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Live updates: Vaccine boosters to arrive tomorrow

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A surge of new Covid-19 vaccinations has seen the number of people with at least one dose of the vaccine increase to 68.9 per cent of the population while 66.8 per cent have had both doses, Kim Wilson said today.

The health minister also said the vaccine booster programme will begin this weekend and 11,700 vaccines are due to arrive from the UK tomorrow.

She said vaccine boosters will be made available to rest home residents and staff on Saturday and will also be delivered on Sunday at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital vaccine centre.

Going forward, the KEMH vaccine centre will be issuing booster shots on Wednesdays and Sundays while people receiving first and second doses of the vaccine will continue to be able to walk in on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A second vaccine booster centre will open on the week of October 12 at the National Sports Centre.

Ms Wilson said the following people will be eligible for boosters in this order of priority: The immuno-suppressed, those over 65 and frontline healthcare workers.

Only people who have been fully immunised for six months will be eligible for the booster, she said.

Ms Wilson also revealed new statistics on vaccines and hospitalisation.

She said that since the start of the vaccination programme in January, 275 people had been admitted to hospital with Covid-19. Of that group, 249 or 90 per cent were not fully vaccinated while 27 or 10 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Of the people who had been admitted to hospital and had died, 55 or 82 per cent were not fully vaccinated and 12 or 18 per cent were fully vaccinated.

She said this showed that vaccines remained the single best means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Ms Wilson also said an antigen testing programme for rest home staff had been finalised and would be started next week.

Dr Ayoola Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, explained said the latest wave of Covid-19 was falling back although risks remained, especially with schools returning to in-person learning.

He said the fourth wave of coronavirus had shown that while a significant proportion of the population was unvaccinated, meant that the virus could still spread rapidly.

He said a fifth wave could occur if people remained unvaccinated and warned that each wave had been successively worse.

Dr Oyinloye said antigen tests, which are now available in Bermuda, worked best as a screening tool and positive tests should be followed with the “gold standard” PCR test.

Dr Wesley Miller, chief of staff of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said things were moving in the right direction for King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

He said patient numbers were now lower than 60 but were still higher than the 40 Covid-19 patients experienced at the peak of the third wave.

Dr Miller said 31 people were admitted to the hospital in the last week and there were 41 discharges.

But he said admissions to the Intensive Care unit continued to outpace discharges, in addition to patients in ICU with other injuries and conditions.

Dr Miller said demands on staff had also declined but remained higher than normal, particularly as the satellite ICUs remained open.

He also said the latest statistics for hospital nurses showed that 76 per cent were now fully immunised and four per cent had had their first doses.

He also urged people to come to the hospital if they were seriously ill. He said the chances of patients getting Covid-19 at the hospital was extremely low.

Mr Burt said government’s primary goal remained to get students back to school as soon as possible.

He said 33 per cent of preschools and schools will have completed saliva testing through tomorrow after attaining 80 per cent consent for saliva testing which should enable them to return to school next week.

Mr Burt said the curfew would remain in place. Gatherings of more than 20 people still needed large group exemptions and indoor gatherings would now receive exemptions.

He said sports organisations could now move to stage 3 – training in preparation for return of play – and the Bermuda Football Association season would resume on October 23.

In response to a question citing hospital staff complaints, Dr Miller denied that the hospital had failed to prepare for the latest outbreak. He said the BHB had encouraged vaccinations and had ordered additional ventilators and oxygen.

Asked about vaccine mandates being introduced in the Cayman Islands, Mr Burt said the government’s position had not changed.

He noted the Cayman mandates applied to people coming to Cayman on work permits. He said he hoped teachers and healthcare workers would get vaccinated.

He said vaccine mandates would criminalise people and he was not prepared to do that.

Asked about what lessons he had learned, Mr Burt said the experience had been painful.

He said the outbreak showed coronavirus would be with Bermuda for a long time and this may not be Bermuda’s last wave.

He urged members of the public to pull together to save lives. He said he recognised the anguish of people on the front lines and recognised the strain they faced.

He said people needed to pull together and called for as many people as possible to speak to their doctors to get protection and those who chose not to be vaccinated to act responsibly.