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Weldon meets the press: ‘my work speaks for itself’

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The public were warned yesterday to wear face masks outside as the number of Covid-19 cases increased.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said three new cases were identified among 195 test results that came back yesterday, bringing the total number of cases to 118.

Ms Wilson said masks, together with social-distancing, are vital to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

She said: “You should wear a mask whenever you are outside of your home.

“This includes at the grocery store, while taking public transport or taxis, and for workers at all workplace premises unless you are working from home.”

She added that people could remove their masks while they ran, jogged or did other strenuous exercise, but they should put their masks back as soon as they had finished.

Ms Wilson said: “Masks help protect others from you, in case you are infected but unaware. And, remember, I wear a mask to protect you, you wear a mask to protect me.”

Ms Wilson said the sources of the new cases were still under investigation.

There are 52 active cases of the disease, with 37 under public health monitoring and 15 people in hospital.

The death toll remained at seven.

Ms Wilson said there had been local transmission of the coronavirus, but it was not yet classified as “community spread” by the World Health Organisation, which required “a large numbers of cases not linkable to transmission chains and/or multiple unrelated clusters in several areas of the country”.

She added: “Bermuda is currently classified as clusters of cases — which is a category for countries with local transmission.

“We will advise immediately if the country status changes.”

Ms Wilson said that care home tests had now covered 12 homes, with all 20 plus scheduled to be tested by Sunday.

Carika Weldon, a geneticist and science adviser to the Government, highlighted the types of testing available on island and their roles.

Dr Weldon said the island used three types of test for the disease — the PCR test, used to check if someone was infected, as well as the serological test and viral genome sequencing.

She explained that the PCR test used strands of viral RNA, which was chemically multiplied.

Serological or antibody tests detect the triggers for the body's immune response.

Dr Weldon said there were two varieties of the antibody tests, both of which were in use on the island.

One spotted the early stages of infection and the other detected later stages of exposure to coronavirus.

Dr Weldon added a combination of PCR and antibody tests allowed the island's two laboratories to determine the level of exposure.

She said that scientists around the world were still learning about the virus.

She added that it was still not known if people who had recovered from the virus had developed immunity.

Dr Weldon said that some had questioned her qualifications, but her actions would speak louder than words.

She said: “The best way I can respond to it is to do the work, really.

“My work has been online. I am a scientist that is published. Reverse transcription and PCR are in my papers that have been published, in both of which I am the first named on the papers, which means I did most of the work.

“Other than just to come back, do the job and get it done is the best response that I have.”

David Burt, the Premier, credited Dr Weldon's work as the reason Bermuda is among the world leaders for coronavirus testing.

He told her: “The slings and arrows that a minority in Bermuda have tried to throw at you should be deflected by the enormous admiration that young and old, black and white, and everyone holds towards your accomplishments and your work.

“Bermuda is incredibly proud of you.”

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said his ministry had been hard at work on the phased reopening of Government offices.

He added that social-distancing in government offices would be enforced and measures were in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Anyone who entered government buildings would be temperature tested, must wear a mask and use hand sanitiser.

Colonel Burch said concerns had been raised that air-conditioning units could contribute to the spread of the virus, but those worries had been addressed.

He added: “The ministry consulted local air-conditioning vendors who in turn provided assurances that this can be mitigated.

“As such, all air-conditioning systems in government buildings were deep cleaned before reopening, along with all work spaces.”

Colonel Burch said illegal dumping of trash was still a problem.

He added: “There are several options available for enforcement that are being explored.

“I am determined to take the necessary and possibly controversial steps to curb this behaviour.”

Mr Burt said legislation to amend pension legislation to allow one-time withdrawals of $12,000 would go to the House of Assembly tomorrow.

The Premier said the proposed changes only applied to private plans.

He told the public: “You will not be allowed to dip into anyone else's savings. These funds come from individual savings.”

Mr Burt said the Opposition had agreed to fast track the legislation in one virtual sitting of the House.

Testing expert: biochemist Carika Weldon, science adviser to the Government, at yesterday's press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, at the press conference yesterday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Graphic by Christina White
Graphic by Christina White

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Published May 07, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 07, 2020 at 9:02 am)

Weldon meets the press: ‘my work speaks for itself’

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