I begin by offering my heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all the persons we have lost since our briefing last week. The number of deaths we are seeing on our island during this outbreak of the Delta Variant is a tragedy for our entire country but especially for those who have lost persons whom they love and care about.
Our thoughts and our prayers remain with those in hospital, as well as those who are at home battling with the virus. During this outbreak, we have not only lost members of our community in the hospital but some in their homes as well.
We implore persons that may have contracted the virus to follow the advice of the Ministry of Health, the CMO and Dr. Miller, and if you require medical attention do not hesitate to get in contact with your doctor, or get in touch with the hospital.
Our thoughts, prayers, and gratitude remain with our healthcare workers, nurses, and staff at the hospital and nursing homes who are working tirelessly in extremely difficult circumstances. We remain thankful for your dedication, and for you getting up each day to answer the call to service especially at a time like this, when you are needed the most.
What is also needed more than ever is a sense of community and caring for one another. There are families who are hurting that need our support during this difficult time. There are families with loved ones in hospital who are fearful that they too may endure loss in the coming days. We must pull together and support one another now and in the weeks to come.
We have seen that new cases peaked about two weeks ago and that metrics are moving in the correct direction. Our 7-day averages for positivity rates, cases, and real-time reproductive numbers are falling gradually, but we are a long way from being out of the woods. Our continued vigilance, care, and concern for each other’s health and safety, and continued adherence to the rules in place, must remain.
We know from experience that two weeks after new cases peak, we see a peak in hospitalisations. Two weeks after a peak in hospitalisations, we typically see a peak in deaths. Unfortunately, the reality is that while new cases may have peaked two weeks ago, we will see more persons hospitalised and more will succumb to this deadly virus and variant in the coming weeks. Those words are some of the most difficult words I have had to say as a leader, but they describe the harsh reality of this situation that we currently face.
We also know that:
· This outbreak is largely impacting the Black community, where vaccination rates are far below average and where underlying health conditions are disproportionately more prevalent.
· Preliminary hospital figures show that 94% of persons who have been admitted during this outbreak are Black.
Because of the fact that we are not out of the woods, the Cabinet has accepted the recommendation from the Ministry of Health to extend the nighttime curfew for at least a further two weeks. That means that curfew which was due to end tomorrow will be extended for at least a further two weeks.
As it has been stated by the Chief of Staff at the BHB, the Chief Medical Officer and also the Minister of Health, the vaccine remains the most effective tool we have against the coronavirus. It has saved lives. It is my belief that the only way to see the end of this pandemic is a continued increase in the number of residents who are vaccinated.
The vaccine is available to anyone wishing to receive it. Please speak to your doctor, and discuss if it is medically safe to do so. We have seen our vaccination registrations increase over the last few weeks, and that is welcomed.
To those who choose not to take the vaccine please speak to your doctor about what you can do to boost your immune system against the coronavirus, should you become infected, and take extra care in abiding by all public health regulations and guidelines.
Last week I spoke about the impact that this outbreak is having on our students. The Government is prioritising the return of students to the classroom. Tomorrow at 3pm the Minister of Education the Hon. Diallo Rabain will provide the country with an update on the return to school plan. Which will see some schools return to in school learning as soon as next week.
Students, parents, and teachers have been resilient. We know that all are eager to return to the classrooms. We thank everyone for their patience while the Government takes special care to ensure that we do this as safely as possible, and the return to school does not set us back on the path of seeing an end to this outbreak.
As I close, tomorrow, October 1 will mark one year since our country went to the polls and voted in favour of a Government with strong and steady leadership to see us through this pandemic.
As the Government, elected by the people of Bermuda, we remain humbled to lead this country. My job as leader of this country during this Pandemic has been difficult, but I recognise that it is not nearly as difficult as the job of our doctors, nurses, public health professionals and our incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated technical officers and public servants who help shape and put in place the policies that have kept us safe and well-informed throughout.
We understand that it has been an impossibly hard year for so many Bermudians. Our hearts remain heavy for those who have endured the loss of loved ones, those who are battling with the virus today, those caring for persons battling the virus, and for those whose businesses or jobs who have been impacted by the difficult decisions we have had to make as a country in the interest of public health.
We are all in this together as Bermudians. We can disagree on messaging, we can disagree on methods, we can disagree on opinions, but there is one thing that we can all agree on, that is we must do what we can to preserve and protect life. We can also agree that our enemy is not one another, but it is the coronavirus that we must unify in order to defeat.
In closing, I ask those in our local faith communities to continue to pray for the families who have lost loved ones, continue to pray for those who have contracted the virus, and continue to pray for our healthcare workers and all of those on the frontline, those currently in hospital, and most of all our island home.
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