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Covid-19: more than 1,100 cases, four in hospital as Omicron spreads fast

The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading like wildfire, the health minister warned last night as the number of active cases surged past 1,000.

Kim Wilson said: “The facts are that the Omicron variant’s transmission rate is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

“Its rapid spread has resulted in a significant increase in positive cases. This has led to an increase in testing.

“The overall effect of this current spike has put extreme demands on all our healthcare teams.”

The news came the day before the one-month mark of Bermuda’s first case of the Omicron variant.

Ms Wilson admitted there had been recent delays in the return of test results because of the contagious nature of the Omicron strain, but said that efforts had been made to bolster the test system.

She said: “As the events evolve, we will continue to adjust our processes to ensure an effective and efficient testing regime for all our residents and visitors alike.

“This is evidenced by the opening of a new testing site earlier … in the Washington Mall, which was implemented specifically to meet the testing demand for outbound travellers.”

Ms Wilson said the first day of testing at Washington Mall had gone well, and that the temporary antigen testing service at the airport would end tomorrow.

She was speaking as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 1,111 last night after 255 new infections were detected.

The number of patients in hospital doubled from two on Tuesday to four.

The number of active cases is now at its highest levels since October 2 – during the last major surge.

The new figures came from tests carried out last Sunday and on Monday.

Health officials said 125 of the new cases came in from overseas.

Most of the remaining 130 cases are under investigation, but ten were classed as on-island transmissions.

There have been 56 recoveries since the last Covid-19 update on Tuesday.

No figure was given for the number of people in quarantine.

But last September, when case numbers stood at 1,400, there were about 10,000 people reported to be in isolation.

The figures for Monday also showed a 7.7 per cent positivity rate for the coronavirus – the highest since at least the start of September – with 180 positive cases found in 2,332 test results.

Monday’s 180 cases was also the highest daily figure since September 15 when the Delta variant wave on the island neared its peak.

The island hit 1,100 cases last September 13 and there were 28 people in hospital, five of them in intensive care.

The latest figures brought the island’s total number of infections to 7,191 since March 2020.

The new Omicron wave of cases showed faster infection rates, but numbers in hospital have so far stayed low.

Ms Wilson said that measures put in place to curb the spread of Omicron – including the 12.30am curfew – will remain in place until at least January 20.

She added: “I think it’s important to stress that this isn’t the first surge that we’ve navigated through.

“And as we did previously, we will push through and continue to evolve and meet the challenges ahead.

“What we need though is the co-operation of the community to help in curbing the spread. As basic as it may seem, the public health guidance is the best defence against the coronavirus.”