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Covid-19: Bermuda at a 'delicate' stage

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Six people were last night in intensive care in hospital as Bermuda recorded 28 new positive cases of Covid-19.

At a press conference Kim Wilson, the health minister, said the island’s active cases stood at 670, with 21 now in hospital, down from 22.

Last night’s news came as the Government announced an order for all schools to start the new term with remote learning, from next Monday until at least April 23.

It was also revealed that Bermuda was due to receive its first shipment of the Astra Zeneca vaccine last night which is said to be easier to administer.

The BA flight was due to arrive with 9,600 doses from Covax and a further 100 from Public Health England.

Six travellers were among the latest cases, including four residents from a March 31 Miami flight, found positive on their day four test.

Another resident came from Miami on March 21, testing positive on day 14.

A visitor on a March 27 Atlanta flight tested positive on their day eight test.

Nine other cases got traced to local transmission from known sources and 13 are under investigation. Fourteen people recovered yesterday.

It brings the total number of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began to 1,497.

The average age of all active cases is 41 and the age range is from under 10 to over 80, while the average age of those in hospital is 60 with the youngest person between 21 and 30 and the oldest over 80.

Last night David Burt, the Premier, said Cabinet planned to review possible incentives to boost vaccination rates.

He said financial incentives had been suggested, while potential privileges for getting the jab would get examined for their legal basis.

But Mr Burt cautioned: “This is not something we are going into quickly. We’re going to assess this.”

Ms Wilson added that vaccination rates last week rose to about 840 a day.

No figure was available for the island’s numbers under quarantine order, which she said was in the “thousands”.

Ms Wilson highlighted one positive case with 81 close contacts affected.

Ms Wilson said 41,152 doses of the vaccine had been administered and 37 per cent of the population has received at least one dose while 27 per cent were fully immunised.

She said 64 per cent of those aged 65 or older – the most vulnerable age group – had received at least one dose while 54 per cent were fully immunised.

In the 50-64 age group, 52 per cent had received one dose and 39 per cent were fully immunised.

For those under 50, who only became eligible for the vaccine two weeks ago, 22 per cent have received at least one dose.

But Ms Wilson noted only 41 per cent of this age group had registered for a vaccination so far.

Ms Wilson said many had asked if immunised people could still get the coronavirus.

While there was a chance they could, symptoms are either reduced or those immunised are asymptomatic. The chance of immunised people passing on the virus was far lower.

Mr Burt warned the full impact of the latest outbreak was only now being felt.

Therefore, Mr Burt said, the full impact of the restrictions would not known and had to be carefully monitored.

Striking a guardedly optimistic tone, he said the seven day average of rises in new cases peaked on April 2 and the reproduction rate of the virus, or the R rate, had fallen from 2.47 on March 23 to 1.26 yesterday.

He acknowledged it was still too high, as anything above one meant the virus was spreading.

He said the figures suggested mitigation efforts were working but the situation was “delicate”.

“If we see continued declines, it means the measures are working,” he added.

With many asking if more restrictions were imminent, the Premier said the Government would have to balance public health against potential economic damage.

He said Cabinet would meet next Tuesday to review the data and to decide whether measures should be adjusted.

Mr Burt said the Government was working on a solution for working parents who would now have to care for their children at home during remote learning.

Ayoola Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, said that as of March 29, 666 cases had been examined since the beginning of the outbreak.

Vaccinated people and infection rates

As of March 29, 49 people with at least one dose of the vaccine still tested positive for the coronavirus.

There were 36 people who had both doses who tested positive.

That figure dropped to 23 for those who had gone two weeks after getting fully immunised.

Just three fully immunised people were found with sufficient viral load in their system to potentially transmit the virus.

He said 49 people in that group had at least one dose of the vaccine while 36 had received two doses and had tested positive. However, he said 23 people or 3.4 per cent of the sample who had had the second dose more than two weeks earlier had tested positive.

He said of that group, only three people had a high level of likelihood of transmitting the virus after testing positive.

Asked if Government was considering vaccine incentives for travellers, Mr Burt said papers would be presented to Cabinet next week with proposals, but he said it would be guided “by data, not dates“.

The Premier said the island would need to see a sustained fall in the positivity rate below 1 per cent, the RT number under 1, and an incidence rate 10 – all World Health Organisation criteria.

Asked about safety concerns around the Astra Zeneca vaccine, Dr Oyinloye said occurrences with blood clotting were very rare.

Wesley Miller, the hospital chief of staff, added the studies had not been subject to strict controls, and most European countries who paused use of the vaccine had now resumed.

Dr Oyinloye said recent surveys showed the number of people refusing to take the vaccine overall was dropping rapidly.