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Stay-at-home for seven days

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David Burt last night said Bermuda will return to a stay-at-home policy from 5am tomorrow for at least seven days.

The Premier also revealed he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was isolating but had no symptoms because he had been vaccinated.

He said all businesses apart from grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations would be closed. Limited banking services would also be permitted. These businesses would be open from 11am to 7pm.

Grocery stores will return to alphabetised days for customers and Mr Burt emphasised that there was no need for panic buying. Household mixing is also prohibited by law, he said.

Mr Burt said: “It is clear that the rate of spread is far more advanced than believed and the regulations put in place have not been enough to slow it down.

“We must act now as continued household mixing is leading to increased transmissions.”

He added: “I know this is not the news many people wanted to hear. What is important is to remember the importance of staying at home and do not mix households.”

He said Cabinet would meet tomorrow to review other regulations, including border controls and to consider what steps would be taken after the initial seven day stay at home order.

Mr Burt said his family was quarantining while he isolated and that they had all tested negative. He said he had no symptoms because he had been vaccinated. He said it was his fifth test in three weeks and he said it was “quite a shock”.

It is not known if anyone else who may have been in close contact with the Premier is quarantining.

Mr Burt said Bermuda had enough vaccines to get to herd immunity which would be when 70 percent of people were fully vaccinated.

He said: “We will use this time to accelerate our vaccination programme to ensure that we salvage our peak tourism season and have a regular summer. I have no doubt that we will meet the goal of herd immunity by the end of May.”

He said doctors and other medical professionals would be enrolled in this effort.

He said: “Do not mix households. Be very careful and very vigilant and follow public health advice.

“Make sure you do what is necessary to get this country back to where it needs to be.”

Mr Burt opened last night’s press conference by stating the current outbreak was due to reckless behaviour of individuals and he said it had been exacerbated by people mixing outside their family groups both before and on the Easter weekend.

Health minister Kim Wilson said 118 positive cases had been recorded over the weekend with 64 being recorded on Saturday and and 54 yesterday.

This brought the total number of active cases to 877, of whom 36 were in hospital and six remained in critical care.

Of the new cases, five were travellers, including one from an American Airlines flight from Miami on March 31, one from a Delta flight from Atlanta on Thursday and three from the new American Airlines flight from Charlotte on Friday.

Twenty cases were classified as local transmission from a known source and 93 were recorded as under investigation because the source is not known.

There were 110 recoveries and two deaths over the weekend, she said.

Ms Wilson said the high number of cases and deaths were avoidable and she said this was because people were ignoring public health advice to stay in their family groups and not to join large gatherings.

She said people with coughs and sore throats were running errands and going to work and later testing positive.

Ms Wilson urged people with any of the UK variant symptoms – which include allergy-like symptoms to stay at home and to get tested. She said test results would be returned within 48 hours.

She said there were delays with contact tracing due to the large number of cases and that anyone who was notified of being exposed to a positive Covid-19 case must quarantine immediately.

Bermuda Hospitals Board chief of staff Dr Wesley Miller said the hospital was coping with the increase in patients because it had created a second intensive care unit for Covid-19 patients. He said the hospital had 30 ventilators.

Dr Miller said the hospital had experienced some positive Covid-19 tests among staff and said some had not been vaccinated and therefore had to stay off work longer which was putting pressure on staffing levels.

Mr Burt said unemployment benefits would be offered to people affected by mandatory business closures and they could apply on www.gov.bm immediately. More relief measures may be announced on Tuesday.

Asked if he regretted not putting these measures in place earlier, Mr Burt said hindsight was 20/20 and that the Government made decisions on the basis of the available data.

Dr Miller said high flow oxygen machines were being brought in for a group of Covid-19 patients meaning they did not need to be put on ventilators.

Dr Miller said a small number of staff had been sent home after having contact with people with Covid-19. He said a small number had tested positive with Covid-19 as well.

Ms Wilson said the difference between a Shelter in Place policy and a Stay at Home policy was that the latter did not include travel restrictions.

Mr Burt said the restrictions would be similar to the Shelter in Place restrictions last year including time allowed outside the home for exercise.

Asked about the homeless and unsheltered, Mr Burt said services would be provided to the unsheltered and testing would be offered. He said care needed to be taken to bring people together even when they were socially distanced.

Speaking on the SailGP event planned to take place in Bermuda, Mr Burt said: “We will work with the organisers to ensure that any activity is carried out in full compliance with the regulations, without exception. SailGP is on the calendar.”

Mr Burt said that he had spoken with the Governor of Bermuda Rena Lalgie about the lack of convictions for breaches of Covid-19 restrictions in the hope that the law will be swiftly enforced.

“The frustration is real,” Mr Burt said. “Bermuda is not responsible for the police, for the Director of Public Prosecutions and we are not responsible for that process. We can only make the laws.”

He said the government would make a determination on the return to school for students and whether they would be required to take exams given disruptions to their education.

On Friday, the health ministry announced that a record 116 cases of coronavirus had been found out of 1,634 tests.

The surge meant there had been 370 new cases in just five days, and there were 871 people with the coronavirus on the island, which was 49.1 per cent of all recorded cases since the pandemic began last March.

On Saturday, the Government announced two people had died of Covid-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 16. Four people have died of the virus in the last two weeks.