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Health minister: Island must unify for Covid-19

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The country must come together “like never before” as Bermuda braces itself for the battle against a new and killer strain of coronavirus, the health minister said yesterday.

Kim Wilson said the kind of co-operation shown in hurricanes was needed and that people had to work together to limit the spread of Covid-19, although she emphasised the island had no confirmed cases.

She told MPs in a presentation on the Ministry of Health's budget for 2020-21: “I will take this time to remind us all that we are in the phase of preparedness for a potential pandemic and we must focus on preparing for this situation.

“The World Health Organisation says we must prepare to detect cases, prepare to treat cases, prepare to follow contact and prepare to put in place adequate containment measures to control the spread.”

Ms Wilson added: “If I could, I would stand here today and use the entire five hours allocated to this ministry and appeal to all, how such an historic threat can only be managed by the highest level of collaboration and solidarity, of every single sector and person, in this community.

“This community has proven to be resilient against catastrophic hurricanes when we band together as one, so I also ask that we rise to the occasion for this unexpected and unusual threat to health like we have never done so before.”

Ms Wilson said that her ministry had been preoccupied by the respiratory disease since mid-January.

She added that her team was “aggressively, progressively and very passionately preparing for the escalating health threat”.

Ms Wilson said: “We're working closely with our many international affiliates, other ministries, departments, the hospitals, the community providers and other agencies to expeditiously investigate and monitor the activities.

“Depending on the extent of which the Covid-19 threat evolves, the ministry may be engrossed in work completely dedicated to managing the situation during fiscal year 2020-21.”

Ms Wilson added that the entire workforce in the Chief Medical Officer's department was “nearly fully dedicated to the planning and preparing for Covid-19, which is rapidly spreading across the globe”.

She said: “It is a highly infectious disease and a rapidly escalating threat.

“Therefore it is a threat to Bermuda now and in the foreseeable future.”

Ms Wilson added: “There have been no cases of Covid-19 identified in Bermuda — however, the reality is that the spread of the virus continues on track to become a pandemic in the coming weeks if not days.

“Although Covid-19 is not in Bermuda, it has been documented in over 109,000 people in over 100 countries, including our region.”

Ms Wilson said that the Bermuda Hospitals Board had an emergency plan in place that included options for its emergency, intensive care unit and acute care wards “to cope with an influx of patients in the event of a pandemic”.

She added: “The availability of beds can change on a daily basis.

“However, BHB has taken actions to increase the capacity of availability by making adjustments such as discharging stable patients, postponing elective surgeries and using additional beds in other areas.”

Ms Wilson added: “There are negative pressure rooms in emergency and on each floor of the acute care wing.

“Negative pressure rooms stop the air flowing out of the patient's room, keeping the rest of the hospital safe.

“There is also an entire floor, inclusive of 30 beds, with an independent air filtration system should that need arise in case it needs to be used for potential cases.”

Ms Wilson said: “It would be critical for people who can be cared for at home to stay there so that hospital services can focus on those most in need.”

She said that no one should arrive at the hospital or any clinic without calling first to tell staff their symptoms and get advice on what to do next.

Scott Pearman, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, asked what happens to homeless people if there was an outbreak as they would be unable to “self quarantine” at home.

He said: “It seems like a quite sensible question in the circumstances.”

Ms Wilson responded that the Government is in the process of identifying facilities for those who may be in that position.

Rallying call: Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Unified message: Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, left, and Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, watch as Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, speaks during a press conference last month regarding Covid-19 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 10, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 10, 2020 at 12:08 pm)

Health minister: Island must unify for Covid-19

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