Our goal as a country is to move beyond the pandemic. Through sacrifice, cooperation, and hard work, we have steadily made progress towards that goal over the last few months. We have seen a reduction in local transmission, a reduction in hospitalisation where we currently have no one in the hospital with the coronavirus, and continued progress with our vaccination programme.
These important milestones have allowed us to remove the majority of restrictions, allow more businesses to open, more Bermudians to get back to work, and more activities to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. However, we must remain conscious that the pandemic is not yet over and that the coronavirus can quickly impact our lives again if we let our guard down.
The only way for the coronavirus can enter our community again is through our borders, and this is why strong protections are necessary. The Government is committed to protecting Bermuda from dangerous variants that could see our progress undone as it has been in other countries around the world, such as Barbados, where a night-time curfew has been reinstated, after it was lifted two weeks ago, with no social gatherings banned, and spectators banned at sporting events.
The British Virgin Islands has also reimposed a night-time curfew, closed bars, gyms, and hairdressers for an initial 14-day period in response to an outbreak that has seen active cases increase from nearly 0 to 1147 within one week, and seen their country suffer an additional death.
There are many who have questioned the Government or asked us to change our strong approach to testing, border protection, and acceleration of our vaccination programme over the last few months. I would ask that those persons look to the examples I have given where countries that have not acted as decisively as Bermuda are now working to contain outbreaks and have had to reimpose restrictions in an effort to reduce coronavirus spread.
Our testing regime has been strong throughout the pandemic and has helped us to catch positive cases, to understand the variants that are affecting us, and make decisions based on science and data. Our border protections help us to keep dangerous variants out, and help us to keep our schools and camps open, restaurants, and other businesses thriving, and protect the freedoms that we enjoy here on-island, especially during the summer. Though some may not agree, I do not believe there anyone in our community who wants to see students sent home from camps or businesses closed again.
As we continue to move beyond the pandemic, we have been able to enjoy the return of sport and a return of our important summer cricket events. This weekend Bermuda can again enjoy the Eastern Counties Cup Series at the Sea Breeze Oval. The Government of Bermuda is proud to support Eastern Counties Cricket Association with a $20,000 grant to ensure the event is a success.
The Eastern Counties has been permitted to allow 1,250 fans into grounds, and all in attendance must be in possession of SafeKey. Persons can obtain a SafeKey through receipt of a negative coronavirus test, which will be valid for 72 hours from the time of testing. Anyone needing a test in order to obtain a SafeKey for this Saturday’s Eastern Counties match can go to Clocktower Mall (Dockyard) Wednesday & Friday 10am – 3pm, or Penno’s Wharf Thursday, 10am – 3pm, or they can book an appointment at Bull’s Head on Wednesday,Thursday or Friday, and you can book at coronavirus.gov.bm.
Persons with a vaccine-based SafeKey will be able to renew it this Thursday, 15 July, when it is currently set to expire, for another month until 15 August. They can do this, and learn more about SafeKey by going to gov.bm/safekey and clicking the link at the top of the page to renew.
All persons attending must have a valid ID along with their SafeKey. SafeKey is checked with the ID to ensure it is being used by the correct person.
As we enjoy our progress locally, we can also be proud of the resurgence of our tourism industry. As tourist was able to restart in 2020, we learned that the reason persons chose Bermuda was that they felt safe thanks to our successful management of the coronavirus through rigorous testing and appropriate regulations that balanced public health and economic activity.
The confidence amongst our visitors and gateway countries has been carried into 2021, with the CDC recently announcing the lowering of Bermuda’s covid status from Level 2- moderate levels of coronavirus, to Level 1- low levels of the coronavirus. This following Bermuda’s addition to the U.K’s green list at the end of June. Excellent progress.
These achievements will only help our already improving tourism statistics, which shows hotel occupancy increasing in some cases approaching 2019 levels. Bookings are strong.
With the success of the Homeporting programme, which has begun with the Viking ‘Orion’ Cruiseship, we are now seeing increased interest from other cruise lines to come to our shores. The Minister of Transport continues to work with these cruise lines to set out the necessary requirements, and I am confident we will see more cruise ships in Bermuda this season. But this is only possible due to our border policies which are designed to keep dangerous variants out of Bermuda.
The Government will also continue to support Bermudians in need, as we recognise that the economic impact of the pandemic will not dissipate as quickly as we would like. Yesterday, the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Jason Hayward announced the extension of the Supplementary Unemployment Benefit until March 2022. Through this programme, the Government has provided over $1 million of support to 127 families and will continue to assist individuals and families in their time of need.
Our determination to support Bermudians also includes our plans for Economic Recovery for our country. Initiatives such as the Economic Investment Certificates, which are a part of the Government’s Economic Recovery Plan, are a critical component to that recovery and have already attracted more than $30 million of investment in our local economy since it commenced on March 1st.
This shows the progress already being made as the Government is able to refocus its energy and resources from tackling the coronavirus, to stimulating our economy, providing opportunities for growth, and helping to get Bermudians back to work as we successfully execute our strategy to move beyond the pandemic.
Before I close, I would like to share a story from this weekend. My wife and I were invited to an event on Saturday night, and I had a conversation with a staff member working at the event. This young lady said, “Premier, I am not vaccinated, and I do not agree with everything you have done but thank you for working to keep us safe”. She then told me that this is the first time that she has worked an event since the beginning of the pandemic, and she is thankful for the leadership of the Government that enabled her to return to do something that she loves.
As a country, progress means nothing without unity. As can be seen my interaction with the young lady, unity does not mean we agree on every point and action, but that even when we disagree, we find the common ground and understanding needed to move forward and work to achieve our goals. That is what the Government of Bermuda is committed to, that is what this Cabinet is committed to, and that is what we will continue to do in order to successfully execute our strategy to move beyond the pandemic.
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