Fears over surge in Covid-19 cases following Cup Match
The island’s top health official foresees a surge of Covid-19 in the wake of the Cup Match weekend that brought spectators and revellers together in their thousands.
Ayo Oyinloye, the chief medical officer, told The Royal Gazette “the past is an indication of what’s going to happen in the future” with a highly contagious new strain of the coronavirus circulating on the island.
Asked if he was bracing for an uptick in cases in the aftermath of the holiday weekend, Dr Oyinloye said: “Last year, our Delta wave started just a couple of weeks after Cup Match.
“This present surge we’re seeing coincided quite well with the National Heroes weekend.
“Wherever there’s humanity concentrated, you will see an upswing in cases, particularly where there is Covid fatigue.”
But, Dr Oyinloye said it was difficult to say whether he would call for tighter restrictions, even in light of the increased spreading power of the new variants.
“Like everybody else, I’m tired of this virus,” he said. “I want people to be able to have a life. Our economy needs to grow, and I definitely want to see that.
“But, I would like to see that happening safely. I don’t want us to be putting on Government-mandated restrictions. I want people to be responsible.”
He added that setting restrictions in the face of dangerous surges of cases was a decision that rested with Cabinet.
The island acquired a new weapon against Covid-19 last month with the antiviral drug Paxlovid, which Dr Oyinloye approved for patients with severe illness.
The drug shows promise against the latest variants, but is being reserved for “patients who are more likely to end up in the hospital”, he said.
Trials have shown the drug cuts symptoms by as much as 80 per cent.
But he added: “For people who are healthier, the effect is not that great. It’s unlikely it’s going to be available for the general population.”
Newly emerged variants of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 are likely to blame for the island’s present surge in cases, according to the CMO.
But Ayo Oyinloye said identifying samples through health officials in New York had been delayed.
“Clinically, the way the virus is behaving now is very similar to what our colleagues in other parts of the world saw with the BA 4 and BA 5 variants,” he said.
“I would be very surprised if that wasn’t what we are seeing here.”
The BA 4 and 5 varieties of the virus are more contagious than previous strains but appear to make less people seriously ill.
Dr Oyinloye said Bermuda had signed contracts with the New York Genome Centre to track the movement of variants.
The island’s testing equipment is capable of identifying the broad genetic family of coronavirus strains – the Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron variants – but more detailed tests are needed for subvariants.
Speaking to the Gazette last week, he said the samples had been sent off with the results awaited.
There were 263 active cases confirmed at the last update, but Dr Oyinloye said the island’s true number of cases could not be known.
“Because there’s so much home based antigen testing, a lot of people are not reporting,” he said. “We can only guess based on the number of people coming to the hospital.”
Two deaths were announced on July 26, bringing the island’s death toll from Covid-19 to 144.
While Dr Oyinloye said details such as age, race and sex of victims could not be given to protect their privacy, he said many of the fatalities struck people with existing health problems.
But the CMO disagreed with blaming Covid-19 deaths on poor health.
“Saying there was comorbidity is neither here nor there. The majority did have some other disease. But that needs to be understood from the point of view that Bermuda, generally is an older and sicker community.
“A lot of people have comorbidities on the island. But these people would still be alive if Covid-19 had not pushed them over the edge.”
Dr Oyinloye said Covid-19 still proved fatal for seemingly fit and healthy people.
He added: “Certainly in earlier surges – less so now.”