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Premier furious about having to defend Weldon

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The Premier dismissed “malicious messages” on social media last night that criticised the island's Covid-19 test laboratories.

David Burt defended the abilities of Carika Weldon, a Bermudian biochemist and researcher at the Oxford Genomics Centre, part of the prestigious Oxford University Hospitals, who travelled home to work at the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Southside in St David's.

Mr Burt said: “This latest set of malicious lies fits a pattern that so many young, intelligent and talented Bermudians face.”

He hit out after comments on Facebook and WhatsApp questioned the high percentage of clear test results for the coronavirus.

As of yesterday, Bermuda had gone 13 days without a new case.

Mr Burt said: “It's nonsensical to say that because we have so many negative test results, that somehow something is not good about that. That's ridiculous.”

The Premier was joined by Kim Wilson, the health minister, who said 273 tests had come back yesterday and all were negative.

There were two active Covid-19 cases, with one in hospital, but not in critical care.

Ms Wilson highlighted the close to 9,000 people registered on the HealthIQ app.

She said saliva tests for the virus had arrived on the island and were awaiting registration before they were added to the screening arsenal.

Ms Wilson apologised for “technical glitches” that had affected the online travel authorisation form needed to fly to the island.

She admitted there had been problems for people who tried to register by phone or by tablet.

Ms Wilson warned that “with open borders comes the potential to introduce Covid-19”.

She said: “We are taking steps to identify early and isolate early.”

Ms Wilson also addressed the acquisition of Island Health Services and the Family Practice Group by the Argus Group insurance firm.

She said the merger took place privately and without the knowledge of her ministry or the Bermuda Health Council.

“This is not unlawful,” Ms Wilson said, calling it “an important development in our small health system”.

She said the deal would “smooth out some of the rough spots for their clients”, but that its impact on healthcare overall still needed to be considered.

She was speaking at the regular Covid-19 update at the Berkeley Institute last night.

Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, tourism minister Zane DeSilva, and Wayne Caines, the national security minister, also attended the briefing.

Mr Burt said the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation had approved $1.5 million so far for 67 small and medium-sized businesses, with 81 other applications at “various stages of approval”.

Mr Burt added the reopening of the airport was contingent on an appropriate health and safety regime to keep people safe.

He said: “Bermuda's entry requirements are some of the toughest in the world.”

All visitors are required to be tested on arrival, followed by tests on Day 3, Day 7 and Day 14 of their stay.

Anyone who tests positive will be fitted with a monitoring device and ordered to isolate themselves.

Mr DeSilva said the island's first flight had touched down just after 1pm.

He added the Bermuda Tourism Authority restarted its tourism marketing yesterday, and would increase advertising over the summer as tourism increased. Mr DeSilva said: “As we know, flights have been severely reduced everywhere.”

The island aims to draw visitors with a string of events now under development, such as golf week, independent retail month and alfresco dining week.

Mr DeSilva said talks continued with the airline industry on resuming services, but that schedules could change quickly.

American Airlines plans to resume its Miami service in September.

According to the local agency Travel Edge, the airline has advised that daily flights to Bermuda from John F. Kennedy airport in New York could start on August 18, but may change to an earlier date.

Mr DeSilva was upbeat on prospects for local hotels, pointing out that Rosewood Bermuda had reopened yesterday while The Loren at Pink Beach never closed.

He said Coco Reef and the Newstead hotels planned to open at the end of this month.

Mr DeSilva hinted of a development at Pompano Beach Club in Southampton, which he said was “looking at doing something a little significant”.

Full-throated defence: David Burt, the Premier, pauses while calling social-media posts that suggest that the island has had too many negative Covid-19 test results “nonsensical” (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Identify and isolate: Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, speaks during the Covid-19 press conference yesterday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Social policy initiative: Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, at yesterday's Covid-19 response press conference. Mr Dickinson said he expects the number of people enrolled in the emergency benefits scheme to drop as more people return to work - and warned that his ministry would take action against those who failed to notify the Department of Workforce Development that they were back at work (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published July 03, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 03, 2020 at 9:25 am)

Premier furious about having to defend Weldon

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