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Covid-19 safe key launched as vaccine stocks approach use by date

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Carmen Dill receives her Covid-19 vaccination during a drive-through clinic at the Turtle Hill Golf Club parking lot at Fairmont Southampton. (File photograph)

A Covid-19 “safe key“ pilot scheme designed to allow people who have just tested clear for the coronavirus or who have been fully vaccinated to dine indoors in restaurants and take part in large events has been launched.

But 4,500 people need to come forward to be vaccinated before June 8 or the Government will be forced to throw away 9,000 Pfizer vaccines given to Bermuda by the British government because they will have reached their expiry date.

David Burt, the Premier, said the Covid-19 safe key programme would give people who had been vaccinated or recently received a clear Covid-19 test a printable form with a QR code.

The key would make no differentiation between vaccination and test, but would include the person’s initials, birth date and an expiry date.

Mr Burt said keys for clear test results in the pilot would last three days and the vaccination safe key would be valid until June 15, but this would be adjusted as the programme came into wider use.

He added people who were tested after Thursday would get e-mails which would allow them to get a QR code, which they could use at participating businesses alongside photo ID such as a driver’s licence or passport.

He also said fully immunised individuals will begin receiving emails with a link where they can visit to verify their vaccination record details and be issued an upgraded certificate as well as a SafeKey, but no date for when this would start was given.

Businesses would only need a phone with a camera to verify the QR code.

Mr Burt said a test was successfully carried out last weekend and the scheme would be expanded to allow participants to use the key for indoor dining at restaurants and church services.

Mr Burt said the safe key would also be used for the Bermuda Day event at the National Sports Centre and could be used for other big gatherings such this year’s Cup Match and weddings.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, revealed that 14,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine remained.

She said 5,000 were reserved for second doses of people who had already had the first of the two jabs needed.

Ms Wilson said the 9,000 left meant people had to come forward by June 9 to get their first doses.

She warned any vaccine left over would have to be thrown away as it would expire at the end of June – before a second dose could be administered.

Ms Wilson also revealed that some of Bermuda’s stock of the Astra Zeneca vaccine – which has a longer shelf life – could be sent to Trinidad, which is overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

She added that the Government would update its guidance for vaccinated people.

Ms Wilson said vaccinated people who had been in contact with someone with Covid-19 could return to work, but must get a clear test first and be tested again at the end of the 14-day incubation period.

The would also have to wear a mask on the job.

Ms Wilson added people with full vaccination who went to indoor gatherings with others in the same position would not need to be masked.

She said policing the level of protection was a problem countries around the world faced.

Ms Wilson added: “The proof is challenging because your vaccine status is your private medical status, so you can’t be forced to produce that information to anybody.

“Part of it is going to be about communication and making sure people realise the safest thing really is to continue wearing a mask – if you are not immunised, the next best method to prevent catching Covid-19 is to protect yourself through a mask.”

Ms Wilson said the Government had listened to concerns about the proposed June 6 change of the pre-arrival test for travellers from five days to three.

She added the pre-arrival test would have to be taken inside four days before departure from June 6.

Ms Wilson said the mobile vaccination centre would be at the Turtle Hill Golf Club at the Fairmont Southampton on Thursday from 10am to 2pm and at TCD in Pembroke from 10am to 2pm on Saturday.

She added people who had their first shots three weeks ago at the locations should return for their second jab.

Ms Wilson said that, since the mobile vaccination centres started, 1,012 vaccinations had been administered.

Mr Burt added he would hold a press conference in the next week with Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, to tackle economic problems, which will include talks with banks about relief on mortgage and loan payments.

He said that people who had not received unemployment benefit or only got partial payment should contact the finance ministry.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority last night said the Covid-19 safe key scheme could boost the tourism industry.

Charles Jeffers II, the BTA chief executive officer, said: “The destination wedding market, in particular, has been clamouring for the opportunity to grow their guest lists and celebrate their nuptials surrounded by friends and family.

“Similarly, the entertainment sector, cultural and spectator sporting events have been key drivers in attracting and engaging visitors for memorable Bermuda experiences.

“That’s why implementation of the safe key initiative would elevate the on-island experience.

“It is a well-considered programme that has the potential to unlock more opportunities for the industry and our stakeholders.”

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Published May 19, 2021 at 8:16 am (Updated May 19, 2021 at 12:17 pm)

Covid-19 safe key launched as vaccine stocks approach use by date

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