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Delta variant spreads as Covid-19 cases rise

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The Minister of Home Affairs, Walter H. Roban

The coronavirus Delta variant, a more virulent strain driving an aggressive rebound of the pandemic in the US and Britain, now accounts for 19 of Bermuda’s 25 active cases of Covid-19.

None are in hospital – but the number marks the island’s highest number of active cases since May 30, coming after 15 more people tested positive from the latest 8,455 tests for the virus

Ernest Peets, acting health minister, revealed that 16 of the active cases occurred in vaccinated people.

But he held firm that getting fully vaccinated was the “single most important” way to check the spread of the pandemic, with the jab largely averting serious illness and cutting transmission.

Speaking just ahead of a long holiday weekend known for large gatherings and revelry, Dr Peets and Walter Roban, the acting premier, urged the public to heed health regulations over Cup Match.

“We know that the Delta is far more contagious than previous ones,” Dr Peets said.

“There is room for concern, and we are concerned about it.”

Mr Roban called for “community responsibility” in celebrating Cup Match, saying the police could not keep watch over every event on the island.

Two of the new cases represent the Beta various of the virus, while four are unknown.

Bermuda’s population has now inched up to 63.9 per cent fully vaccinated of the adult population or 40,997 people, up from 63.7 per cent or 40,807 a week earlier.

The number of people with one shot climbed marginally, from 1.3 per cent to 1.4 per cent or 124 people.

Although vaccination rates have slowed, Wesley Miller, the Bermuda Hospital’s Board’s chief of staff, said that after being “concerned” the island might not use all its stock of the jab, the hospital was confident none of the current supply would go to waste.

Out of the total cases, four are from unknown sources and are under investigation.

Nine of Bermuda’s new cases came from travellers: four non-residents and five from residents.

Seven people have recovered from the illness since Friday.

Mr Roban acknowledged concerns over so-called superspreader events, with several large group exemptions approved for the holiday ahead.

“We are mindful that we do not want superspreader events.,” he said.

“We want people to keep themselves safe, their families safe and the community safe.

“We want Cup Match to be successful and not the beginning of an increase in cases.”

Renée Ming, the national security minister, pledged a “robust policing plan” for Cup Match, with officers along with the Royal Bermuda Regiment out in force at popular locales such as Horseshoe Bay and Clearwater Beach, as well as St George’s Cricket Club over the two days of the match.

Gatherings remain limited to 50, unless granted special exemption.

Although David Burt, the Premier, signalled on Friday that there could be relaxations to mandatory supervised quarantine, Mr Roban said the Government was still considering modifications to the policy, which remains in place until September 30.

There were 56 people under 14-day quarantine, with 162 released from the government-approved facilities.

Dr Peets detailed the origins of the new cases: one resident on the July 15 BA flight from London tested positive on day eight, while three visitors arriving from Philadelphia on July 17 tested positive on various dates.

Another visitor, from London, tested positive on arrival last Thursday.

Four other cases occurred in residents flying in from Charlotte, Miami and Newark in the US.

Four more cases were locally transmitted, associated with known cases, and an additional two are under investigation with no known contacts or travel history.

Vaccination remains highest amount older residents, with 81.3 per cent of people aged 65 immunised. A further 1.2 per cent have received one shot.

Dr Peets announced that the vaccination centre at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital would be open next week on August 3 from 4pm to 7pm, on August 5 from 4pm to 7pm and on Saturday, August 7 from 8am to 4pm.

High praise came at the press conference for Flora Duffy’s Olympic gold medal win, with Mr Roban saying the achievement had been “beyond words” to witness.

Dr Peets called it “an incredible accomplishment that has been hard-fought and deserved”, while Ms Ming said she was “incredibly proud of her accomplishment – not just as a Bermudian, but as a woman”.

Ms Ming also condemned the shooting of two 19-year-old men on Court Street late on Sunday.

She added: “This is very distressing, particularly following such a successful community event held earlier that day – the Court Street Market.”

The attack, which left both victims in hospital for treatment, remains under investigation.

⋅ To read the ministers’ statements in full, click on the PDFs under “Related Media”.

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Published July 28, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated July 28, 2021 at 8:00 am)

Delta variant spreads as Covid-19 cases rise

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