Covid-19: Vaccination hours to be extended, 23 new cases
Bermuda’s vaccination drive will ramp up beginning this weekend when vaccination centres at the hospital and at Bermuda College start administering the jab on Sundays and in the evenings.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, also appealed for all of the Island’s doctors to volunteer to administer vaccines on new shifts to enable Bermuda to get close to its target of herd immunity by Bermuda Day on May 28.
Ms Wilson made the announcement as she revealed that 45,761 vaccinations had been administered through April 10 and 31 per cent of the population had been immunised while another 9 per cent had received their first dose.
She said the “great step forward” in vaccines would enable 62 per cent of the population to get fully immunised by May 28.
It will require opening the Bermuda College clinic on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 3pm, followed by 8am to midnight from next Monday.
Ms Wilson urged the island’s physicians to give time on the extra shifts.
She said the vaccination centre at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital would also be extending its hours and would be able to administer another 750 doses a week.
Ms Wilson said: “It is anticipated that the increased vaccination capacity will enable us to reach herd immunity by the end of May instead of mid-June.
“The simple message right now is this. If you haven’t already gotten vaccinated, there is no need to wait. There is no need to delay. Go online and put your name down to register. The process takes less than five minutes.“
Ms Wilson warned if Bermuda failed to accomplish herd immunity, the island would remain in a “perpetual” cycle of “more and more people in hospital”.
She agreed that attaining 70 per cent immunisation by the end of May was “a very ambitious target”.
But she was confident it could be achieved if physicians heeded the call to pitch in, and the public took the time to sign up for vaccination.
Recent surveys show about one person in ten stating they would not get immunised.
“It’s changed drastically since December,” Ms Wilson added.
Out of the 870 latest tests, 23 were positive for the virus, bringing the number of active cases to 868.
She said there were 43 people in hospital, with five in critical care.
Of the new cases, one was a passenger on a JetBlue flight from Boston on April 3 who tested positive on their day eight test.
Six cases were local transmissions with a known contact and 16 were under investigation.
Since the last update, 14 people had recovered.
Of the people in hospital, three of the five people in critical care were intubated.
Ms Wilson said five people had been discharged from hospital and four new cases were admitted.
Bermuda’s R rate for the virus now stands at 1.11.
David Burt, the Premier, was asked if he would hand more responsibility to the Deputy Premier, Walter Roban, given that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Burt said he had no symptoms from the positive case and was able to carry out his responsibilities – but conceded it had come as a shock to test positive.
Ayoola Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, said he could not say what percentage of intensive care beds were taken up by Covid-19 patients.
He said vaccinated hospital employees who had been exposed to Covid-19 but showed no symptoms were being allowed to continue working.
Dr Oyinloye revealed that people who had recovered from the illness, but remained unvaccinated, were not counted in the figures for achieving herd immunity.
The CMO noted that at least three people who had been infected last year had gone on to test positive for the more virulent B117 strain.
“It’s possible to get reinfected with the virus,” he added. “Especially if it’s a different strain that’s circulating.”
Asked if employers would be allowed to emulate the homeporting cruise lines by requiring vaccinations so businesses could stay open, Mr Burt insisted the Government would not make vaccinations mandatory.
Mr Burt said requiring crews and passengers on cruise ships to be vaccinated was implemented to ensure that no risk was posed to Bermuda.
The Premier added that herd immunity would not lead to an immediate resumption of all sports, but said this could come once herd immunity was in place and there were no cases of Covid-19 on the island.
Mr Burt trailed the possibility that there would be more vaccines and means of delivering vaccines coming.
He said: “We see an end to this. It is going to be an adjustment. A year later, we can afford to make sure our border is closed to non-immunised travellers.
“There will be restrictions. there will be mandatory quarantine and we will test people to make sure non-immunised people are not carrying the virus or a variant.
“With protections at the border … as we get up to herd immunity we will be in a place where we can relax restrictions.“
Asked about people who had been struggling financially, Mr Burt said in addition to temporary unemployment benefits, financial assistance was taking applications.
Unemployment benefit applications will be accepted online at uba.gov.bm starting this Wednesday.
Businesses will also be able to request emergency grants from the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation at bedc.bm.
A maximum of $5,000 to $7,000 will be allowed per business.