Active cases at highest since Spring and early summer with ramped up testing rates; over 70’s and vulnerable category advised “to go out as little as possible” and make use of golden and silver hour; advice on flu jabs and mandatory wearing of masks when waiting to collect children from schools; the new saliva test rollout and questions about what Christmas 2020 will be like… here’s what you need to know about today’s press conference.
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, today (08.10.2020) held the first Covid-19 press conference since the 31st of July this year.
Mr. Picardo stated that this was not a restart of the regular weekly Covid press conferences, but was in light of the “the increase in [active] numbers”, which currently stand at 64 – the highest number since spring and early summer.
“That number is higher than in any other time during the spring and early summer. Even when we went into lockdown, we had numbers lower than that. But We now better understand the virus and our health authority is better prepared to deal with the virus.”
This number coincides with an increase in testing, which has now been ramped up to 700 per day, and the Government is looking to increasing this to 1,000 per day.
“We are close on 500% more tests per 100,000-head of population than the United Kingdom on a daily basis.”
“The last accurate testing statistics published in Spain are for the 3rd October – on that day, Gibraltar conducted almost 1,200% more tests than Spain per 100,000-head of population… our figure is one of the most precise and accurate figures in the world.”
There is currently one person who has been admitted to St. Bernard’s Hospital who is in their 80’s, who the Chief Minister said, “is actually well and awaiting discharge.”
“But that does not mean that we can relax in the face of these increasing numbers … we all have to ensure that we are not a vector for the transmission for this disease.”
Mr. Picardo pleaded with the Gibraltar public throughout the conference to continue to follow the laws and public health guidelines relating to Covid19; social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and also asked that people get the flu jabs “so you avoid confusing symptoms”.
The Chief Minister said that the “vast majority” of people in contact with Contact Tracing Bureau are “entirely cooperative”, but “there is a small number who are not cooperating; who are not giving information, who are trying to be evasive, by giving information which is demonstrably untrue”.
He called for cooperation with the Contact Tracers, stating that “without your information, they may go on to infect family members … they may infect the person who may turn out to be the first mortal victim of the virus in Gibraltar.”
“We have been very lucky in Gibraltar to date. We must expect that as the numbers of persons infected rises, we must expect the virus may affect a person who is less able to resist it.”
He asked that those who are contacted by the Contact Tracers are as “honest, open and frank” as possible: “When our contact tracing bureau calls you, please be helpful and truthful. There is no blame in having contracted the virus … that’s what can help us to stop the virus at you.”
Downloading the Contact Tracing app was highly encouraged.
“Conspire with us to get rid of the virus and get back to normal, instead of conspiring against us, or thinking that we are conspiring to control you; were not … there should just be one conspiracy in town today, the team Gibraltar conspiracy against covid19.”
Advice to Over-70’s
The Chief Minister stated that those in the over 70’s category and those with immunosuppressive illness “are very much at risk from death from this virus”, and advised that those in these categories “exercise great care in your social interactions”.
“If you are over 70, go out as little as possible”, advising that those in this category make use of golden and silver hour – which has seen a decline in usage in Commonwealth park and some other locations recently.
“And wear masks as required … we do not want to require you to wear them more than we are advised as necessary.”
Schools: When Parents Need to Wear Masks & Saliva Test
In relation to schools, the Chief Minister stated that masks were compulsory by law when collecting children from school, due to the high volume of people congregating in one location, but not when dropping them off.
“You may find it strange that I am asking you, please, to follow the law. Of course, the law is the law and it must be followed by compulsion of law … I am asking you please, because this is about our entire community continuing to work together.”
The substantially less intrusive saliva-based tests are to be rolled out in schools, “which will permit us to carry out an extra 1,000 tests every 2 weeks”, in schools for students and teachers. There is the possibility that these saliva tests, or other forms of testing, will be rolled out to other segments of the population soon.
To conclude the press conference, Mr. Picardo said that now that autumn is setting in and winter is approaching, “my team and I will be 100% concentrated on Covid and Brexit issues. We will not be able to attend to much more … step up and don’t let your country down”.
What will Christmas Look Like this Year?
In response to a question on what Christmas will look like this year by YGTV, the Chief Minister said:
“The only thing I can tell you about Christmas this year is that I can confirm that it will be on the 25th of December. But I would be loathed to predict what rules may operate in Gibraltar at the time … in Gibraltar were going to try and keep the rules as they are … Christmas, although it is a Christian festival is a time when people of all religions want to be together … we will try to be as unintrusive as possible…”
Will there be another Lockdown?
In relation to lockdowns, Mr. Picardo said: “If we saw that our GHA was becoming overwhelmed then we might have to say the only way we can deal with this is… getting out of the way of the infection, by staying in our homes … it’s not something that I’d like to give you a number on because the number of active cases is going to be much less relevant obviously going forward than the numbers of cases requiring care in the hospital”.