Bermuda has hit a “different stage” of the coronavirus crisis, the Premier said yesterday after five more positive tests for Covid-19 pushed the total to 32.
David Burt added that he would consult with the Chief Medical Officer and health minister to decide if extra measures to combat the disease should be introduced.
But he said that the Cabinet approved a three-day extension of the 8pm to 6am curfew — which meant it would run to Saturday at least.
Mr Burt also revealed that:
• Three people with Covid-19 were in hospital
• There were no confirmed community transmissions, but that three cases were under investigation
• Minibus operators will be asked to run special services scheduled to get the island’s essential healthcare staff to work after public transport employees downed tools
• Regulations were introduced to stop employers from refusing staff permission to work from home if they were able to
Mr Burt said: “The additional cases and the additional one under investigation does mark a different stage in our affairs.
“That is the reason why we have extended the curfew — and we’re going to continue to have a conversation with the epidemiologist and I’m going to seek advice from the Chief Medical Officer to see whether or not she believes that additional measures should be taken.”
He explained that out of six test results that came back yesterday, five were positive.
Two of the new cases arrived on the March 18 British Airways flight and a third arrived on American Airlines flight 308 on March 14. Another was a close contact of a confirmed case and the fifth was under investigation.
Mr Burt explained there were 20 cases in total that were “likely” contracted outside of Bermuda and brought in by travellers.
He said nine cases were “local transmission”, which meant they were contracted when someone had close contact with another confirmed to have the virus.
He added that “under investigation” meant that “transmission has not yet been determined”.
Mr Burt continued: “These cases are not imported and are likely the result of local transmission. Investigation continues on these cases to determine the source of their transmission and there are three cases under investigation.”
The Premier added: “Currently there is no evidence of community transmission.”
He said that community transmission was when experts were unable to connect confirmed cases of Covid-19 to a large number of new cases.
Mr Burt added that “unfortunately” there were three people with Covid-19 now in King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
He said that police had reported no breaches of the curfew on its second night.
The Premier added the Government had “moved swiftly” to introduce employment regulations to deal with employers who refused to let staff work from home.
Mr Burt said that he was still “inundated” every day with complaints about the problem.
He added: “The Cabinet, in a meeting which just concluded, did bless the implementation of regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the regulations will come into effect tonight, which means that persons who are able to work from home must be allowed to do so and their employer will be in violation of the law if they do not allow them.”
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said later that breaches could result in a fine of up to $10,000, six months imprisonment, or both. An employment violations hotline is available at www.bermudajobboard.bm/evtl.
Mr Burt asked importers to collect their containers from the Hamilton docks as soon as possible to “maintain safety, efficiency and relieve congestion” at the port.
Warren Jones, the chief executive officer of Polaris Holding Company Ltd, the parent company of Stevedoring Services Ltd, which operates the docks, added: “We are starting to see congestion and would like to ensure that we are able to move containers in and out of the port and maintain the shipping schedules.”
Mr Burt said that unemployment benefit payouts would be made tomorrow and Friday.
He added that a shelter for homeless people was available at The Berkeley Institute, which opens at 6.30pm and provides a hot meal and a place to sleep.
Mr Burt admitted he found the crisis conditions “incredibly stressful”.
He said: “That’s just the nature of the business, but it’s the job I was elected to do.
“But, I have the support of the community and I’m grateful for the support of the community.”
Mr Burt added he and the Cabinet were also supported by senior public servants.
He said: “I would be lying if I said that I’m not feeling a little bit extra stressed, a little bit extra tired, but the stress and tiredness of which I’m feeling, I’m sure is mirrored by many Bermudians, who have to worry about their children at home and a different routine.
“But the fact is, we’re doing this to make sure that we keep our country safe and I’m sure we’re going to continue to do so.”