With less than 48 hours since the last 2020 Covid press conference took place, the Government of Gibraltar has announced that Gibraltar will go into a full, legal “circuit-breaker” lockdown as from 10 PM tonight (02.01.2020) due to a rise in cases and people being made to self-isolate, but with a number of exceptions… here’s what you need to know about today’s Covid press conference.
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has said that the Government of Gibraltar has had “no choice” but to implement a lockdown which will be enforced for 14 days from 10 PM tonight, due to “remarkably high” new Covid-19 infections within the community.
Among the reasons that were given for the increase in the spread of the virus in Gibraltar, the Chief Minister pointed to the possibility of the presence of the new, more infectious variant of the virus supposedly found in the UK, as well as “social behaviour we have seen in the last 3 weeks”.
In answer to questions however, he said that it was still not clear whether the new strain was in fact responsible for the exponential growth in positive cases, hospitalisations and self-isolations, particularly in frontline workers.
This lockdown law will be in addition to all measures that were announced in December and will be enforced by the Royal Gibraltar Police in the same way as in Spring of 2020.
They will be assisted by the Defence Police and the Customs Department.
Defending the latest move, Mr. Picardo said: “community infection and community transmission is so high that we will not be able to turn down the rate of infection without more drastic measures”.
He confirmed that this measure has been agreed by the opposition party, the GSD.
Gibraltar has confirmed 973 active cases today (an increase of 92 new cases since yesterday), with 16 of these being detected in the Mount Alvernia old age people’s home, bringing the total confirmed cases on the Rock to 2,304. There are now 20 patients in the Covid ward at St. Bernard’s Hospital.
He recalled that whilst on the 2nd of December, only 5 new cases had been recorded, yesterday the number was 107 and today 92.
The “R Rate” is now at 1.51, down from 1.75 a few days ago, but the Chief Minister said that this was no ground for celebration and rate would have to go beneath 1.
“The pressure is building in the GHA” and in other frontline services, according to the Chief Minister due to staff being made to self-isolate.
The Chief Minister also said that the behaviour of the virus “with such massive infectivity” suggests that the “new, more infectious variant of the virus is at play here, but we cannot confirm that genetically”.
This comes after some Spanish media had claimed there were 300 cases of the new variant of the virus supposedly detected in the UK on the Rock:
“That Spanish source is not reflecting reality… we are saying that, behaviourally, it looks like the UK strain”, and dismissed the claim as “utter nonsense”.
Throughout the conference, the Chief Minister said that his government was mindful of the importance of maintaining civil liberties as protected by the constitution and that he had obtained the advice of the Attorney General saying that the new measures were not in breach of constitutional protection due to the public health issues and that the measures were proportionate to protect the health of the public.
He therefore declared a “major incident” affecting the whole of Gibraltar.
“This is a stay-at-home order”, Mr. Picardo said, and that you will need to prove that you are on the streets for one of the below mentioned reasons:
- To go to work (although it is advised that anyone who can work from home should do so).
- Exercise (which he said has been banned in some European countries).
- Shopping for essentials.
- Taking children outside.
- Medical reasons and / or emergencies.
- Special arrangements for children / people with special needs.
- Taking essentials to the elderly / vulnerable.
- Exercising dogs / visiting the vets.
He said that this will be enforced by the Royal Gibraltar Police, and has asked that people behave “as if you have been asked to self-isolate”.
The Government of Gibraltar has confirmed that the first batch of Pfizer vaccines will arrive on the 9th of January, and a “one dose strategy” will be adopted.
This is a departure from previous advice apparently given to the UK government to the effect that 2 doses would have to be given over a defined period of time.
Overnight, the British government has also announced that one-off doses would be given in the first instance with a second dose to be announced later.
It was clear from the statement that the supplies to Gibraltar were not from acquisitions from the private marked but depended on the British government’s allocation to the various British Overseas Territories which are apparently going to be treated in the same way as UK areas.
The Chief Minister said that this will allow 5,000 people to receive the vaccination in the first tranche, as opposed to 2,500 if the two-dose strategy were to be adopted:
“With a one dose strategy, we will be able to cover all or almost all of our vulnerable and elderly with our first 5,000 doses”, representing 1/6th of Gibraltar’s population.
He also said that “Pfizer have not tested their vaccine other than in a 21-day second jab”, and said that it is possible that the vaccine may be more effective when doses are separated for a longer period of time.
How does the lockdown affect the frontier?
“The government is not going to impose any restrictions on the frontier”, the Chief Minister said, but insisted that mobility within Gibraltar will be checked to see if they are for the reasons permitted in the above-mentioned exemption list.
It was also revealed that those with a second home in Spain will be able to visit their home.
Unregistered workers will not be able to cross the frontier if they cannot provide proof that they are working.