Burt: we must dig deep to defeat Covid-19
Residents have to “dig deep” over the next two weeks to help the island avoid a devastating outbreak of Covid-19, the Premier said yesterday.
David Burt insisted Bermuda could slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the deadly disease, as the island faced a 14-day lockdown, which begins at 6am tomorrow, with strict social-distancing measures.
Only essential workers are exempted from the regulations.
The rallying cry came after he announced three more people had contracted Covid-19 — which took the total number of cases to 35.
There are four people in hospital with the disease.
Mr Burt said: “To my fellow Bermudians, as I say all the time, we must use this time to define who we are, to do what is right for ourselves and our country.
“We are going to have to dig deep and be strong as we prepare to endure 14 days of sheltering in place.
“But I have no doubt that we can do it and if we do it the right way, it will be the last time that this country will have to do it.”
Mr Burt said: “Covid-19 is a deadly disease. We have seen how it has devastated towns, cities and countries around the world.
“In Bermuda, we have the ability to flatten the curve and slow down the transmission of the virus by reducing our contact with each other.
“The virus, as you know, is spread from person to person and by people touching surfaces where the virus is present.
“This is the reason why it is important to maintain your social distance and to practise the good hygiene we have spoken about.”
Mr Burt added that 36 test results had come back yesterday and that 33 were clear.
One of the new cases arrived on the British Airways flight on March 18 and another came in on Delta flight 561 from Boston the same day.
Mr Burt said the cause of the third case was under investigation, which meant there were two cases where the transmission point was not yet determined.
The Premier said the infected persons in hospital cases were “not young” and that they were all stable.
He added that 11 people had recovered from the virus and results from 22 tests were awaited.
Mr Burt said that Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, had confirmed that two weeks' worth of payments had been put through for 1,142 people approved for the unemployment benefits scheme.
He added seniors' pension cheques would be delivered today.
Mr Burt said that talks had taken place among Department of Public Transportation management, union officials, occupational safety and health committee members and Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board's chief of medicine and an expert on infectious diseases.
The Premier added: “The bus drivers now have an understanding of the risk of exposure and the precautionary measures required, to ensure the safety of employees and passengers on buses.”
Mr Burt said that the bus service for hospital workers would resume today. He added later that the drivers had been supplied with gloves and hand sanitiser. Mr Burt said that regulations to be issued by the Governor for the lockdown period were still to be finalised.
He admitted that extra pressure would be placed on many families struggling with reduced incomes, anxiety about the coronavirus and the inability to leave their homes.
He said support was available.
He explained that about 14 food services and programmes had been organised to supply more than 3,000 meals a day.
Money from the Bermuda Emergency Fund, administered by the Bermuda Community Foundation, was used to buy supplies, set up wi-fi and install extra phone lines at nursing homes.
Mr Burt said that a team of non-profit and public experts was tackling people's needs and that Ageing and Disability Services workers carried out checks on seniors.
He added that anyone who wanted to make a donation should visit www.bcf.bm and that all funds would be used to support Bermuda's “most vulnerable”.
Mr Burt said that resources were also available for people at risk of domestic violence over the lockdown.
He added he had seen long lines at supermarkets yesterday and highlighted that grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations would remain open over the lockdown.
Mr Burt said: “There is no need to buy in bulk. There is plenty of food on the island and there is enough for us all.”
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said fresh ammunition for the battle against the virus, including personal protective equipment, was expected to arrive on Monday, with further items due later in the week.
She added that the United States had “effectively embargoed exportation of all PPE”.
Ms Wilson said: “We are recognising that there will be a shortage eventually.”
However, she said contingency plans for further supplies from Europe and South East Asia had been drawn up.
Diallo Rabain, the education minister, added that remote learning would be suspended for the second week of the shelter-in-place period to avoid extra strain on families.
• To view the Premier's opening statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”