Good afternoon Bermuda.
Today I’m joined by the Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim Wilson, the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming, and the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Jason Hayward. For this evening’s press conference we will start with an update from the Minister of Health Minister.
MINISTER OF HEALTH READS HER REMARKS
Thank you, Minister of Health, and I would certainly like to echo the sentiments which you shared regarding the testing teams. Certainly, they have been going, and that is from the ones who are doing the collections, to the couriers, to the testers, to the administrative staff, the project managers and also the persons inside of the lab. The performance of these teams over the last few weeks, has certainly made Bermuda’s testing regime the envy of the world.
I want to thank all of the persons who are participating, especially working over the holiday and working long hours to make sure that we keep up with this extraordinary demand.
I would also like to add to the Minister’s comments by informing the country that the Governor informed me yesterday that the United Kingdom’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund will be sending a final shipment of personal protective equipment to Bermuda, bringing the total amounts of personal protective equipment supplied under this programme to $1.3 million worth.
Additionally, the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund is also ensuring the Ministry of Health will continue to have access the UK’s Telemed Service, the medical resource comprising international healthcare specialists who provide advice against the fight of the novel coronavirus.
On behalf, the people of Bermuda and the Government of Bermuda, I would like to thank the UK Government for the additional shipment of this equipment. The Bermuda Government has spent millions of dollars on procuring PPE to protect our workers on the front line and this additional shipment will further bolster supplies that we’ve already procured on Island.
I will now invite the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Renee Ming to give an update on her ministries activities over the holiday weekend.
MINISTER RENEE MING READS HER REMARKS
Thank you Minister of National Security.
And I share the sentiments about a largely peaceful weekend. There was a one incident of note, but on the whole, it was certainly an enjoyable and different Cup Match.
The next Minister to speak will be the Minister of Labour, Minister Jason Hayward who will provide details on the next step for those persons on the temporary Unemployment Benefit and will give an update on other matters, inside of this ministry. Minister Hayward.
MINISTER JASON HAYWARD READS HIS REMARKS.
Thank you, Minister Hayward.
Today, I will speak about three pressing issues that I believe are pressing for entrepreneurs, families, and employees. The first is the Work from Bermuda Residential Certificate that the Minister of Labour just highlighted. As he stated, since we’ve launched initiative we’ve received a large amount of international media attention, and it is unsurprising as the story has many facets.
To healthcare workers, this certificate signals, our successful management of the Coronavirus.
To global business, it shows that Bermuda is expanding its economic options, and for companies that are already domiciled in Bermuda, they’ve received an increase in clients looking to relocate here.
Additionally, the Bermuda Business Development Agency has received queries and requests for more information from Australia, Canada and the United States inquiring about setting up a Bermuda entity and redomiciling to Bermuda. And this is all due to the fact of our collective successful management of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Also, for additional activity for our local insurance companies the BDA is currently working with them to create health insurance options for one year residential certificate holders. The Bermuda Tourism Authority, who are also stakeholders in the one year residential programme report they have generated more than 30 international news stories around the initiative, with 526 million news impressions, which represents almost a million dollars in media value.
The launch of the Work From Bermuda website was designed to specifically inform potential applicants about the lifestyle aspect of the move to Bermuda, and resources to make the transition easy.
The One Year Residential certificate, is just one of the economic programmes we’re offering to change the adverse effects that the pandemic has had on our economy. And the first batch of applicants will start hearing from the Ministry of Labour, tomorrow.
In reality, remote workers and digital nomads can start arriving in Bermuda, as early as next week. The promotion of this programme will continue for the rest of this year, and into 2021 and further information can be found at workfrombermuda.bm.
Over the last few months we have done everything in our power to collectively manage the Coronavirus on our shores. And this success has only been possible with the support of everyone in Bermuda. I and others have stated, that Bermuda is facing a serious economic challenge, and we will for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.
However, it is important that we now do our part and participate in growing our economy, and like fighting the coronavirus, it will only be possible with the support of everyone in Bermuda.
Of course, it sounds basic, but we must do our part to support Bermudian business. We should eat at our restaurants, you must buy from Bermuda based shops, and we must support farmers, fishermen, seamstresses, landscapers, and if you have a vacation planned, spend those vacation dollars in Bermuda. As local hotels are offering staycation rates for residents and many of them reported that they were full over the Cup Match weekend.
I do recognize that there were many Bermudians who are concerned about the opening of our airport to regularly scheduled commercial traffic. However, as we’ve highlighted today, we’ve successfully developed and implemented the most stringent testing regime in the world. And the welcoming of visitors has a real impact on our economy.
Let me highlight what it means in real numbers, just so we can understand the July airport and tourism figures.
Even though there were not a large amount of arrivals, the amount of visitors and non-residents who entered the airport were 1,725. This equated to $6 million of visitor spending. However, it enabled hotels and other persons to get back to work. This means that 919 persons who were previously unable to work in the tourism sector were able to return to work.
The unemployment benefits savings were $1.2 million. And, it was $400,000 of revenue to the Bermuda Airport Authority, which will offset any future charges from Skyport Bermuda. Opening the airport was a good decision, and it was the right decision to support our families who desperately want to make sure they have an opportunity to earn, and to provide for their families. And though our testing regime is rigorous, and though it was quite a battle to make sure we decided on what it was ending up being, visitors are coming, and visitors are enjoying their time here. And this week, Bermuda even welcomed its first super yacht charter under our new Superyacht Legislation.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority will step up its marketing efforts, as they are now more flights to Bermuda in August than there were in July. It is important that we continue to capitalize on the fact that we have successfully managed this pandemic through our excellent testing programme.
Today, I was pleased to participate with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and Bermuda Credit Union press conference to announce an initiative that reduces 50% of the red tape that small business owners face, and helps entrepreneur, access funds, guaranteed by the BEDC much faster.
Previously, entrepreneurs had to go to the BEDC, seek their approval, and then go to a financial institution, seek their approval and if successful, then receive the funds.
Under this new agreement, the Credit Union and the BEDC have agreed underwriting terms, meaning the entrepreneur who needs funding will go to the Credit Union and if they meet their criteria, the BEDC will guarantee up to 75% of the loan. This will put money into the hands of the small business owner faster, giving them the financing they need to launch, any new business enterprise sooner.
It is hoped that the island’s three retail banks will soon begin to start offering this service as well. However, we are thrilled to launch this streamlined programme with the Bermuda Credit Union.
The BEDC has also created the Business Sustainability Funding Programme and has so far, provided support in excess of $4.5 million to 80 local businesses with several more applicants about to be notified that their application was successful.
The BEDC continues to provide ongoing support to entrepreneurs and has implemented a new series of webinars that provide information on a variety of topics such as marketing, support for getting your business online, and privacy to make sure that businesses can thrive inside of our new economic climates.
It is important to recognize that Bermuda is indeed moving to a new economic normal. However, collectively, we get to help to define what that normal looks like for ourselves.
As I said, it is important to support our local economy, so that more and more persons can get back to work. And it is only working together that we will ease the financial difficulty that we are facing. There certainly are challenges ahead of us. But as we have seen, there are also opportunities, and we must as a people continue to be creative.
I’m going to move from the economy to touch on the matter of education and school opening.
Bermuda’s public schools will open to receive school staff and students in their respective buildings, next month. School begins for staff on September 1, and for students on September 9. All of our schools will be adopting a hybrid model for teaching and learning, which includes both in class and remote teaching and learning. One question that parents have been asking is how will students be accommodated in school with physical distancing requirements?
Based on our COVID-19 status of no community transmission, the Department of Health will allow for three feet physical distancing and the use of Plexiglas separations where applicable. This will enable schools to accommodate the majority of their students in school buildings.
Stringent safety and health protocols, will be developed by the Department of Health technical officers and schools are required to enforce the protocols throughout the school day. These protocols are currently on the Department of Education’s website and are being updated as new information is being received from the Department of Health.
The Department of Education has been working on a number of fronts related to reopening schools. Some of these include preparing facilities, securing extra cleaning and hygiene supplies and additional IT devices for students and staff and extending WiFi access in our schools and finalizing the essential curriculum and proficiency scales, while organizing enhanced training for staff.
The Department of Education officers have also participated in meetings with representatives from the Department of Transport to discuss the transportation plan for our students. The Department of
Education is also currently engaged in communication and consultation to ensure that stakeholders, especially our valued teachers are fully informed of reopening plans, and can prepare accordingly.
I urge all Bermuda public school families to attend the town hall zoom meetings with the Commissioner of Education, technical officers and officials from the Department of Health, or follow along in the respective Facebook groups set up for the different school levels. Parents will have the opportunity to ask questions about school reopening in September, during these meetings, and I will highlight these meetings.
Saturday, August, 8: preschool meetings from 11am until 1pm; primary school meetings from 6:30pm until 8:30pm.
Monday, August 10: middle school meetings, from 4pm to 6pm; and senior school meetings from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.
On Monday, August 24, Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.
All meetings can be accessed live on Bermuda public schools’ Facebook page.
Before I take questions from members of the media, I would like to say two things.
First, I’d like to let members of the public know that I received an email last week, indicating that the Government of Bermuda at these press conferences should do something about many plastic water bottles that we use at each press conference.
My team took this to heart, and we have secured some reusable water bottles. I thank the Information Commissioner’s Office for reusable bottles that are now available for participants in the weekly press conferences, and as Minister of Health, informed earlier, she said it’s about time you got with the programme. Yes Minister of Health.
Finally, I would like to wish a very happy 101st, birthday to Mr. Walter Seymour of Sunnyside Park. Last year I was fortunate enough to attend his 100th birthday celebration, and I’m thankful that God has given him one more year with us on earth.
With that, I’m happy to take any questions that members of the media may have.