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Peek-Ball predicts ‘very difficult time’ ahead

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Debt of gratitude: Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, was applauded by the Premier for her contributions yesterday, but then left in no doubt the scale of the crisis Bermuda in facing (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A “very difficult” time lies ahead the Chief Medical Officer warned yesterday as Bermuda prepared for a prolonged 24-hour curfew imposed to stem the tide of Covid-19 cases.Cheryl Peek-Ball highlighted that the 14-day lockdown was designed to help protect the most at-risk groups.She said: “The Premier has done an excellent job, I think, of presenting the rationale for what is going to be a very difficult time; 14 days of sheltering at home is not something most of us have any experience in.“But, I think it’s important to reassure the public that the decision was not taken lightly and that it was not a unilateral decision, but is supported both by local public health experts, as well as the international advisers that we have, who give us a perspective on what is the best way to suppress the spread of Covid-19 in the community, now.“The goal of all of these very severe measures is to stop person-to-person spread.”Dr Peek-Ball added: “The other big part of making sure that this is effective, is to really protect those who are most vulnerable, people who have pre-existing medical conditions, or who are over the age of 60.”She was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, revealed that the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus remained at 32.Mr Burt added that commercial airline services were not expected to return before May.Unscrupulous landlords were also warned that eviction threats against tenants who struggled to pay their rent were empty as the courts were closed.The news came after Mr Burt’s address to the country, where he announced that a two-week “shelter in place” lockdown will begin after the curfew ends at 6am on Saturday.Mr Burt said earlier that Dr Peek-Ball deserved “the entire country’s gratitude”.He added: “She has been a voice of calm, a voice of reason, and someone who has continued to dictate the science to the Cabinet.”Mr Burt said that eight test results had came back yesterday and all were clear.He added that an inquiry into three confirmed cases had found two involved close contact with an infected person and that the third is still under investigation.A total of 236 tests were carried out by yesterday, with 33 results awaited.A total of ten people had fully recovered from Covid-19 and three others were said to be “stable” in hospital.Kim Wilson, the health minister, added that 19 of the 32 confirmed cases were men, 13 were women and their ages ranged from 18 to 75.She said that a shipment from China is due to arrive soon and is expected to include “quite a substantial amount” of personal protective equipment.Ms Wilson added: “We’re also anticipating the British Airways flight next week from the Crown agents also having further PPE.”Mr Burt admitted that the move to a 24-hour curfew would be “unpopular ... in certain quarters”.However, he said: “The pain will be nothing compared to the pain that we will have, if we have an overwhelming of our healthcare system, which will lead to a number of deaths.“We have seen it play out on television overseas and it will be a violation of our public duty, if we do nothing to prevent that from happening here.”The Premier warned against panic buying and said that people had time to get organised before the lockdown started.He said: “Grocery stores will open during the 14 days that we will be sheltering in place. And, in addition to that, all major grocery store chains have confirmed that the traditional Wednesday 5 per cent discount will be in place, during the entire duration of the shelter in place.”Mr Burt added that the Hamilton docks will be open and cargo would still be shipped to the island.He said he had heard several stories about residential and commercial landlords who had demanded rent and threatened eviction against people left short of cash by the crisis.Mr Burt added: “To these unscrupulous landlords, I say today, the courts are closed and eviction notices will not be processed.“This is a time for unity and it is not a time for us to turn on each other.”He said that, although the airport was closed from March 20 for two weeks, the worldwide nature of the crisis meant that no commercial airlines that fly to Bermuda plan to restart flights before May 1. Mr Burt added: “This does not prevent our efforts to continue the work to bring stranded Bermudians home and ensure that there are adequate quarantine facilities in which to house those persons.”Mr Burt appealed to the public to show patience and kindness.He said he was “particularly gratified” that public servants had offered to drive nurses to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital after he revealed on Tuesday that government bus operators had walked off the job.Mr Burt added: “This is a time when we can all come together.“As I said earlier, Covid-19 does not discriminate based upon age, does not discriminate based upon race, does not discriminate based upon economic status, does not discriminate against political party and does not discriminate against immigration status.“If there was ever a time when it was about all of us being in this together, it is now.”• To view the Premier’s opening statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

A warning to landlords: David Burt, the Premier, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus pandemic yesterday, as Wayne Caines, the national security minister, listens. The Premier told rental property owners that “the courts are closed” and they therefore would not be able to evict tenants that are unable to pay their rent for the duration of the pandemic (Photograph by Akil Simmons)