Six Delta variant infections identified as active cases rise
Six people have been infected with the Covid-19 Delta variant, a more virulent strain of the coronavirus, it was announced at last night’s Government press conference.
David Burt, the Premier, called the news “disappointing” and said it highlighted the need for vigilance, even as Bermuda’s number of fully vaccinated people passed the 60 per cent mark.
Mr Burt remained upbeat that the island could still hit its goal of 70 per cent immunisations, saying the arrival last week of 4,000 fresh doses of the Pfizer vaccine put the jab within reach of anyone not vaccinated so far.
Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, said it was now clear that “variants of concern are on the island – there’s no argument about that”.
Four new positive coronavirus cases were announced, bringing the total active cases to 15 - almost quadruple the four cases just two weeks ago.
It was also revealed that large group gatherings will be cut from 100 to 50 people from tomorrow, due to the increase in cases.
Health minister Kim Wilson said the four cases were from 7,048 test results since the last pandemic update, giving a test positivity rate of 0.1 per cent.
One case was imported on the British Airways flight from London on June 22, with the resident testing positive on day four, and another was a non-resident on the American Airlines flight from Charlotte on June 24, with the traveller testing positive on their outbound test.
The other two cases were local transmission with a known contact.
Ms Wilson said the 15 active cases were all under public health monitoring with none in hospital.
Six of the active cases are the Delta variant and five the Beta or South African variant, according to Dr Oyinloye.
The Delta variant, linked to outbreaks in India, can infect five to eight people on average from one case.
Patients in the original outbreaks of the virus across Europe appeared to infect about three different people, while those with the Alpha or British variant responsible for Bermuda’s surge this spring typically infected between four or five others, he said.
Dr Oyinloye said the Beta strain appeared more adept at evading the full protection offered by the vaccine – but emphasised the vaccine remained the best line of defence.
Mr Burt, who was heckled outside the Cabinet office by protesters this morning, acknowledged that some of the Government’s restrictions had proven unpopular.
He conceded that early confusion over the implementation of the travel authorisation form at the island’s borders was “not the Government’s finest hour”.
But the Premier maintained that strict two-week supervised quarantines for non-immunised incoming travellers were scientifically proven as necessary.
He said: “Strong leadership will be necessary in the face of criticism and differing views.”
He added it did not mean “we will make decisions without listening to the people”.
“We recognise the issues that took place with the revised travel authorisation process when the mandatory quarantine commenced on June 20.
“We heard the frustrations and the obstacles faced by Bermudians who were travelling, and have worked diligently since then to improve our processes while doing what is necessary to keep our border secure.
“As was indicated last week, I apologise for the challenges that were encountered.”
Recent patrons at the Swizzle Inn in Hamilton Parish were again urged to get tested after the restaurant had to close earlier this month because of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, called for anyone who attended the establishment between June 15 and June 24 to get tested for the virus – even if already vaccinated.
She said diners should check daily for potential symptoms for two weeks after they were last at the restaurant.
Anyone noticing even minor symptoms should stay home, quarantine and isolate from others, seek their doctor’s advice or contact case managers at email@example.com.
Ms Wilson said there had been “a lot of conversations” within the Government about the battery of coronavirus tests now required for immunised visitors.
She added there was potential scope for switching the regular tests to the less invasive saliva test for the virus.
She also said the vaccination centre at the Bermuda College will close as of today, which will also be the last day to get an AstraZeneca vaccine at the Bermuda College.
She said non-residents interested in getting an AstraZeneca vaccine can attend the Bermuda College between 9 am and 1 pm today. She said a first dose of AstraZeneca can be provided however a second dose of AstraZeneca is not guaranteed although a comparable vaccine can be provided for second dose. The non-residents must provide proof of arriving to Bermuda before June 20.
She said the hospital vaccination centre will remain open from Monday to Friday from 4 pm until 8 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 am until 12 noon for appointments and walk-ins.
Renée Ming, the national security minister, revealed that 29 people are currently in the Government’s mandatory quarantine.
She said those forced to stay at the seven approved hotels would be able to engage in activities such as yoga and walks, and could receive deliveries from family members of essential items such as medications and prescribed foods, to be dropped off at the front desk.
Overall, Bermuda has had 2,514 Covid-19 cases, with 2,466 recoveries and 33 deaths.
There have been 318 imported cases and 2,193 classified as local transmission.
Of the local cases, 1,697 were from a known contact or source and 496 were from an unknown source. Three remain under investigation.
Ms Wilson said 60.3 per cent of the island’s population was now fully immunised, with another 4.1 per cent having had one dose.
In the over-65 age bracket, 79.1 per cent are fully immunised and another 2.7 per cent have had one dose.
There have been 80,722 vaccinations administered since January 11.
The health minister said a first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine would be offered to non-residents who arrived before June 20.
A second dose of Pfizer or Moderna will also be offered.