Security forces fitted with ‘right kit’
Soldiers and police officers have the protective equipment they need to help the island battle Covid-19.
Major Preston Gill, the Royal Bermuda Regiment coronavirus response commander and planner, explained that troops were ordered to follow strict guidelines.
He said: “Everyone has the right kit to do their jobs. We have been clear to our soldiers that they will be issued personal protective equipment and instructed when to wear it during the operation.”
Major Gill added: “Our soldiers will only wear masks if they have symptoms or they are in direct contact with someone with symptoms or who has tested positive for Covid-19, which is in line with expert guidelines. We trust the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and her staff to ensure that we maintain the trust of the soldiers under our command.”
The available personal protective equipment includes gloves, masks, respirators and hazmat suits. RBR soldiers have been involved in helping the police service at quarantine checkpoints and with the transport of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Some soldiers have also stepped up to drive public transport buses to get essential staff to and from work at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, after normal services were suspended, with back-up from other troops to ensure the right people were on board.
Surgeon Major Basil Wilson, an RBR medical officer, said: “The medics and the Regiment follow the guidelines from the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control — social distancing at two metres and use of personal protective equipment as needed in their interaction with the public, their families and each other.
“All are screened on entrance to Warwick Camp and the soldiers that will rotate into camp will also be screened.
“The Regimental medical officers are in communication with the CO and medics as needed.”
RBR Commanding Officer Major Ben Beasley said: “Whatever the ask, the Regiment is duty bound to provide that key support — but the health and safety of our soldiers is well planned, well executed and always aware of the risk to our soldiers.
“That is not to say that how the Regiment trains and operates is without risk.
“People need only look at footage of our hurricane response over the years, at home and abroad, to see that the work we do is dangerous.”
He added that despite an “onslaught of information — and often misinformation” on social media platforms all over the world, the RBR operated under the guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health, as well as Regiment doctors and medics.
Major Beasley added that Captain Paolo Odoli, the deputy coronavirus planner and liaison officer, delivered a refresher course on health and safety to the 60-plus troops embodied for the coronavirus crisis on Monday.
He said that the briefing included facts about the virus, symptoms and how, as well as how it could not, be contracted.
Captain Odoli said: “Information is another form of ammunition and we ensure that our troops are well-armed.”
Major Beasley added: “We are pleased that none of the members of our Covid response team have presented symptoms or required testing to date.
“We are not naive enough to believe that it is impossible, but I feel very confident in the protocols enforced at Warwick Camp.
“Everyone from the Commanding Officer down to private soldiers has to be screened for fever and answer questions about whether or not they believe they have been exposed.
“We take the health and safety of our soldiers very seriously, not only as an extension of general concern for their wellbeing but as part of our duty to maintain operational effectiveness.”
He added that soldiers embodied for two weeks would soon be rotated out and replaced with fresh troops to maintain efficiency and give soldiers who have been on duty a chance to see their families.
A BPS spokesman said yesterday: “Personal protective equipment has been provided in all vehicles and stations and is being used in line with WHO and Department of Health guidelines by both Royal Bermuda Regiment and Bermuda Police Service officers.”
It was revealed earlier that police officers will not wear ties as part of their regular uniforms “for the foreseeable future”.
A police spokesman said: “While no clinical studies have demonstrated cross-transmission of bugs via neckties, they have in some instances been found to be contaminated by potentially pathogenic bacteria.
“Despite the evidence being inconclusive, the BPS has taken the decision, out of an abundance of caution to remove neckties as part of officers' uniform during this period of uncertainty.”