Covid-19: curfew returns as 'emerging outbreak' linked to UK variant
A curfew is to be reintroduced after a spike in coronavirus cases, the health minister announced last night.
Kim Wilson said the move was made after the island suffered an “emerging outbreak” of Covid-19 which may be be linked to the virulent UK strain of the virus.
The curfew, to start on Wednesday, will run from midnight to 5am and businesses will have to shut up shop at 11pm.
David Burt, the Premier, said: “The Government takes no joy in reimplementing such measures. I take no joy in reimplementing such measures.
“However we will continue to do what is necessary to control any outbreaks so we can contain the coronavirus on our shores.
“We learned our lesson in November and we will not make the same mistakes again.”
Other restrictions on the size of gatherings will remain in place.
Ms Wilson added the country had seen a surge in coronavirus cases in the last two weeks and half of the 17 active cases were from on-island transmissions.
She said the new cases were an “emerging outbreak” linked to a mutation which was first transmitted locally in mid-February.
Mr Burt added it appeared that the infections happened at a single event.
He said: “The first day without curfew I believe was February 18. There was a party on February 18 that someone attended who was a traveller with a bracelet on and everyone at the party saw this person with the bracelet.
“And now we have an outbreak of the variant. That’s where we are. No one likes it. People want to live normal lives. But we have seen the impact of having to bury people. We have to make decisions for the greater good of the country.”
Ms Wilson earlier said the spike in cases appeared to be linked to house parties held two weeks ago.
She added: “This is very serious news. As investigations into this emerging outbreak continue, the number of cases has also increased and the risk of transmission that increased with large gatherings of persons represents a clear and present danger.”
Ms Wilson said social gatherings were most likely to lead to increased transmission of the coronavirus.
She added: “The wider community does not deserve to be placed under more strict public health measures because of the actions of a few.”
She told the public: “Bermuda, we cannot have another spike in positive cases.
“You will recall that as recently as last November, there were three events at two venues over one weekend that resulted in 81 people testing positive and more than 550 people being placed in quarantine.
“Many of those people were financially disadvantaged as a result of their inability to go to work.”
Dr Carika Weldon, the head of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, said that a new rapid variant PCR test could identify the UK, South African and Brazilian variants considered to be the most virulent.
It was confirmed that 35 of 365 cases identified between last November and this month were the UK variant and one was the South African strain.
The first case of the UK variety came in on a British Airways flight last December.
All UK variant cases until the middle of January arrived on BA flights.
But the UK variant has come in from US gateway cities since then.
The first on-island transmission of the UK variant happened last month.
The South African variant arrived off a flight from Miami.
The reimposition of the curfew offset the positive news that 20,705 people have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Ms Wilson said 7,235 people had been given both shots and a further 13,470 people had been given the first.
Ms Wilson highlighted that, if Monday’s vaccinations were included, 21,387 people had received at least one dose.
She said 55 per cent, or 1,703 people, aged over 80 had been given at least one dose and 1,262 were fully immunised.
A total of 51 per cent of people in rest homes have had at least one shot and 311, or 81 per cent, had been given both shots.
Ms Wilson added that Government House had said that 15,000 more doses of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine would be shipped to the island later this month.
Ms Wilson said earlier no new Covid-19 cases were recorded today and two people had recovered, which brought the number of active infections down to 17.
Ms Wilson added she was pleased that that the US Centres for Disease Control had lowered the travel warning level for Bermuda from 4 to 3, but it was still not where the island needed it to be.