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Covid-19: Six new cases, soldiers to be used as 'quarantine marshals'

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Six positive coronavirus cases were reported on Tuesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 253. Four people are in hospital. (Graphic by Raina Barbosa)
Locals pour into Covid 19 testing station in Dockyard (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The island recorded six new cases of coronavirus infection out of 1,000 test results, the health minister said yesterday.

Kim Wilson highlighted that in one weekend in November, three gatherings at two venues caused more than 80 people to get infected, and put 550 people in quarantine.

She said a sports club event had led to “numerous” infections.

Ms Wilson added a bar, a retail business, another club and “several workplaces” had also generated cases.

Ms Wilson said: “Bermuda, this is not good.”

Three of the latest cases came in from overseas.

They were all residents who arrived last Wednesday on the British Airways flight from London and tested positive on their Day 4 tests.

A total of four people have recovered since the last update.

One new case was classed as on-island transmission with a known contact and the remaining cases are under investigation.

The other cases all occurred among people with no known links to cases and no travel history in the last 14 days.

There has been a total of 553 and 253 are active, with 249 cases monitored by public health officials.

There are four people in hospital, with none in critical care.

Ms Wilson said a new strain of the coronavirus that has been flagged in Britain as responsible for a wave of recent cases had likely been in the island since September.

She added visitors from the UK will be subject to a mandatory four-day quarantine because of the new strain even if they had a negative pretest.

Ms Wilson said the island was to start nanopore sequencing, led by geneticist Carika Weldon, in January to genetically map strains of the coronavirus.

Ms Wilson added that the Royal Bermuda Regiment would be deployed as “quarantine marshals” to monitor people ordered to isolate.

She appealed to the public to “have a different Christmas this year”, with small gatherings restricted to people from the same household.

David Burt, the Premier, said the island had been placed at a higher level of Covid-19 alert by the United States Centres for Disease Control because there had been more than 100 cases in Bermuda during the last 28 days.

But he insisted: “We are still one of the safest places in the world.”

Mr Burt said he did not believe the CDC rating reflected conditions in Bermuda and that he was confident it would be revised as the number of infections fell.

He added it was expected that lower numbers would be reported today.

Mr Burt said an increase in tests rates created a greater need for contact tracing staff.

Mr Burt highlighted that residents were “the vast majority” of cases being found – not visitors to the island.

He said: “We believe we are coming to a place where we can say that the outbreak is under control.”

The mean age of confirmed cases on the island is 43, with a range from less than 1 to greater than 101.

The mean age of active cases is 36, with an age range from less than 5 to 92.

A total of 148 cases came in from overseas.

There have been 324 cases of on-island transmission, with 302 of them linked to known cases

The number of cases listed as with unknown contacts is 22 and 81 cases are under investigation.

The majority of cases seen were said to have occurred in recreational settings.

Ms Wilson said that it was likely that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine would be available in Bermuda.

She added: “Our Covax facility have indicated that when it becomes available they will be able to make the distribution.”

Ms Wilson said that the island’s testing facilities were coping, despite high demand.

She added: “We have increased our capacity starting two weeks ago when we offered alternative testing sites as well as extended the hours.

“We are also providing for more persons to be able to test because of the extension of the hours.”

The Cabinet met on Monday to discuss possible changes to public health regulations over the next two weeks.

Suggestions included a possible relaxation of restrictions on New Year’s Eve.

But Mr Burt said Cabinet had settled on “no relaxation of restrictions for any days”.

Gombeys have agreed not to perform on Boxing Day, but will see if there could be safe performances on New Year’s Day.

Cabinet also decided to allow registered hotel guests to have meals served in their rooms after 10pm over the next two weeks of restrictions.

Mr Burt said the WeHealth app, launched on December 11, had been downloaded by 17,000 people.

Renée Ming, the national security minister, said visits to prisons had been suspended until the end of the year.

She added the decision would be reviewed next month.

Ms Ming did not provide details on coronavirus infections in the prison service, but she said all prisons continued to “operate without major disruptions or incidents”.

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Published December 23, 2020 at 9:43 am (Updated December 23, 2020 at 2:34 pm)

Covid-19: Six new cases, soldiers to be used as 'quarantine marshals'

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