The Government of Bermuda will be introducing a wristband for travellers awaiting the results of their COVID-19 test.
Bermudian Health Minister Kim Wilson made the announcement during a ministerial statement to the House of Assembly on Friday.
She said after a summer and fall of relatively few but expected new cases of COVID-19 the resumption of commercial flights on July 1 presented opportunities for the importation of the virus.
"As such, we are now experiencing a distinct increase in positive cases on the island. This is also expected because of the level of community transmission within countries where the majority of our travellers are coming from."
She said to assist in the identification of travellers the government proposed to implement a "traveller wristband" to be worn by all those arriving on the island until they test out on Day 14 with a negative test result.
"The Government is aware that not knowing who has travelled recently is causing some anxiety in the community. This can be allayed, to a certain extent, by requiring all travellers to wear the wristband. As each test day comes due, the testing team will check to ensure the traveller wristband has not been removed. This provides an easy way for businesses, for example, to know that it is a recent traveller who is patronising their establishment."
She noted visitors to the island support hotels, restaurants, bars and taxis.
"They participate in a variety of experiences and visit the diverse attractions the island has to offer. They rent minicars and mopeds and, in general, provide an invaluable boost to our local economy. In short, visitors support jobs."
She reported the Health Ministry is reviewing the guidance provided to travellers arriving in Bermuda.
She explained that as the incubation period for COVID-19 is between two and 14 days, the ministry developed "mobile quarantine" as a means by which newly-arriving travellers could be "free to roam" if they had both a negative pre-arrival test and a negative test on arrival at the airport. She pointed out theTen Tips for Mobile Quarantine During COVID-19states, for example, that travellers cannot attend events with large groups of people, they must stay away from crowded places and they need to exercise outside and not in a gym or with a sports team.
As part of mobile quarantine, all travellers are required to be tested on Day 4, Day 8 and Day 14 of their stay. If a traveller does not have a negative pre-arrival test, that person has to quarantine until a Day 8 negative test result.
"There has been considerable confusion regarding the mobile quarantine procedures. There is uncertainty in the community in terms of what is, and is not, allowed."
She reported the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) has noted that an increasing number of travellers are testing positive on Day 4 and, to a lesser extent, Day 8 of their stay.
"Some are symptomatic but others are not. ESU has also noted that an increasing share of the confirmed cases in Bermuda is due to local transmission."
She said in an effort to minimise the potential to spread COVID-19, the ministry has developed a new "traveller continuum" that provides more clear direction to visiting and resident travellers during the first 14 days of their stay in, or return to, Bermuda.
For those who have a negative pre-arrival test as well as a negative "on arrival" test at the airport, the new guidance clearly states those persons can:
take public transport;
dine outdoors or dine indoors only at the hotel where they are staying;
enjoy outdoor activities;
and work remotely from home.
These travellers, however, cannot:
go to work and attend in-person meetings;
participate in church services;
dine indoors at restaurants not located in their hotel;
go to a gym;
attend a permitted large event or other events such as a house party, birthday party or funeral;
or attend indoor events, generally.
Wilson explained when those travellers have had a negative Day 4 test result, they can dine indoors, attend permitted outdoor large events, but still cannot go to a gym or play a contact sport.
For those travellers without a pre-arrival test, they are tested on arrival at the airport and must remain in quarantine until receiving a negative Day 8 test result.
After a negative Day 8 test result, all travellers can to go to work and attend meetings, go to school and daycare, enjoy the movies and attend church services.
A negative Day 14 test result is required before any travellers can use a gym or play a contact sport.
For travellers, the testing regime of "on arrival" and then additional testing through to Day 14 continues to apply.
Wilson reported the new guidanceThe Traveller’s First 14 Dayswill be available online at coronavirus.gov.bm later on Friday.
She said that with government recognising that travellers, both visitors and residents, who despite their best intentions are likely to import the coronavirus, the Health Ministry developed a number of public health protocols to combat and minimise the possibility of infectious spread.
She reported Bermuda has 278 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including two hospitalisations.
"Although it may seem as if we are currently hitting a new peak, we must be reminded that in the month of April there were 82 cases confirmed. This compares with a total of 62 cases in November."
Wilson said to safeguard the economic progress made, despite enormous and ongoing challenges, the ministry has reviewed the public health protocols in place to determine what must be done to, once again, "flatten the curve".