Politics

Two Covid-19 cases confirmed

  • Reassuring the public: David Burt, the Premier, announced last night that two diagnoses of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Bermuda. Here Mr Burt speaks as Cheryl Peek-Ball, Bermuda’s Chief Medical Officer, looks on as he describes efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic on the island (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda’s first two cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed at about 4pm yesterday, it was revealed last night.

David Burt, the Premier, said one of the two residents had travelled from Britain and the other from the United States and the cases were unconnected.

Mr Burt added: “The Ministry of Health is working closely with other ministries across the Government to rapidly investigate this situation and to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Our chief concern is how many people had close contact with the individuals once symptoms developed.”

Both residents became ill three days after their return to the island.

Neither required hospitalisation, but they are in isolation.

One traveller arrived on March 4 on American Airlines flight 308 and the other arrived on British Airways flight 2233 on March 6.

Mr Burt added that anyone who travelled on either flight who becomes unwell should contact their doctor.

He said self-monitoring ended yesterday for passengers on the March 4 flight and on March 20 for passengers on the BA flight.

But he warned that anyone who had travelled on either flight who felt ill should not attend doctor’s offices or the hospital without contacting them first.

Mr Burt added: “I want to reassure the public that the Government has been actively preparing for an event like this as part of the international health regulations.

“Thankfully, we will have the ability to screen for Covid-19 on island tomorrow which will aid us in controlling any spread of this virus.”

Mr Burt said health officials had launched a bid to trace people who may have been in contact with the two Covid-19 patients.

The flight details came after the Emergency Measures Organisation met last night and ordered the shut down of travel to the island.

The EMO also issued directions to shut down public transport, schools and other services.

Customs officers walked off the job at the airport last night after news broke of the pandemic’s arrival.

It is understood the industrial action came over fears about Covid-19.

Wayne Caines, the national security minister, said an inbound flight was on the tarmac when the customs officers stopped work over “concerns around where the people come in at the customs area”.

Senior customs staff as well as immigration staff were brought in to plug the hole and passengers on the plane were able to leave the aircraft.

Mr Caines said “we will do the same” today with other staff drafted to help.

Mr Burt added a 12-hour Covid-19 hotline for people with questions or concerns would be open today.

Bermuda has 90 test kits for the virus.

Mr Burt said he could not confirm earlier reports that 800 test kits were en route to the island, but he said that more were on their way.

He added a public health order had been issued to compel people told to quarantine to remain away from others.

Mr Burt said changes had been added to containment legislation brought to the House of Assembly on Monday and that these additions had been put into effect. He added that several containment measures had been taken over the two Covid-19 victims, including:

•• Making sure the two confirmed cases get appropriate treatment and remain isolated;

•• Interviewing the individuals and close contacts, such as family members, to obtain detailed information on their travel history and exposures and then monitoring the family members to see if they become ill.

Mr Burt reiterated that the Government had been preparing for the first confirmed case of Covid-19 and that testing would be an important weapon in controlling the outbreak.

A spokeswoman for American Airlines said the company was aware that a passenger on its flight 308 from Miami to Bermuda on March 4 tested positive for Covid-19.

She added: “The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority.

“We are in close contact with United States and Bermuda health authorities and are coordinating with them on all required health and safety measures.”

A BA spokeswoman said: “The health and safety of our colleagues and customers is our highest priority.

“We are working closely with the local health authority.”

More information is available on the Covid-19 hotline on 444-2498 which will be open from 9am to 9pm.

To read the Premier’s remarks in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.