Our biggest test is now
Bermuda, initially when Covid-19 hit the island in mid-March, the Government took extreme measures to curb the spread of this deadly virus; the island sheltered in place for weeks. The Government and Opposition worked together, and the vast majority did our best to follow the tough measures for our collective good.
It worked with an initial peak of 32 cases in March, 82 in April and 26 in May — sadly with nine deaths in the latter two months. This was followed by a significant and welcome downward trend of six cases in June, ten in July, 16 in August, nine in September and 18 in October.
Now, suddenly, we face our biggest test as Covid cases have soared over the past month, with the last two weeks seeing an alarming increase. November recorded 62 cases of Covid and, with nearly one third of December gone, we have already recorded 80 cases in the month. It appears that the record 82 cases in April will be blown away by a much larger number this month. Unless the upward trend is changed very quickly, it is very probable December will threaten or pass the 200-case mark!
How quickly our situation has deteriorated was illustrated in Parliament last Friday by health minister Kim Wilson, who provided an update on Covid-19. She stated: “Although we may seem as if we are hitting a new peak, we must be reminded that in April there were 82 cases confirmed. This compares with a total of 62 cases in November.”
What the minister did not report was that in the first 15 days of November, reported cases totalled 24 and in the last 15 days of November the total was 40. A significant spike upward!
It gets worse. So far with about 33 per cent of December passed we have 80 confirmed cases!
Clearly the data shows a rapid escalation of cases, which the Government attributes to three clusters of cases and not community transmission, and protective action must be taken. The announced changes in Parliament just last Friday were quickly superseded by stronger measures at a Sunday evening press conference and again on Tuesday night.
As the Premier, David Burt, has said, restrictions are data-driven and follow a scientific approach. We must do all we can to make sure our health system is not overwhelmed and our team in contact tracing are able to do their onerous job and are not stretched to the breaking point.
Bermuda, we can be critical of steps taken, we can all be armchair quarterbacks and criticise government policy but the fact is the Covid-19 playbook continues to be written as each day passes. We know more now than we did at the beginning, and more is learnt each day. But one fact is clear: the ease of transmission of the virus. With this in mind, we should do all we can to wear masks, physical distance and create a small bubble of people we socialise with to protect all of us. Unless we follow these known precautions that hinder Covid, and unless we follow the new restrictions, we will face a further tightening on our freedom.
The Government has up to this point pushed back at the prospect of another lockdown or shelter-in-place. The reality is that the trend today is ominous, as it is unlikely that recent days of multiple confirmed cases will suddenly end.
It is likely the Government will be forced into more drastic measures. It is up to us, Bermuda, to all play our part to do whatever we can to stay healthy, protect our vulnerable and make sure the next steps do not take us back to April.
My colleagues and I have confidence that we will weather this test, but it will take continued and resolute commitment by all of us in facing this wave for us to see brighter days with a vaccine available and a recovery possible.
While we may have some “pandemic fatigue”, think about how our healthcare and frontline workers feel after working tirelessly since March!
Better days are ahead, so let us all do our best to stay healthy, help our families and friends, and we will turn to the new year with renewed hope.
• Michael Dunkley is the Shadow Minister for National Security and Health, and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)