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Changes to come as Gibraltar Unlocks the Lockdown: Rise of New Gibraltar

Chris Gomez

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo announced that certain roads will close, including Chatham Counterguard, to traffic. There will be aggressive ‘contact tracing’, possibly via apps. The self-policing of social distancing rules. Figures show a very low rate of covid19 infections in Gibraltar.

“We can probably end the whole lockdown even earlier than expected – it will likely be over soon, when the last patient with covid19 will be given the all-clear… but it’s not over yet.”

Today’s press conference (04.05.2020) led by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Director of Public Health, Dr. Bhatti, began with a much higher sense of positivity when it comes to controlling the covid19 pandemic as further details on how the Rock will ‘unlock’ as well as the changes Gibraltar can expect to see soon were announced.

RGP Commissioner McGrail Reflects on COVID19 Policing as ‘Unlock the Rock’ Process Begins
Main Street, Gibraltar 2nd May 2020 | Photo: Chris Gomez ©Reach Alcance

Today’s statistics showed that the number of confirmed cases in Gibraltar remained static from yesterday: 144 confirmed cases, 133 recovered cases (one new recovery) and 11 active cases.

The Chief Minister stated that “this represents a new hope; that we are winning the battle against COVID19, unless it strikes back – it is with this background that the cabinet has improved the ‘Unlock the Rock’ document.”

As of today, Gibraltar is half a week into phase 1 of the unlocking period; with hair and beauty salons, estate agencies, retail shops and construction business being finally allowed to open their doors to the public, with new rules.

Main Street, Gibraltar 2nd May 2020 | Photo: Chris Gomez ©Reach Alcance

You can find out more about this, which was implemented on the 2nd of May, here.

Certain Roads in Gibraltar to Close Including Chatham Counterguard

A pilot scheme to reduce pollution from vehicles will be rolled out. Line Wall Road will be closed to the public from the 1st of June from Orange Bastion (near the ICC) to Duke of Kent House, by the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

This comes after reports have shown an improvement in air quality in Gibraltar.

Public transport vehicles, taxis and vehicles belonging to those registered in that area will be allowed to use these roads.

In a well-received piece of news, Chatham Counterguard road will be closed off to permit restaurants to make use of the terrace areas to allow them to operate properly under the social distancing rules.

Europort Road will only be open to school and residential traffic.

“All areas will be magnificent public realms for pedestrians” said the CM, but he warned that there was more work to be done in terms of the control of traffic flow.

It was also revealed that the Government is considering the implementation of “technology and other systems” to provide digital controls to these areas. This brings into question the protection of privacy, but the CM stated that for the time being, controls will remain ‘analogue’.

Charging mechanisms will also be introduced at Midtown carpark to discourage people driving into town.

Contact Tracing

The CM revealed that the unlocking strategy rests on 2 key criteria:

  1. Advice on social distancing and respiratory and personal hygiene must be followed.
  2. “Massive testing, aggressive contact tracing, and enforced isolation” to those who have tested positive for COVID19. This means that breaking the isolation period after testing positive for COVID19 will be punishable by law, via fines or even imprisonment.

The Government of Gibraltar is currently considering amendments to the regulations to require people to self-isolate by compulsion of law.

It is not yet known as to exactly how “aggressive contact tracing” will be carried out, but the CM revealed that the Government is considering a possible ‘decentralised’ system (app) from Apple and the ‘X’ system being implemented by the NHS in the UK.

This has come with controversy as many people argue that such apps are an invasion of privacy and that tracking may be used in the future for reasons outside of disease tracking.

Mr. Picardo also elaborated on what the ‘new normal’ might look like:

“We need to avoid touching each other, shaking hands, hugging etc… this also means that we have to avoid large crowds.”

Temperature scanning has already started at the frontier.

CM Warns Against Panic

During questions, a statement was made that there was “evidence over the weekend that people are clearly not keeping to social distancing.”

Mr. Picardo replied: “we must not continue to restrict people’s civil liberties or their ability to trade any more than we need to,” and clarified that “what I saw at the weekend was not hugely concerning”, reflecting Minister Paul Balban’s sentiment that this was due to the novelty of shops reopening.

“It is important that we don’t lose sight that these numbers are very low indeed – it is likely that that is going to continue to go down – if we were ever to lockdown again we’ll lockdown again on the basis of a combination of the statistics and the ability of the GHA to deal with a surge.”

The Frontier

Gibraltar Frontier
Gibraltar Frontier 2019 | Photo: Fran Montes

The Chief Minister confirmed that lines of communication with the Spanish Foreign Ministry was “very fluid”, also due to the fact that both governments are dealing with Brexit issues.

Mr. Picardo stated that travelling to Spain for ‘leisure’ may be curtailed, as Pedro Sanchez anticipated that the restrictions at Spanish frontiers will continue until October, however he also stated that travel for leisure is in discussion.

What do you think?