David Burt, the Premier, told the regular Covid-19 press conference yesterday, May 20, 2020 that ministers had agreed to a 15 per cent pay cut and legislation will be tabled today giving members of parliament a one-year 12½ per cent pay cut. Mr Burt explained: “We will not ask public officers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.” (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Graphic by Christina White
  • Graphic by Christina White

Residents deserve high praise for their work to fight the spread of Covid-19, an infectious disease specialist said yesterday.

Michael Ashton, the Chief of Medicine at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said that he and Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, had spoken about the island’s response to the coronavirus.

He explained: “We thought that we would never be in as positive a situation as we are right now, in terms of the outcomes of the distancing measures, universal masking, hand hygiene, et cetera.

“There have been very significant sacrifices that the people have made — and it is working.”

David Burt, the Premier, cautioned that Bermuda was “not out of the woods yet”.

He added: “We must continue to work to limit the spread of this virus. So, this weekend, and starting tomorrow, again — now is not the time to tear it. It is still cool-out time.”

Dr Ashton said that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was prepared for a possible surge of cases.

He added: “We’re hopeful that will not happen, and if the current phased interventions proceed, as they have been recommended, I expect that we will continue to have a flat curve.”

However, he warned that Bermuda was not in a position to eradicate the virus from its shores.

Dr Ashton said: “Even if we were, as soon as we did that, somewhere in the world it would be reintroduced. So that’s not a realistic goal. I think a flat curve that continues much like we are seeing, or even better, would be a manageable approach for the hospital, until we can have definitive treatments.”

He was speaking at a press conference yesterday ahead of the island moving today to Phase 2 of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Dr Ashton said the hospital had developed six sets of convalescent plasma that were being kept in frozen storage.

People who recover from the virus carry “neutralising antibodies” in their blood to prevent Covid-19 from regaining a foothold inside the body.

Dr Ashton explained that the plasma could be used for severely ill patients who had not developed their own antibodies.

He said the six treatments, which covered all blood types, were available for “the most severely ill patients who would otherwise be expected to die”.

Dr Ashton added the treatment had not yet been tried on any patients.

Recovered patients interested in donating should contact their primary care doctor, or the hospital’s donor centre, which is at 236-5067.

No new cases of the potentially deadly coronavirus were reported yesterday, but a staff member at the hospital tested positive earlier this week.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, revealed that Gordon Ward, where the staff member worked, was under quarantine as a result.

All patients in the ward have tested negative, but will be retested, along with staff, by the weekend.The island has had 125 total cases confirmed, with 36 cases active, and three people in hospital — two of them in critical care.

Dr Ashton said the two patients in the Intensive Care Unit no longer had the coronavirus present in their bodies, but were struggling with the subsequent effects of the virus.

Ms Wilson said there were just 14 test results in the latest round, because the testing team had been deployed to “critical areas” such as seniors’ homes and institutional facilities, such as at Corrections.

Mr Burt revealed that ministers had opted to take a one-year 15 per cent pay cut.

He said legislation would be brought to a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly tomorrow for members of the legislature to take a one-year 12½ per cent pay cut. Mr Burt added: “We will not ask public officers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.”

He said work continued on arranging flights home for residents stranded overseas, urging anyone trying to get home to fill out the requisite form on the government website.

He added that testing from the Southside facility would be going mobile, with a test site to be set up on Friday at Warwick Academy, from 4pm to 7pm.

It is by appointment only, and can carry out up to 72 tests.

Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, said unemployment benefits continued to be paid out.

There are now more than 1,400 people who had returned to work.

Some 9,000 people have been paid out benefits for layoffs, to the tune of $23 million.

However, some unemployed workers have been frustrated in receiving their benefits, which are paid out biweekly.

Last week, 1,241 got their benefits for the first time, and Mr Dickinson said about 250 more would get paid today.

The minister said payroll relief would go to restaurants and bars, which had been especially hard hit during the crisis.

Mr Dickinson said that “with immediate effect”, retailers and commercial importers would be allowed to apply for relief for up to six months from customs duties.

He added that long-term deferment would also be available in “certain circumstances”.

To see the Government’s guidance for the opening of restaurants and bars; beauty, hair and barber shops; and beaches and parks, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”