The Chief Minister reflected on the “harrowing loss of life” due to complications arising from Covid-19, with 21 covid-related deaths in the past 72 hours – a death toll which he said had not been seen since the Bedenham explosion.
Further shipment of Pfizer vaccines expected to arrive this Wednesday, to be administered as first doses, with second doses being likely within the 21-day timeframe for those in the “most at risk” category.
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo today held an emergency press conference to comment on the “harrowing loss of life” on the Rock, with 21 “covid related” deaths in 72 hours, bringing the total deaths to 45 as of today.
Gibraltar has not recorded this level of loss of life since the 1951 RFA Bedenham ammunition ship explosion, which took the lives of 13 people in one day.
“This is the worst loss of life of Gibraltarians in over 100 years. Even in war, we have never lost so many people in such a short time. Not since the so-called Spanish Flu have we seen so many succumb to one disease”. The tally of deaths in Gibraltar during the so-called Spanish flu pandemic is uncertain due to censorship at the time throughout the British Empire and beyond but is thought to have been very high.
There are currently 681 active covid cases in Gibraltar, with 128 of these being found at the Elderly Residential Services (ERS), and frontline services continue to be under pressure as 10% of the workforce are unable to come in to work.
There are currently 34 people in the Covid ward, and 9 people at the CCU, 8 of whom are using ventilators. He said that these people were made up of “all adult age groups”.
Mr. Picardo said that the virus most likely has been brought into the ERS through visitors before the lockdown as well as by unwitting members of staff, even though all had been subjected to rigorous testing.
“I am shaken to the core by the knowledge that since I addressed parliament just 72 hours ago, 21 of our fellow Gibraltarians have died of complications related to Covid.”
He said that the more virulent strain of the virus has taken hold and that Gibraltar will “see more deaths among the frail and elderly at the ERS”, but that “everything possible” is being done to save everyone.
“The much more virulent strain has been impossible to stop… as effectively as we did in the first wave”, the Chief Minister said, but that the time for national mourning was not now, calling for “collective action to defeat this virus”.
He reminded that as he announced early last year this will be followed by a “top to bottom” public enquiry in which everyone involved in the pandemic to date will be subjected to.
Vaccine Drive Sees Over 500 People Per Day Receiving First Dose & Next Shipment Inbound for Wednesday
As of midnight, last night (17.01.2021), 5,847 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered to the vulnerable and the frontline staff and workers.
Gibraltar’s vaccination drive has seen over 500 people per day receiving the first dose.
He also announced that Gibraltar will be expecting an additional 4,875 doses to arrive this Wednesday, 20th of January.
Although these additional vaccines will not be administered as second doses for those who have received the first dose, and instead will be given as a first dose for more people, second doses of the vaccine are likely to be administered within the 21-day window for those in the “most at risk category” following a shipment of further vaccines.
The Chief Minister did not give a date as to when further vaccines will be delivered for “security reasons”.
He said that this demonstrates the UK’s commitment to Gibraltar:
“The UK continues to demonstrate that, on what matters, we can count on its support”.
Commenting on a rumour that a frontline worker had died of the Pfizer vaccine in Gibraltar, the Chief Minister said:
“Do not believe the lies that anyone has died from a vaccine in Gibraltar. It is not true… or of any of the frontline workers in the Campo de Gibraltar”.
In answer to questions, Mr. Picardo said that the vaccine has not been administered to anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19, but that it had been found that people who have received the vaccine have tested positive after.
He said that this was due to the results not manifesting until after the vaccine was administered:
“Nobody who has tested positive for Covid has been given the vaccine. But it is true that people who have tested negative for Covid… have been given the vaccine and subsequently tested positive…”, saying that this had been the case for one of his own family members.
ERS patients who tested negative or did not show symptoms for Covid-19 have been given the vaccine.
Whilst staffing levels had suffered a decline of over 10%, he said that it was very difficult these days to recruit from outside Gibraltar and that trainee nurses from the University of Gibraltar School of Nursing and retired medical personnel had been recruited. Every attempt was been made to have everyone of these frontline workers tested and the ERS had gone beyond what they have originally being advised.
More resources had been assigned to the mortuary and the cemetery whose staff were being paid to work overtime.
Reflecting on what he said were these “worst of times” Mr. Picardo did say that people were generally following the rules and that others should not judge because they did not know the personal situations of their fellow citizens.
If is thought that Mr. Picardo may have been referring to a growing trend were people who had been exempted from such things like wearing masks or had been seeing out and about had been rebuked in public by persons who did not have all the facts. He said that policing should be left to the police and citizens should just focus on their personal responsibilities such staying at home when possible and adhering to directions.