Premier hints pandemic restrictions could be eased
A rethink of Bermuda’s pandemic precautions is to be announced in the House of Assembly early next month, the Premier revealed yesterday.
David Burt said in an interview with TNN that the changes, to be announced on February 4, would come into force on April 1.
Mr Burt explained he had commissioned a “top-down policy review”, which started at the end of November.
He said the Government aimed to “start with a blank slate, with all the lessons since the beginning of the pandemic” used to design responses.
Mr Burt asked: “If we were to start from scratch, what would the ideal public health stance look like?”
He added: “I think there will come a time when SafeKey no longer will be needed.”
He said: “Ideally, I would like to be in a place where SafeKey would only be needed for large events.”
He was speaking after England announced it would scrap a wide range of restrictions next week, and Ireland moved to lift most of its restrictions this morning.
Mr Burt said the latest round of restrictions, including the curfew that ended yesterday, had been based on protecting the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital from being “overwhelmed”, as happened last autumn during the island’s fourth wave of coronavirus cases.
He added: “They were put in place to ensure we didn’t have that situation again.
“We observe, we see and make adjustments as we have done throughout the time of the coronavirus.”
Mr Burt said Cabinet had decided that the hospital was not being swamped “because of the rate of vaccination in the community”.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, earlier this week said the dominant Omicron variant of the coronavirus produced less severe illness and appeared to need half the time in hospital for infected patients compared with earlier variants..
Mr Burt downplayed the move this week by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to classify Bermuda as a Level 4 “very high risk” destination for travellers.
He highlighted that the island would need to record fewer than two coronavirus cases a day to get a lower classification.
Mr Burt said: “It’s not something we are going to be able to avoid. If the US graded themselves, they would be a level four jurisdiction as well.”
He defended placing the Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, which handles the Government’s testing, under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office rather than the Ministry of Health.
Mr Burt said: “MDL was set up under the Cabinet Office because that’s the place we thought was best suited.
“The Department of Health was doing a lot of other things during the management of the pandemic. It’s one Government and it has worked remarkably well.”
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