The Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo announced on Friday that Gibraltar will see the reopening of “non-essential” retail on weekdays, gyms, hairdressers and places of worship under strict guidelines on February 1st. Lockdown remains for over 70’s, catering establishments expected to reopen March 1st and mandatory masks and curfew remains. Here is everything you need to know…
Fabian Picardo opened his address today by reflecting on the loss of life the Rock has experienced this month, saying that Gibraltar had begun the month with 7 deaths and that the Rock ends the month “having lost, as of midday today, 73 Gibraltarians to Covid” since the pandemic was declared.
“My only hope, my dear friends, is that this is our saddest month and as we say goodbye to January, we will leave behind the coldest, cruellest and deadliest month in the past 100 years of our collective history”.
It was announced that a memorial will be proposed in Parliament to commemorate each person who has been registered as a Covid death.
Today, Gibraltar has registered 369 active cases, a vast reduction compared with earlier this month, which saw a peak of 1,209 active cases on the 8th.
The Chief Minister said that the reduction in cases has been “undoubtedly a result of the success of the various levels of lockdowns we’ve implemented…”
There are 8 Covid positive patients at the CCU, all of whom are on ventilators. There are 16 patients at the Victoria ward, 15 of whom are “stable and improving” and 13 at the John Ward – all of whom are stable.
The numbers in the Elderly Residential Service (ERS) have also decreased significantly and are now at 29 positive cases “with the majority thankfully recovered. Only 3 of those at ERS are presently shown as deteriorating”.
Commenting on the situation, Mr. Picardo said that an investigation as to “the way the virus got into ERS” will take place but said that this does not suggest that “we are blaming anyone”.
It is expected that, as of tonight, 12,860 people in Gibraltar will have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
This covers those in Gibraltar’s four “most-at-risk” cohorts and vulnerable category as well as frontline workers and represents approximately 36.36% of the Rock’s population.
No doses of the vaccine to date have been wasted and the Chief Minister thanked the GHA for delivering a “brilliant vaccination programme”.
The next delivery of vaccines is expected to arrive in Gibraltar on the 30th of January, with the second doses being given out on the 31st of January.
It is now expected that they will receive the second dose within the 21-day timeframe, in the first two weeks of February. They will then move on to call the “60 and below” age range.
The Government of Gibraltar has said that the second dose would provide “longer immunity” and “raise the immunity level to 95%”.
In a press release, the government said, “It is also not yet known for certain whether people who have been vaccinated can still pass the virus on to others”.
Further vaccines are expected to be delivered to the Rock “in the coming weeks”.
Partial Unlocking to Commence February 1st:
Gibraltar is set to partially unlock as of Monday, February 1st, 2021. Here is what the partial unlocking entails:
- “Non-essential” retail shops to reopen on weekdays only. The Chief Minister said that retail would not be allowed to open on weekends due to “accumulations of people” that occurred after the first lockdown.
- Gyms: To reopen with a permit obtained from the Director of Public Health and following previous guidelines.
- Hairdressers and Beauty Salons: To reopen under same guidelines as before.
- Schools set to reopen on the 22nd of February.
- Citizens under the age of 70 will be permitted to lave their homes between 6 AM and 10 PM. The curfew will remain. The Chief Minister said that it continues to be the government’s advice to stay at home where possible.
- Over 70’s will be required by law to remain at home for the next 14 days, unless for medical appointments, work, shopping for essentials and for an hour of exercise.
Mr. Picardo said that the reasoning was to ensure “that they get the maximum protection of the precious vaccine. If we do not observe this there is a risk that persons who have already had even the 2nd dose of the vaccine will be infected as they do not have the maximum immunity…”
- Golden Hour will recommence as from Monday 1st February.
- Catering establishments to remain closed, with an expected reopening date of 1st of March 2021.
- Places of worship to reopen for prayer with restrictions.
- Masks will remain mandatory in all public areas.
- Upper Rock to remain closed to traffic.
- Children’s parks to remain closed.
- No more than 2 households are allowed to gather.
- Maximum number of people in public places is limited to 8.
Crossing into Spain
The Chief Minister pointed to the fact that La Línea is “in effect in a lockdown; catering is closed and exiting and entering La Línea is not allowed other than for permitted purposes”, and warned that Gibraltarians should familiarise themselves with the laws and regulations before going into Spain.
“Gibraltar remains in a major incident posture. The reduction in numbers has come about only as a result of the implementation of the lockdown that we have just gone through. If we start to behave now as if it is all over, we will throw away all the hard work that we have done.”
Behind the Scenes
In the background of the Chief Minister’s weekly updates there is a great deal of activity arising from the impact of the pandemic.
As ReachExtra reported last week, the Gibraltarian economy as taken big hit on account of the pandemic, as have most other countries.
Much of Gibraltar’s economic activity has ground to a standstill and the focus of concern is moving to how and how soon economic activity is going to resume.
Speaking to ReachExtra, a local businessman said:
“The Gibraltarian welfare state, which includes free healthcare, support for the vulnerable and pensions for retired citizens depend on the kind of economic activity that we have enjoyed for the last 30 years. Without that, it is difficult to see how public services can be funded going forward.”
Only yesterday, the 2 principal officials of the Government of Gibraltar, the Financial Secretary and the Chief Secretary, announced that there would be very substantial cutbacks in public expenditure and, as we have previously reported, veteran politician Sir Joe Bossano has been appointed to lead on a rescue plan for the economy.
Sir Joe has a reputation for no nonsense financial prudence and the general view in Gibraltar is that the days of financial opulence which we had grown accustomed to are over, at least for the time being and that government policy will require “belt tightening”.