The Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo today announced in Parliament that the lockdown will be extended by 7 days, with a further 7 days “likely”. Restrictions, such as curfews, set to remain after lockdown. Vaccine rollout sees 4,000+ frontline staff and the vulnerable receiving first dose; schools reopening delayed as government focuses on economic recovery… here’s everything you need to know.
Following a meeting of the Covid Platinum Command Group, the Chief Minister has today announced in Parliament Gibraltar will “continue with the restrictions on mobility for a further 7 days”.
This comes after infection rates start to come down but remain “far too high to release restrictions”.
As of today, there are 967 active Covid cases – with 50 patients currently in the Covid wards at St. Bernard’s Hospital and the Covid CCU, 11 of whom are currently on ventilators.
99 people have recovered overnight.
Commenting on the 11 patients requiring ventilators, Mr. Picardo said that “this puts a huge pressure on our GHA staff… as those patients require manual handling because they are unconscious”.
The Chief Minister cast his mind back to a time when no deaths had been reported over a long period of time in 2020 and expressed sorrow that the number of deaths as of today are at 30.
The R-Rate is believed to now be at 0.77; well below what it was last week, but today had seen a peak of hospital admissions.
He said that the likelihood is that a further 7-day extension will be applied after this period despite the successful vaccine rollout in Gibraltar, stating that “our frontline services continue to be impaired”.
It was also announced that even after this 14-day period, it is likely that other restrictions, such as the 10 PM curfew are likely to remain as part of a gradual easing strategy.
The Chief Minister said that he has not discarded the potential for a territorial restriction on movement other than for work and medical emergencies.
A territorial restriction would mean that people coming in and leaving Gibraltar would be monitored more closely as the Chief Minister criticised those who had recently left the Rock on pretexts only to travel to Sierra Nevada for skiing, with the attendant health risks of being in enclosed areas in the resort.
Vaccine Rollout Sees 4,000+ Frontline Staff and Vulnerable Persons Receiving First Dose
The Chief Minister commended the GHA for “a magnificent effort” during the vaccine programme, which he says “has gone without a glitch”.
A total of zero doses of the vaccine have been wasted to date.
4,188 people in Gibraltar have now received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine which was flown into the Rock last weekend by the Royal Air Force:
- 1,215 frontline staff
- 28 GHA patients
- 437 ERS staff
- 152 ERS patients
- 2,339 over 70’s
- 17 Ocean Views
The Chief Minister said that “until the vaccine is in our bodies and has had time to take effect, our people remain at risk and our ability to deliver services remain at risk”, and that, although Gibraltar is seeing a “downturn” in cases, “the growth is still there”.
The Nightingale Facility would not reopen for the time being because he said this would put undue pressure on medical staff, who were already 10% down on numbers due to infections and isolation.
Instead, John Ward at St. Bernard’s Hospital had been opened as a second Covid ward to allow for flexibility and convenience.
In answer to the GSD opposition leader, Dr. Keith Azopardi, Mr. Picardo confirmed that a retired Director of Public Health and surgeon, Mr. Vijay Kumar, has been appointed as acting Director of Public Health whilst the incumbent over the last year Dr. Sohail Bhatti takes some time off.
Also in answer to questions, the Chief Minister said that approximately 40% of the inpatients at St. Bernard’s were Covid patients.
Whilst at the beginning of the month 9 residents at the Elderly Residential Services had been infected, the number is now 120 and Mr. Picardo thought that the infection might have been brought in by members of staff.
He promised to investigate a report made to Dr. Azopardi to the effect that the family of an elderly resident in isolation had only been informed that the resident was Covid positive several days after the diagnosis.
Mr. Picardo said that he thought this unusual bur agreed that it needed to be investigated.
The Chief Minister said that it is not safe to allow catering establishments to reopen for sit-in dining.
Currently, many restaurants are providing a take-away service, with some other lunchtime take-aways in Main Street closing their kitchens entirely until restrictions are eased and footfall beings to return to normal.
Mr. Picardo thanked the catering industry, which the government is currently engaging with: “they have been extraordinarily responsible in the work that they have done with us.”
Commenting on the economic crisis being faced globally due to lockdown and Covid measures, the Chief Minister said:
“What is clear around the world… is that all nations are facing public finance problems, even the oil producing states, as a result of the Covid pandemic. For that reason, we must ensure that Gibraltar moves quickly to undo the issues of instability that arise in our public finances… and, indeed, the additional whammy of Brexit”.
He hoped that other non-essential businesses would be allowed to reopen by the 1st of February 2021, although this depended on the progress of the pandemic.
He confirmed that veteran politician Sir. Joe Bossano had been appointed as Minister with Responsibility for Financial Stability to spearhead an economic recovery plan.
Sir. Joe has always had a reputation for prudent economic activity and has for many years complained that the Public Sector is too large and unaffordable.
On reacting to his appointment this week, Sir. Joe had said:
“It will be a very challenging time financially for our community as the last year has destroyed government revenues around the world…”
An old associate of Sir. Joe from the first GSLP government (1988-1996) told Reach that he expected that cutbacks in public services would be implemented, although to date none have been announced.
Business Interruption Insurance
One of the problems faced by businesses which have been affected by the pandemic had been the refusal of UK insurance companies to pay out on business interruption clauses.
Today the UK Supreme Court, in a case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority has decided that claims can be made arising from the pandemic, and the insurers have given notice that they will be accepting claims.
This was brought to the attention of Parliament by GSLP backbencher, Mr. Gilbert Licudi.
Mr. Picardo confirmed that several claims by Gibraltar businesses had been rejected and said that he would be looking into this.
ReachExtra has spoken to local lawyer Nick Gomez from Charles Gomez and Co:
“The judgement is based on the specific policies which were used for the purposes of the test case which was brought to the Supreme Court and it may be that not all policies will be accepted, but the advice is for affected businesses to consult their insurance brokers.”
It was announced that schools are now unlikely to reopen by the 25th of January as planned, with 1st of February being given as a “realistic potential opening date”.
“If we can lift restrictions next week, of course we will do so”, the Chief Minister said.
The Government of Gibraltar also announced that they will be focussing on reopening Gibraltar’s special needs schools earlier, and that teachers working at St Martin’s school will be next in line for the vaccine.