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Chief Minister of Gibraltar Announces ‘Total Social Lockdown’

Chris Gomez

COVID19 Gibraltar: Chief Minister of Gibraltar Announces ‘Total Social Lockdown’ from Tuesday, 24th of March 2020.

During the emergency Government of Gibraltar press conference at 4 PM today (Sunday 22.03.2020) it has been confirmed that starting from midnight on Tuesday, 24th of March 2020 Gibraltar will be under “total social lockdown”.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo opened up his statement by saying, “My dear fellow Gibraltarians, agreeing to these changes has been the hardest decision I have had to make in my political career so far … but these extraordinary times call for extraordinary action…”

This involves a series of new measures to enforce isolation in order to control the rate of the spread of the coronavirus on the Rock and avoid a public healthcare crisis as has been seen in Madrid and Italy.

Mr. Picardo informed that current medical data was that of the 15 confirmed cases in Gibraltar, 5 had fully recovered and of the remaining 10, 5 were expected to recover soon.

These measures will see restaurants in Gibraltar to continue to be closed to the public but able to offer delivery services. The retail sector will see their shops except grocery stores, pharmacist and chemists closing for an initial period of 30 days, although Mr. Picardo said that this would be reviewed every 48 hours and of course, it could be extended.

Businesses which do not require their staff to be on site are being asked to ensure that they work from home. Construction sites will be closed unless they have obtained a specific permit.

Commercial gyms will close. In this respect, Mr. Picardo warned that there was a great deal of misinformation on figures of affected individuals and that citizens should not pay attention to rumours on social media.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and chemists will remain open.

On the bright side, Picardo also announced that “In Gibraltar and under our rules you will be able to go out to run and for a walk, shop and for other essentials.” He remarked on the importance of people in general and children in particular being able to go out in the open air given that most of us live in apartments. For the moment parks would remain open but if people did not adhere to strict social distancing rules they could be closed altogether.

However, he called for the public to also ensure that they are using common sense during this time; “Even if you can do something under these rules, ask yourselves if you should. You’re permitted to go to work, but can you work telematically instead?”

The Chief Minister said that this will be a provisional lockdown for an initial period of up to 30 days, and the Royal Gibraltar Police will be tasked with ensuring that these new measures are being followed by the public.

Any interference with the work of the police will be treated as the offense of “obstructing a police officer” which can be sanctioned by imprisonment or fines.

The RGP will be assisted by the Gibraltar Defence Police, although it is hoped that it will not be necessary to call in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment under existing rules relating to military assistance to the civilian authorities.

The Regiment will however be assisting in logistical matters regarding movement of facilities.

Picardo also asked the public not to try to enforce these measures on others; “please don’t put up photographs of others who you think are breaching the rules, because they may not be.”

The Chief Minister also took the opportunity of informing that the Gibraltar Health Authority had contracted a cohort of private nurses which will be flying into Gibraltar shortly.

Mr. Picardo highlighted that around 1,000 people have signed up to volunteer their services to mitigate the effects of what he called being “the invisible killer”. He said that everything that can be done, will be done to prevent unnecessary deaths.

The Economy, Business and Employment

Gibraltar Coronavirus COVID19 Gibraltar Total Social Lockdown

In a measure that is bound to bring huge relief to the private sector, the Chief Minister said that he hoped shortly to be able to publish a scheme allowing for employment contracts to be “paused” to allow employees to claim benefits without losing their employment rights and thus taking the burden off private employers who were about to enter into a period of business hibernation, or what he also called “an induced coma”.

He reported, having spoken last night to the Spanish Minister of the Interior, Mr. Fernando Grande Marlaska, with whom he had agreed that Spanish workers in Gibraltar whose contracts were paused in this way could bring social security benefits in Spain.

Mr. Picardo reminded that Gibraltar pays a proportion of social insurance collected from workers resident in Spain to the Spanish administration.

He said that his interaction with Mr. Grande Marlaska had been very positive and carried out in an atmosphere of cooperation and willingness to ensure that minimum impact befalls businesses and workers as a result of coronavirus.
The full details of this “pausing” measure will be published either late today or tomorrow.

In what was a very detailed announcement, Mr. Picardo at times appeared slightly moved when recalling the impact of the pandemic on personal contact but said that everyone must exercise a complete sense of responsibility.

The Attorney General had advised that the proposed interference with the constitutional right to freedom of movement was justified in all the circumstances; “extraordinary times require extraordinary acts”.

COVID19 Gibraltar: Chief Minister of Gibraltar Announces ‘Total Social Lockdown’ from Tuesday, 24th of March 2020.

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