News

Plug pulled on school year as Phase 3 nears

  • Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announces the end of the school year (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • David Burt announces phase 3 at a press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Graphic by Christina White
  • Graphic by Christina White

Bermuda will move to the third phase of relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday, it was announced last night, but public schools will stay shut until September.

David Burt, the Premier, said the final details of the next stage of a return to normal life will be announced on Monday.

He added: “It is important to remember that our initial plan had Phase 3 including the reopening of churches, gyms, schools, the resumption of full public transportation, the opening of government offices and the ending of mandatory work from home.”

But he said that people should continue to work remotely in the third phase, if possible.

Mr Burt emphasised: “I am fully committed to reopening our country so we can get our economy on the road to economic health and I look forward to pressing on to Phase 4 as quickly and as safely as possible.”

Mr Burt added he did not expect the 10pm curfew to be lifted in Phase 3, but it was possible there may be an extension to the cut-off time.

He said: “The fact is we are still in a serious situation and we are not out of the woods yet, although we are certainly encouraged by where we stand.

“I don’t think that it is realistic that the curfew is going to be lifted until we are out of the state of emergency — and even then it may be necessary to continue it.”

He added that there would have to be careful balancing as the island reopened the island to tourists.

Mr Burt told the regular Covid-19 briefing: “Bermuda did not experience an epidemic. Bermuda did not experience community transmission.”

He said: “We can’t keep the country shut down for ever and we must find ways so we can balance safety with economic activity and bringing dollars into our shores.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that public schools would not reopen in Phase 3 as first planned.

Pupils were expected to start the summer break on June 30 before the pandemic hit, but their last day of classes will now be on June 19.

Mr Rabain added that the early end will allow teachers to take additional training workshops and to prepare for the new school year starting in September.

He said the Department of Youth and Sport’s summer day camp programme would begin early this year, with the first on June 24.

Mr Rabain added that private schools would be allowed to reopen as part of Phase 3 if they wanted.

He said: “Each of the private schools will decide independently how they will plan to move forward with their school operations.

“Nonetheless, the private schools are following the safety and health protocols as per the Ministry of Health.”

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that 39 new Covid-19 test results had come back and all were clear.

She added that the real-time reproduction number seven-day average for the coronavirus had fallen to 0.39, which put the country “in a great place”.

But she said that people must continue to shield vulnerable members of the public.

Ms Wilson added that the island had logged 141 cases of Covid-19 and 43 per cent of them were classed as asymptomatic.

Ms Wilson said the island’s testing regime was to be “reformulated”, which was why recent test numbers had appeared low compared with earlier in the crisis.

She added: “Starting next week, we are going to do far more aggressive testing and we’re going to combine our testing resources.”

Ms Wilson said “pop-up” test centres would be launched next week and would include places such as supermarkets.

The island has 19 active Covid-19 cases, seven of them in hospital and 12 of them under public health monitoring.

But she added that no Covid-19 patients in hospital were critical and that 113 people had now recovered.

Ms Wilson reminded the public to use masks, especially at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations scheduled for Sunday. Mr Burt said legal amendments would be made to ensure that the demonstrations could go ahead.

The amendments will give the Minister of National Security the power to set conditions for marches.

Mr Burt said the amendments went to the Governor for Royal Assent yesterday and more details would be released in the House of Assembly today.

He warned the country could not risk a “super-spreading event”.

Mr Burt said: “It is critically and vitally important, no matter how hot, cold or otherwise, that we wear a mask as there will be a large amount of persons inside of a space.”