During an exclusive interview with TNN’s Trevor Lindsay yesterday afternoon which was broadcasted live on TNN Facebook and Website also on Channel 82, Premier the Honorable David Burt, JP, MP expressed his sincere gratitude to the head of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory (MDL) and scientific advisor to the government Dr. Carika Weldon, who will formally step down from both positions at the end of this month, for her immense service to Bermuda.
“ I am immeasurably grateful to not only her service, but also to the service of all healthcare workers across the island who have been under incredible stress and pressure for the past 20 months,” he explained.
“ Bermuda has a lot to be proud of with our COVID response and a large part of that was due to Dr. Weldon coming home, setting up a testing system and working with our partners both within the Ministry of Health and throughout the entire government to ensure that we delivered a first-class system.
The debt of gratitude which we owe her is immense.”
Premier Burt explained that, when MDL was first opened, it was best suited to be run under the purview of the Cabinet Office, because the Health Ministry had more than enough on their plate at the time.
He told Trevor Lindsay that the government’s health measures have been in place, from the very beginning of the Coronavirus, to ensure that the island’s only hospital did not become overwhelmed and that the somewhat strict measures put in place right before Christmas were done so to ensure that the hospital did not get overwhelmed like they did in September and October last year.
“ We remember the stress and pressure that our workers were under [at that time] and we want to avoid that from ever happening again,” he explained. “ We have seen record cases [recently], but we’ve also seen a lower demand on hospital services, hence why we are able to relax more health restrictions recently.”
Ideally, Premier Burt would like to see a point where SafeKey is only used for really large events, as he recognizes the large inconvenience it causes certain businesses. The CDC in the US recently classified Bermuda as a level four jurisdiction, urging Americans not to travel here unnecessarily. However, Premier Burt believes that Bermuda is a much safer place for travelers to go to than most places in the US.
According to him, the overwhelming majority of countries are currently listed in the US as level four jurisdictions and the only way that Bermuda would no longer be considered “risky” by the CDC is if we were to have less than two positive cases a day, which is clearly not feasible at this point in time, unless no one leaves their homes.
“ You would not have a very successful tourism industry if no one is allowed to leave their homes,” he said. “So, we must find a balance and work through these problems. We will work through it and keep pressing forward.”
The Government decided very early on to fund their response to the pandemic through travel authorization forms, rather than borrowing money that they do not have right now or raising everyone’s taxes during a time of widespread financial hardship.
“ [Our response to the COVID pandemic] has been a significant expense, which is why we have said when running up to budget time that we’ve commenced a top-down policy review of everything,” Premier Burt said. “ As a country, we will have to learn how to live with this virus and that is the perspective which the Government plans to put forward.”
He would like to make it clear that he and his PLP colleagues would much rather be spending their time governing and executing the manifesto which the party were elected to execute, rather than worrying about which COVID restrictions to lift or implement. He reiterated that the point of these restrictions is to ensure that the hospital does not get overwhelmed like it did in September and October.
“ When the Government is confident that there is enough protection either through vaccinations, prior infections or other things that are minimal risk, then we will be able to spend less money on that and more on things that will benefit Bermudians [as a whole],” he said.
“ Though we are challenged as country, just like any country in the world, the government must be confident and work together to ensure that the future is brighter.
In relation to in-person or online learning, the Premier stated that, due to the nature of the Omicron variant, positive cases in schools will cause disruptions to certain classes and that is to be expected as the school year continues. However, most public school students are doing in-person learning and the senior schools will be returning to in-person next week.
“ Students want to be in school, to have that social interaction and to learn and grow. They do that far better [in person] than they do through a screen,” he said. “ We will do everything to make sure that our students are in school, learning in as safe of an environment as possible.”
Next fiscal year, Government is expected to exceed the fiscal targets which are set out, because, according to Premier Burt, they are expedient in their economic recovery for Bermuda.
“ Though we are challenged as a country, just like every country in the world, the government must be confident and must work to ensure that we have a brighter future,” he said. “ Ministers in this government who work day in and day out, supported by a wonderful PLP caucus and an army of dedicated public officers to work under incredibly difficult circumstances, continue to deliver for the people of this country every single day.
We do not get everything right, but what we do get right is our energy and effort towards this because we are committed to working for the people of this country.”
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