HAMILTON, Bermuda, Thursday March 19, 2020 – The LF Wade International Airport will be closed from tomorrow night, the seaport is closed to vessels other than cargo ships, public transportation services have been suspended, and schools have been closed, after Bermuda confirmed the first two cases of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Premier David Burt announced at a press conference yesterday afternoon that the virus had reached the British Overseas Territory, before returning later to announce the new measures.
The COVID-19 patients included one person who had arrived from the United States on American Airlines Flight 308 on March 4, and another who arrived from the United Kingdom on British Airways flight 2233 on March 6. They became ill days after arriving in the island, but Burt said the cases are connected.
“Both individuals, who were identified early, are recovering and did not require hospitalization. They are presently isolated and have been isolated since they became symptomatic,” he said.
The Premier added that the Ministry of Health was working closely with other ministries across the Government to rapidly investigate the situation and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I want to reassure the public that the government has been actively preparing for an event like this as part of the International Health Regulations. Thankfully, we will have the ability to screen for COVID-19 on island tomorrow which will aid us in controlling any spread of this virus,” he said.
At a second press conference, Burt told the country that the LF Wade International Airport will close for incoming passenger flights on Friday, March 20 at 11:59 p.m. for two weeks.
“Non-residents will not be landed on the island from [Thursday]. Only returning residents will be allowed on flights to Bermuda between [Thursday] morning and Friday night. Cargo flights will not be affected,” he said.
“The seaport is closed to visiting vessels, but essential cargo operations bringing food, medicine, medical supplies and other essential goods will still continue to arrive in Bermuda.”
Schools have been closed until April 6. Additionally, the public bus and ferry services are suspended until April 6. Government workers who are not directly involved with the COVID-19 management and operation will work from home until that date as well, Burt added.
The Premier encouraged private businesses to ask their employees to work from home, if possible; or stagger work schedules to minimize the number of people in the workplace.
“Bars, restaurants, and other social establishments are strongly urged to scale down their operations from tonight and enforce social distancing,” he added.
“These actions are drastic, but we are taking them in order to confirm that there is not community spread of COVID-19 in Bermuda. Bermuda will be impacted financial and socially; however, the health and welfare of our people is the most important consideration. Given that we will have the ability to screen for COVID-19 on island starting on Friday, we will be able to quickly asses the risk and ensure that we contain this virus.”
Urging residents to work together, Premier Burt added:
“This is a time for us to show our strength as a community. This is a time for us to do what we must to protect our country. This is a time for us to show responsibility by following the stringent self-quarantine measures which are put in place to protect us all.
“We have seen what has happened around the world with this virus, and we must all work together to prevent that from happening here in Bermuda. Rest assured your government is working around the clock, and together, if every Bermudian resident does their part, Bermuda will come through successfully, I have no doubt.”