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Public schools forced into remote learning

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Public schools are to close their classrooms and move to remote learning for the rest of the term as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was revealed yesterday.

David Burt the Premier reveals new Covid 19 restrictions at a press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The announcement came after 24 more cases of the coronavirus were recorded – which brought the total number of active cases to 98.

In other moves to stem the spread of the virus, all returning residents and visitors will now have to wear a yellow wristband for 14 days after their arrival.

Testing facilities have also been ramped up, with longer time slots and more locations being made available.

A new app which notifies users when they are in proximity with someone who has the coronavirus will also be launched this week after successful trials.

Last night David Burt, the Premier, said the latest results were “alarming”.

He warned: “We are in the midst of a large outbreak of the coronavirus here on our shores.

“The scale and scope of the number of positive cases is alarming and proves that we are not exempt from the realities of this global pandemic.”

Mr Burt admitted that the island could have introduced tougher antivirus measures earlier.

He said: “We got complacent and we believed our own hype.

“I am certain that we have the tools to get through this.

“I am certain that we have the tools to get through this. Our teams have risen to the occasion. And it fills me with pride to see how they have responded and mobilised the community.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said the latest figures were “not good”, adding that many of the recent cases could have been avoided if people had followed health guidelines.

“We must do better at curbing risky behaviours that lead to further spread of Covid-19,“ she said.

A total of 16 of the news cases were spread by on-island contact and seven are under investigation.

The new cases also involved one resident who arrived on the Delta flight from New York on November 28.

Two people remain in hospital, one in critical condition.

Mr Burt said people put out of work through recent measures such as the closure of bars and clubs would get financial support from the Government.

Restaurant staff will be entitled to claim income support of up to $1,000.

There will also be support for businesses through grants provided by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.

Mr Burt said: “Details are not fully completed but will be announced before the end of the week.

“There are many in our community who are struggling economically. You do not have to suffer in silence. There is help available.”

Last night Ms Wilson stressed it was essential that people follow health department guidelines.

She added: “Many of these cases can be linked to social gatherings where people are in close proximity.

“The fact that people are failing to adhere to public health guidance is why we are here.”

“If people continue to ignore the public health measures, we will see more and more cases and we will head down the path to community transmission – you have so many clusters and so many unidentifiable cases of Covid-19 that it is impossible to identify the link between the cases.

“Fortunately, we are not at this point yet.”

Ms Wilson said yellow wristbands issued to new arrivals will “remind travellers to be wary of their movements and to follow the first 14 days guidance in order to help minimise the spread of Covid-19”.

“The wristband also reminds the public of the additional precautions for travellers during those first 14 days,” Ms Wilson added.

Refusal to wear a wristband could result in a $500 fine and mandatory quarantining for 14 days. Offenders may also have to wear an electronic monitoring device.

“I want to remind people that Bermuda’s borders are open and we continue to welcome visitors and returning residents home,” Ms Wilson said.

Ms Wilson also said that a vaccine for the virus would only be made available once the Government was satisfied it was safe for distribution.

She said: “When we are independently satisfied that we are going the right way with the right vaccine for our population, then we will start vaccinating our residents - and not before.”

Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said that schools had been hit by “very high levels” of staff and pupil absences and that remote learning would be used until the end of term.

The Bermuda College has also shut down its campus, although the academic term ended last week.

Mr Rabain highlighted that 41 per cent of pupils were absent yesterday and that almost every school was affected by the pandemic.

Mr Rabain said: “While teachers have selflessly filled for absent colleagues, this is not a suitable model.

“The extra work is taking a toll on our teachers and our school leaders are reporting that these additional demands are having an adverse impact on our teaching, learning and services.”

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Published December 09, 2020 at 10:33 am (Updated December 09, 2020 at 1:20 pm)

Public schools forced into remote learning

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