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Almost all Covid-19 restrictions to end on Sunday

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Island threat: This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

All social distancing restrictions except two – mask wearing in indoor public places and gatherings of more than 100 people – will end on Sunday, the Premier said today.

David Burt said that patience was growing thin with restrictions and lockdowns but highlighted many countries still had restrictions because of highly transmissible variants.

Mr Burt added more than ten people could sit at a table at restaurants, land and sea restrictions would cease and the curfew would end.

Outdoor mask wearing will also be unnecessary, but masks will still be required inside buildings.

Mr Burt was speaking at the regular Covid-19 update with Kim Wilson, the health minister.

Ms Wilson said that one new case of Covid-19 was recorded today, which brought the total number of cases to five, with one person in hospital.

The new case was transmitted on-island and the source is unknown.

It is the second on-island case in as many days, and the first with an unknown source in several weeks.

Ms Wilson said Bermuda’s World Health Organisation country status remained at community transmission, but that was expected to change sporadic cases by June 21 if Bermuda continued to record low numbers of cases.

Ms Wilson said 55.4 per cent of the population was now fully immunised and a further 8.6 per cent had had one dose.

She said 4,680 more doses of the Pfizer vaccine were due to arrive next week which would allow everyone who wanted a vaccination to get one.

Ms Wilson said all restrictions except mask wearing in indoor public places and for gatherings of more than 100 people would end on Sunday because of the recent run of low infection rates.

She said the public deserved some relaxations.

Ms Wilson added: “However, the following restrictions will remain: a maximum of 100 people for large group gatherings and the wearing of masks indoors – particularly when not eating or drinking.

“Regarding face masks, by now all of us know a face mask is a key preventive measure when it comes to the slowing spread of the coronavirus.

“We also know that we have not yet conquered this global pandemic. So, mask wearing indoors – the setting most likely to result in transmission – will continue for some time to come.”

She said: “What does this mean for gyms, for example? Gym owners will no longer need to space their equipment.

“However, when not working out, staff and patrons must wear a mask.

To be blunt – we don’t know who is and who isn’t vaccinated, and now is not the time to end our vigilance completely. We have come too far and worked too hard for the success we’ve achieved.”

Ms Wilson confirmed mandatory quarantine would start on Sunday when the regulations were completed.

She said the requirements would be available from tomorrow on www.gov.bm/coronavirus-travellers

Non-immunised travellers must stay at one of seven hotels – Coco Reef, Grotto Bay, Hamilton Princess, Fairmont Southampton, Willowbank, Coral Beach Club and Rosemont Guest Apartments – and they would be required to pay for their stay and have a reservation before arrival.

People who left the island before May 6 will not have to pay for the mandatory quarantine.

Some, including children and medically vulnerable travellers, could be allowed to quarantine at home for 14 days.

Testing for travellers will be expanded to children from the age of two using an oral test.

Ms Wilson said the next Close to Home mobile vaccination events would be at Sandys Middle School on Thursday from 4pm to 7pm, the National Sports Centre on Saturday from 10am to 2pm and at Shelly Bay MarketPlace on Tuesday from 10am to 2pm.

The events are for second doses only until the new shipment of vaccine arrives.

Mr Burt defended the Government’s mandatory quarantine policy.

He said that he respected the right of people not to be immunised and to travel, but the risk that non-immunised travellers posed on their return to Bermuda was too great to allow them to quarantine at home.

Carika Weldon, the head of the diagnostic laboratory, confirmed that there had been no cases of the virulent Indian – or Delta – variant, although there had been 1,281 cases of the UK variant and three cases of the South African variant.

But she added that the Pfizer vaccine was very effective against the Indian variant.

Renee Ming, the national security minister, said police and the Royal Bermuda Regiment would be out over the weekend to enforce Covid-19 restrictions and would also carry out traffic patrols.

Mr Burt said SafeKeys would expire on June 15 but could be renewed for another four weeks.

He highlighted that people on social and traditional media had become louder and less civil over time.

Mr Burt said he understood public anger, but he had sworn an oath to keep Bermuda safe and that safety would always outweigh expediency.

Ms Wilson added that more than 2,500 first doses of the vaccine were administered through June 8.

She added it was welcome news that more vaccines would be sent to Bermuda from the UK as there would not have been enough second doses to administer to all the people who needed them.

Ms Wilson said: “We exceeded 2,500 by quite a number.”

Ms Wilson agreed that the shipment of vaccine was insufficient to get to 70 per cent – herd immunity.

But she added the Government had been assured by the British government that Bermuda would get as much vaccine as it needed.

Mr Burt confirmed that a Bermuda Tourism Authority employee was on board a boat at a controversial raft up boat event held by upmarket US fashion retailer Revolve.

The organisers have maintained the event was authorised, but Mr Burt insisted that all raft-ups were illegal and it was impossible for a raft-up to be authorised.

He said Ms Ming as national security minister could only give exemptions for large groups and could not approve a raft-up.

Dr Weldon said she expected the Delta variant to arrive in Bermuda.

But she added she was confident Bermuda’s defences were strong enough to detect and isolate cases so it would not spread.

Dr Weldon said: “I am not worried but am expecting it.”

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Published June 16, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 16, 2021 at 10:46 pm)

Almost all Covid-19 restrictions to end on Sunday

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