Tougher restrictions to fight UK coronavirus strain imposed
The curfew period was lengthened today in a bid to fight a spike in coronavirus cases - and the spread of the deadlier UK variant.
David Burt, the Premier, said that from tomorrow, the night-time lockdown would begin at 11pm instead of midnight, but still finish at 5am.
Clubs and bars will be banned from serving customers indoors and outdoor service will be at tables only – with the group size reduced to six.
The number of people allowed at gatherings will be cut to ten from 25.
Mr Burt said: “We must act now.”
News of the increased restrictions, which will be in force for at least three weeks, came as 16 new coronavirus infections were revealed by health officials.
Mr Burt said: “Cabinet met earlier today and following a full briefing from the Minister of Health determined to roll back the current measures to what was in place in mid-December.”
Kim Wilson. the health minister, said: “As the number of active cases is increasing so significantly, these proactive measures are required from a public health perspective to prevent further cases.
“The epidemiological results of the most recent cases indicate that almost all of our cases are of the UK variant, which we know to be more contagious and more virulent.
“We cannot risk this current outbreak powered by the UK strain becoming the third wave of infections in Bermuda.
“The measures are serious, but this action will enable us to slow the transmission of the virus while we work to continue our vaccination programme, which is vital in defeating the virus.”
Mr Burt added: “The increased number of children now testing positive is concerning, and the swift action taken to test entire schools reflects our determination to do all we can to keep our young people safe.
“It is beyond frustrating to think that we are still dealing with the consequences of the reckless actions of a few in the community.”
All personal care services will require a mask to be worn at all times and gyms must ensure clients keep ten feet apart.
Church services will be cut to 20 per cent or normal capacity and outdoor services, including funerals, will be restricted to 20 people.
The curfew for boats out on the water will stay at 8pm.
The changes will come into force at 6am tomorrow morning.
But Mr Burt said that the island had the test capacity to find and isolate infections and a vaccination programme that was working well.
Ms Wilson added: “The public health advice for the safe operation of schools has mostly been followed, and I commend our teachers and principals who have supported the recent testing effort and through whose leadership we have been able to quickly isolate positive cases and continue with classroom learning.”
Mr Burt said he had asked Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, to renew the special supplementary unemployment benefit for employees who would be hit by the change.
Mr Burt said: “All affected employees of businesses that are unable to open will receive payments up to a maximum of $1,500 this week.
“Any affected businesses will be eligible for grants to cover expenses and overheads as was done by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation in December.”
Mr Burt added: “Our whole approach is about balance. We have to strike the right balance between protecting the Island and keeping this economy open, and moving towards recovery.
“We can and must do both.“
He said the tougher restrictions were designed to prevent a worsened situation as the pandemic had shown that “early action prevents longer periods of restrictions”.
Mr Burt added: “The highly contagious UK strain, which is the source of this outbreak, must be met with early action … the restrictions announced today will be in effect for at least three weeks.
He emphasised: “We are doing well as a country, and our successes are in no way diminished by our current circumstances.
“The Ministry of Health, from the Minister to those vaccinating our people, is leading an effort on all fronts to ensure that we can achieve that balance.
“We are well-positioned to meet this most recent challenge and to continue the work of rebuilding this economy.”