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Quarantine restrictions could be loosened, but no end to curfew, Government says

Back to work today: David Burt, the Premier (File photograph)

The Government may relax quarantine measures imposed to stem a recent surge in coronavirus infections, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health confirmed that the Government was aware that other countries had reduced quarantine requirements and that Bermuda was also considering a change.

The announcement came despite an escalation in the number of active cases, which now stand at more than 1,100.

The spokeswoman said: “The ministry and Chief Medical Officer are aware of changes that other countries are making based on their current situations.

“Bermuda has been following guidelines from Public Health England and the US Centres for Disease Control.

“As such the ministry and CMO are in consultation … and looking at changes that could be suitable to Bermuda.”

Anyone who tests positive for the virus at present has to quarantine for up to 14 days under government regulations.

The regulations are stricter than those in the UK and US, which stipulate that infected people should quarantine for a maximum of seven days.

The spokeswoman, however, ruled out changes to other public safety regulations, such as an end to the 12.30am-to-5am curfew.

She said: “There has been a continued monitoring of our public health measures during the outbreak. At this time, the curfew and other measures will remain in place.”

The news came after the Government came under fire last week over coronavirus test regulations.

Carika Weldon, the head of the Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, last week resigned after she warned the Government that the lab was being swamped with test samples – and did not have the manpower to cope.

Other questions asked

Q: Will workers in key sectors – health, fire etc – be asked to take daily Covid tests before coming to work?

No answer provided.

Q: What is the booster rate now and are there any plans to offer a fourth shot – maybe to frontline workers?

No answer provided.

Q: How many vaccinations are left from the last batch delivered from the UK?

A: As of the end of December there was approximately 5,000 doses remaining.

Q: How many extra people have been drafted in to man the Covid hotline?

A: There are approximately 35 staff, full and part-time, engaged to work at the hotline 8am -8pm, 7 days a week.

Q: What is the total number staffing the line now?

A: Currently there are 12 persons working daily.

Q: Government has always said that the issue is one of ensuring the hospital is not overwhelmed but as hospitalisations remain low and the spread of the Omicron variant grows, isn’t this now more about protecting society so that it can continue to function?

A: Ensuring the hospital is not overwhelmed is a direct element of safeguarding our society. If the hospital is overwhelmed and unable to service daily and urgent matters, the public is at severe risk of not receiving critical care, and delays can ultimately cause long term effects. The hospital is an important element of society that must be protected.

Q: Given the last question, what – specifically – is being done to ensure essential services such as trash, fire, police, prison officers, health staff etc are able to function as normal given the rapid spread of Omicron?

A: Health is unable to respond for all entities, however as it relates to health staff, the staff are required to be compliant with all public health measures and wear appropriate PPE in the relevant settings, however normal services will adjust if resources are diminished due to the outbreak.

She said that the Government ignored several red flags she raised in the previous week.

Dr Weldon also advised that schools should remain closed until the backlog had been cleared.

Schoolchildren and travellers were also left in limbo as a result of delays in the return of test results.

The Government had insisted that pupils needed to provide a clear test result before they turned up for classes on the first day of the new term last Tuesday.

But the bottleneck in testing meant that results were delayed – which forced the Government into an eleventh-hour U-turn.

Officials announced that most schools would remain closed and that pupils would have to learn remotely last Monday, just a day before schools were scheduled to go back.

Outbound travellers faced airport chaos because of delayed results.

One traveller wrote: “Government is taking over a day to return four-hour $275 arrival tests.

“Apparently their policy is that if you arrived yesterday but get it by end of day today, they won’t issue a refund. If they do, it will take three to four weeks.”

Another desperate traveller wrote on Facebook: “I underwent two Covid PCR and antigen tests last Friday, January 7, but am still waiting for the PCR test that will be sent to my e-mail by the Department of Health.

“Right now I’m about to check in – going to the Philippines – and no PCR result received in my e-mail.

“Please help me. If someone can help me – I don’t like the worst scenario that may occur.”

The Royal Gazette reported on Friday that David Burt, the Premier, and most of the Cabinet, were away from their desks for much of the latest outbreak.

Mr Burt is expected to be back at his Cabinet Office desk today.

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Published January 10, 2022 at 9:59 am (Updated January 10, 2022 at 7:28 pm)

Quarantine restrictions could be loosened, but no end to curfew, Government says

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