Welcome all to another COVID-19 related press conference from No 6 Convent Place.
Before I start to address you on the concerns the Government has this week, I want to share with you today’s statistical data in respect of the spread of CORONAVIRUS through our Community.
Gibraltar has now carried out 63,113 tests for COVID-19.
That is twice our population.
Today, the number of active cases detected is 114 all of whom are residents.
Unfortunately, 14 of those are residents of Elderly Residential Services.
The day-on-day increase in the numbers of cases is 9 new positives today.
And 15 persons have recovered overnight.
8 people are at the Victoria Ward at St Bernard’s Hospital.
1 person is at the CCU at St Bernard’s Hospital.
The GHA is coping with the persons needing its care this week.
Those numbers make the total number of cases detected in Gibraltar since the start of the pandemic, 679, an increase of 71 since I addressed you last week.
A ten percent increase and an average of 10 cases a day.
Incredibly, in global terms, last Tuesday the total number of infections I reported to you was 40m around the world.
This week, seven days on, we are at just shy of 44m cases globally.
A global increase also of ten percent of infections again in just seven days.
Let’s be clear – this is getting worse before it is going to get any better.
But better it will get if we ensure that we follow rules and stick together throughout this pandemic.
And that is the reason that the Cabinet and the Platinum COVID Command have asked that I should address you again today.
Last week, Gibraltar remained on the safe travel corridor for the United Kingdom.
We must ensure that we do everything possible not to jeopardise that corridor by any suggestion that Gibraltar is in any way failing to address the increase in numbers of persons infected in Gibraltar.
Additionally, on Sunday, we saw the Spanish Government once again declare a state of emergency.
In Spain, the regional governments will have the power to determine many of the measures that will apply during the periods of the state of emergency that may last up to 6 months.
We must also ensure that we do everything possible to ensure that passage across the frontier is not restricted as a result of any suggestion that Gibraltar is in any way failing to address the increase in numbers of persons infected in Gibraltar.
And we must equally ensure that we are putting in place measures to protect ourselves against the unchecked arrival of the infection from the United Kingdom or Spain.
And we must do so in a way that does not amount to a restriction of movement into Gibraltar.
We will therefore introduce the following systems in coming days and weeks:
Firstly, in working to establish the prevalence of the virus coming in from Spain, we will randomly test cross-frontier workers as they enter or leave Gibraltar.
These tests will obviously not be compulsory.
But they will be a part of our public health surveillance measures and will involve those who are entitled to GHA care.
This facility will not be at the frontier but a little distance away from it in order not to create any unnecessary queues.
Secondly, in providing further comfort to the United Kingdom in respect of the maintenance of the travel corridor, we are now looking at the introduction of mechanisms for the testing of passengers making their way to the United Kingdom.
This will be designed to ensure that those passengers that have infection do not travel.
Passengers will also be able to take advantage of rapid testing on disembarkation.
A fee will be payable for these tests.
Without them, a short period of quarantine may be required.
This service will only be available to those who are about to or have just travelled through the airport.
Through both measures, we will be able to enhance our scrutiny of infection and quickly limit its spread.
In fact, as you will be aware we are already testing visitors from Morocco and other designated countries and all passengers already have to fill in our online passenger locator form.
Last week, when I addressed you, I set out two strands of restrictions.
The first were our strong recommendations.
The second were legislative measures.
I want to thank the over 70 who have, as a rule, very faithfully heeded the Government’s strong recommendations.
I value the fact that the over 70s have appreciated the Government’s recommendations were designed primarily to protect them as well as to protect the GHA and the rest of the Community.
As ever, our elders led the way in wisdom and responsibility.
I cannot say the same about the rest of us.
One of the key factors I addressed you on was the STRONG RECOMMENDATION that masks should be used in the area of Main Street and Irish Town.
In fact, the data that we have from the Royal Gibraltar Police suggests that the amount of people taking on the advice on using masks in the area of Main Street on Saturday was 20% or just one fifth of those in the area.
On Monday a mere 13% were complying with our STRONG ADVICE.
For that reason, the Government has no choice but to now legislate to make mask use in the area of Main Street, John Macintosh Square, Irish Town, and Engineers Lane, Governor’s Street, Town Range, Casemates and the lanes connecting these, compulsory by law.
I genuinely wished to avoid this.
But the advice we have suggests that those areas where people can accumulate.
We are also advised that mask use depletes the viral load of the virus transmitted and received.
For those reasons, we have agreed to make mask use compulsory in these areas.
Notices setting out the area of compulsory use of masks will be prominently deployed.
As expected Chatham Counterguard remains the busiest of all our leisure areas at weekends in particular.
Occupancy in external areas has decreased significantly after my announcement last week, with a consequent decrease in the numbers of persons passing through.
I again want to thank the operators of establishments in this area for their cooperation with the authorities.
It was notable, however, that at the end of the evening on Friday patrons were not dispersing from the area.
As a result, although no new restrictions will be applied to the area, a new legal rule against loitering in the area between 11pm and 1am will apply each Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
This will assist police officers in the execution of their duties who are moving people on.
In the next weeks, I expect to meet both the Gibraltar Catering Association and the Chatham Counterguard Hospitality pressure groups.
We will of course try to work with them in respect of the issues that the new restrictions put in place last week give rise to.
I can imagine I am not exactly popular with them right now!
But we need to be realistic, look around Europe and understand what we are living through once again.
There is an alternative to the restrictions that we are bringing in.
It is called a lockdown and a curfew.
It is precisely to avoid these options that we are layering restrictions on our businesses in Gibraltar which I fully recognise are uncomfortable.
But the alternative is just to totally close down some of our businesses.
And we are working very hard to try to avoid that at all costs.
Additionally, we are monitoring very closely the effect of the reduction of maximum numbers at restaurant tables and the maximum number of people who are able to gather at any one time.
We will have a better indication next week, after 14 days of operation of these new numbers, whether or not those restrictions are working.
If necessary we will reduce those numbers further next week.
The fact is that we are seeing curfews for the first time in Europe since the end of the second world war or the end of dictatorships in some countries.
But we do not want to have to move down that route in Gibraltar.
We do NOT want to move to curfew our people for limited benefit.
In this respect, young people hold the key.
Please remember that it is illegal to consume alcohol in any public place outside of licensed premises after 11pm.
That prevents young people from gathering outside in any numbers to drink ‘botellón’ style.
By avoiding that, we will not have a reason to impose a curfew.
Believe me, I know you may think I am just a killjoy.
The Grinch that stole the weekends and Halloween!
There is nothing I want to do less than continue to impose restrictions.
We do so very, very reluctantly.
But we have to.
So please follow the rules as the best antidote to our having to impost even more stricter measures going forward!
And in respect of the world of work, I repeat my call to all OFFICE WORKERS.
Work from home every day that you can please.
Again, we do not want to require you to work from home by law if we can avoid it.
We want you to take that step for yourself responsibly.
Anybody in the legal profession, in accountancy, in gaming or insurance.
In every industry where you spend most of your time in front of a screen – do it from home if you can.
Ask yourself if you need to go in to work.
You can avoid one of the main vectors if you work from home if you can.
I want to turn now to matters related to the Gibraltar Health Authority.
As I have told you, the GHA is coping well right now with the numbers of infected persons needing its care.
I am, nonetheless, happy to be able to report to you that after my instruction last week the Nightingale Ward at Europa is now on just 24 hours notice to re-open if necessary.
I am also pleased to be able to report to you that the United Kingdom Government has agreed to supply Gibraltar, and the other Overseas Territories, with the COVID-19 vaccine that it will be procuring.
This once again demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to support Gibraltar in these times of adversity.
Already, early reports suggest that the Oxford vaccine reacts well in the elderly, providing the necessary antibodies, although it is still very early days yet.
In respect of the elderly, let me give you details of COVID-19 positive residents at the John Mackintosh Wing.
We currently have 14 patients positive for Covid-19, all at the JMW 3rd floor.
It has been 9 days since the first 5 tested positive.
It has been 5 days since another 8 tested positive.
1 resident is on day 2 after detection.
The age range is from 64 to 101 and the mean age is 86 years.
13 are female patients and 1 is a male patient.
The total frailty scores of the residents range in question between 6 to 8, the mean is 7 (severely frail).
9 of these residents suffer from dementia.
Currently all of the residents are clinically stable without a fever and 5 of them have an oxygen requirement of 2 litres.
They all continue to eat and drink and have not developed a delirium.
There are 7 further residents in isolation.
1 at Mount Alvernia, 3 at Bella Vista and 3 at the Trafalgar Wing of Hillsides.
In total in the ERS, GHA run facilities there are 2 positive staff members and another 19 members of staff are self-isolating.
At Mount Alvernia, one non-clinical member of staff has tested positive and at Cochrane ward, one clinical member of staff is positive.
In the ERS, Meddoc-run facilities there are 12 positive clinical staff and 29 members of staff are in self-isolation.
I am giving you this very full detail to ensure that people can see that we are hiding nothing.
We are giving you all the details, just as we did in the spring.
We are pretty certain, from the contact tracing done that the ERS infections came in via a visitor to the John Mac Wing.
The decision has been made by the clinical team to move the remaining residents of the John Mackintosh Home who are still negative out of the premises to safeguard and quarantine them.
These negative residents were transferred on Friday night to Bellavista’s 3rd floor.
Residents’ next of kin are informed of all relevant issues regarding their relatives, including positive diagnostics for COVID-19.
That is why it is so important – however painful – that we should shut down our facilities at ERS for visitors.
Additionally, and in view of the rising numbers both in the ERS and in Gibraltar as a whole, as from Wednesday 28th
October that is to say tomorrow all Day Centre activity at Bellavista will also be temporarily discontinued.
This is in order to mitigate the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst Day Centre users, who come from different family bubbles and where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
The Joint Memory Clinic will continue with its activity.
The Outreach clinic will be reinforced in order to support those service users and family members at home.
These measures are temporary and are to be kept under constant review, with the objective of minimising the length of time that the Day Centre service will be unavailable.
The Influenza vaccine for people aged over 65 has now arrived in Gibraltar and is available at the Primary Care Centre.
The Influenza vaccination programme for adults over the age of 65 will be delivered at the PCC from Monday to Friday, from 13:00 hours to 17:45.
Appointments must be pre-booked by calling 20052441 between 13:00 to 15:00.
The vaccine that is administered to people 65 years is a different one, it is called a Trivalent Vaccine, which gives broader protection to the elderly and most vulnerable.
Trivalent protects against three different viruses – two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus.
This is different to the Quadrivalent flu vaccine that is already being administered.
Arrangements are being made by the GHA to make these available to government tenants who live in the purpose built flats for the elderly and the Trivalent flu vaccine will be administered by the district nurses.
The District nurses will be liaising with the wardens to ensure a robust programme is in place to maintain social distancing.
The GHA’s flu vaccination programme for 2021 flu season has been extended this year, with more groups eligible to receive flu vaccine than in previous years.
This is because COVID-19 is likely to be in co-circulation with flu, it is vitally important therefore to protect those at risk of flu, who are also those most vulnerable to hospitalisation as a result of COVID-19.
Members of the public are strongly encouraged to take the flu vaccine and make an appointment, particularly those who are over the age of 65 or are in any other way particularly vulnerable.
Finally, please do not trick or treat this Halloween.
And please do not plan any Guy Fawkes parties.
The Government’s message this Halloween is that parties and trick or treating should not take place in order to stop the further spread of COVID-19 in Gibraltar.
The mixing of persons and movement door to door, particularly of children, can spread the virus and this presents a risk to the elderly and vulnerable members of our community.
Public Health advice strictly remains to keep social distance and to avoid unnecessary contact with people outside of existing bubbles.
Restaurants and bars are reminded that they should not host any organised Halloween parties either.
Members of the public, and particularly parents, are urged to ensure that their children observe the advice on this issue and avoid placing weaker members of our Community at risk.
As the numbers of active cases in our Community has risen, we must take care to protect our neighbours, our health services and indeed ourselves.
The best advice this Halloween is to stay in the home and enjoy the day with family.
As you have heard from me repeatedly today, our aim is to avoid a second lockdown.
We want to avoid curfews or other, tighter restrictions.
But to do these things we need YOUR help.
Please follow the rules we are setting out.
We are doing so in order to balance your civil liberties with your health.
It is not an easy balance to do.
History will judge whether we got the balance right.
These measures are undoubtedly uncomfortable.
But no more so than the evacuation was – and that lasted six years or more for some.
Or the closure of the frontier, which lasted 13 years.
Or even the lockdown that we went through in April.
So let us work together to keep Gibraltar safe, to suppress the curve of infections.
And let us keep going.
Together, we will get through these inconveniences and we will smile again, we trick or treat again and we will burn a Guy again.
Thank you very much for listening this afternoon I will now take questions from assembled colleagues from the media here at No 6 Convent Place.
Christina Cortes - GBC Hi, Christina Cortes from GBC. Regarding the number of cases, the outbreak that there's been an elderly residential services, are there any concerns over measures inside the facility as well as the restriction of visitors, given the number of staff and residents who have caught it?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Well, you see, once the infection is inside the facility, it becomes very difficult, whatever cross infection measures you have in place to ensure that you can suppress the movement of the virus. Even PPE can become a vector for the infection of the virus, however properly worn. And that's what you've seen in the area of the John Macintosh wing. So what you need to do is you need to ensure that nothing comes into an ERS facility. And in doing so, not for one moment suggesting that a member, a family member of anyone has knowingly brought the virus into ERS. Nothing could be further from my mind or from my contemplation. But you cannot carry out the level of disinfection to ensure that there is no cross infection that you would need to in order to ensure that you are protecting the rest of the cohort of the residents of any ERS facility, if you're allowing visitors in. So that's why we've taken the painful decision to to avoid allowing visitors at this time. Once the virus is in and it's moving around the facility, however careful you are with an airborne virus and it's now clear that COVID-19 can be airborne, it becomes impossible to say that you've done enough to stop the virus from moving. In fact, what you've seen here is almost a whole floor getting the virus. You can stop it from getting from one floor to another because the measures are in place there. But stopping moving from one room to another is almost impossible. As you've seen with the best will in the world, with the hardest work in the world. So please, people need to understand that if there were a way that we could allow visitors in in a way that created a bubble around the relative that they were visiting so that they were early exposing their relative, we might reconsider because in that case, there's almost a human decision to be made, a family decision to be made. But this is not a family decision. This is about our responsibility for all of the residents of ERS, all of those in a particular floor, all of those in contact with somebody who may be in contact with a family member. And it's been impossible for us to, in some way, stop the run of the virus once it's in a floor at ERS and we have to just make sure that we once again don't see that happening on another floor.
Christina Cortes - GBC On the subject of the most recent cases. Can you tell us anything about the condition of the person who is in this CCU?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Well, I can tell you that they are in a stable situation. They're not in a life threatening situation as far as the latest reports that I have had. People should not allow themselves to jump to conclusions or fall for speculation. We've had somebody in the CCU now almost consistently for the past three to four weeks. Different person, people coming in to CCU when they've needed the more intense care, the more intense monitoring. Nobody has had to be ventilated in the last three to four weeks in the CCU. So we're not dealing with that level of care being required, but people should please listen out for what it is that the government announces in respect of those who are in our hospital wards and not wildly speculate, I've heard some wild speculation this afternoon.
Priya Gulraj - Gibraltar Chronicle The Chronicle. I wanted to ask you about the aviation tests that you mentioned earlier. So you seem to suggest that until passengers take the tests, they would have to quarantine. And also, how will it work? When will it come into effect?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Well, the answer to that and all the other questions that this may give rise to will be detailed when we actually launch the service. I'm telling you what it is that we're expecting to do. Look, there will be different mechanisms that will operate in different parts of the world. Already, there are some countries around the world that accept certain tests as the way out of having to quarantine when you arrive. If you look at what's happening at Heathrow, arrivals to Heathrow from some destinations are subject to quarantine. But arrivals from Heathrow to some destinations are only subject to quarantine if you don't come with a test validated by those destinations, which you can take in the United Kingdom and in other countries, which they accept as showing that you haven't had the virus when you have arrived in the destination. That's what we're trying to do in order to layer again over all this, the possibility that there are other ways of dealing with the control of the virus on arrival in Gibraltar and on departure from Gibraltar than just the application of quarantine. So if you look at what we're doing in respect of arrivals from Morocco, because of a very high prevalence of the infection in Morocco, we're requiring people to arrive in Gibraltar from Morocco, to take a test and to quarantine for five days. It's not impossible that you might see that happening in respect of arrivals from other destinations. I already announced last week that we were doing that in relation to arrivals from the United Kingdom by those who are students, because students have been in universities where there is a very high ratio of infections. If you look at what's happening in universities in the United Kingdom, there are some universities in urban agglomerations where the prevalence of the virus in the university and the student accommodation is exponentially greater than the prevalence of the virus in the city to which that university may be attached. So those are the potential ways in which you'll see this being deployed on arrival or departure from Gibraltar Airport.
Priya Gulraj - Gibraltar Chronicle Following on, what type of tests would be carried out on these passengers?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So there are different tests which, as you know, are available. We are now looking at the deployment not just of the saliva tests, but of different tests which don't require laboratory mechanisms to be used. We're still dealing with how effective those tests are. Some of them ar 87 percent effective, some of them are 97 percent effective. But that effectiveness, even the lower ratio effectiveness, may be enough to tell us whether you are highly infectious and whether you are a risk to public health, which is all that we are really concerned with. Remember that we had this issue with the tests when UEFA were dealing with testing. They were looking to ensure that the person who was on the pitch had absolutely no trace of COVID-19. Whilst what we're doing from a public health point of view is looking at whether you have so much COVID-19 in you that you could infect somebody else. So we're testing for different prevalances.
Priya Gulraj - Gibraltar Chronicle Can I ask another question?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Yes sure.
Priya Gulraj - Gibraltar Chronicle What's the significance of introducing these tests now? Is it because there's a fear that the UK is looking at removing Gibraltar from the exemption list? Or is that just because this is how things are happening?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo I think it's important that people should understand that every single week we are under the microscope by the United Kingdom to remain in the travel corridor or not remain the travel corridor. Every week that passes, we have been successful in demonstrating to the United Kingdom that we should not be removed from the travel corridor. And it's that serious. And people need to understand that if they become a vector for the virus, they could be the person that unleashes the strain or unleashes the numbers, the surge that could lead to Gibraltar being taken off the travel corridor. And therefore, these measures, all of them, are in part directed to dealing with us remaining on the travel corridor, if possible, dealing with us continuing to have validity at the frontier, dealing with us suppressing the curve. Here everything is connected. Take nothing for granted and expect that at any time we could be in for a short, sharp shock if our numbers continue to go up.
Joe Cortes - The New People Joe Cortes from The New People. You have said today that masks are now compulsory in, Main Street, Irish town and areas around that. In viewpoint last Thursday, there was concern expressed by the Gibraltar Teachers Association (NASUWT) that the seniors were not wearing masks when there were conglomerating in playgrounds and in corridors. Is that going to be looked at?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Sorry, Joe, to ask you what you mean by the seniors?
Joe Cortes - The New People I mean the pupils, at Bayside and Westside. The senior schools and the college, obviously.
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Right. So I know that the Minister for Education has had further discussions with the union in respect of those concerns and also with an association of parents that has been formed to represent the interests of pupils and parents. They haven't yet come to a conclusion that has been reported to the cabinet. The minister was meeting with them after the cabinet meeting. And so expect to receive more information in that respect in coming days.
Danny Parkinson - BFBS Chief Minister, Danny Parkinson, BFBS. As we head into the winter, we're looking at changes of airline schedules. Have you spoken to the aviation industry to make sure that that air bridge to the U.K. continues?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So thanks, Dan, for asking about the air bridge, because I think it's important that I should distinguish between the air bridge and the air corridor. Those are two different things in the lexicon of the COVID-19 work that the Government is doing. The air bridge are the airlines supplying the flights to and from Gibraltar, the air corridor is the regulation of those arriving in the United Kingdom and whether or not they are subject to quarantine. Those are the two terms of art that we use in trying to explain these things. So we're in contact with the airlines, of course, whether or not the air corridor is open to Gibraltar will affect the numbers of bums on seats, and that will affect how many flights the airlines are running. Look, I expect that the Minister for Tourism will be making a very positive announcement in respect of the air bridge in coming days. I'll allow him to do that because we won't make the announcement until we are clear that we are able to do so. But a lot will depend, therefore, in the short term about whether the air corridor remains open. That is to say, whether or not you are subject to quarantine when you arrive in the United Kingdom from Gibraltar or the frequency of flights might change. I don't think they'll disappear, but it might change for for the period when we are not in that air corridor, although I do hope that we will remain in the air corridor and that these measures will make even more robust of the case for Gibraltar to remain in the air corridor.
Danny Parkinson - BFBS Finally as well, just for a little bit of clarity on what you're saying, there's been a lot talk from Gibraltar to the UK. But you've already put some students that have to quarantine from the U.K. to Gibraltar. Do you foresee a time where that'll be extended to other travellers as well?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So it's not impossible that we could see that throughout the world, testing on arrival becomes de rigueur and quarantine pending results of testing might also become de rigueur. Gibraltar won't want to impose quarantine on arrivals from the United Kingdom because the flights from the United Kingdom to Gibraltar and from Gibraltar to the United Kingdom are not regarded by us as being principally of touristic value. The reason that we call the existence of flights between us an air bridge is because the link between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom goes beyond the touristic. It's about business. It's about family life. It's about students. It's about providing health services beyond Gibraltar. And so we want to ensure that in so far as is possible, because this is not a link based just on tourism. It's about a different sort of lifeline, almost the the invisible umbilical cord between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, that we don't subject that to quarantine or restriction in any way if we can avoid it. Whilst at the same time being realistic and understanding that if we have a cohort, like students, who are in an area of high prevalence of the virus, like universities in the United Kingdom, then we have an obligation to ensure that we don't permit the unmitigated spread of the virus in Gibraltar by not checking those who are arriving and indeed ensuring that we don't somehow become accessories to those students taking the virus into the home and from the home to older family members. And in that way, unleashing the sort of vengeance of this virus that we don't want to see in this community.
The Olive Press We move to questions from press working from home and the first one is from The Olive Press. With it now being possible that Andalusia will close its borders at the weekend. How will Gibraltarians be affected by this COVID-19 measure?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Well, simply by not being able to enter Andalucia, I would've thought. Although we continue to be in contact with the relevant authorities in Spain. If Andalucia closes its borders to other Spanish regions, you know, it may also take the view that it wants to close its border with Gibraltar other than for workers. And given the prevalence of the virus in Andalucia, we will need to understand whether that is something that we support or we argue against. Now, I do understand that in the context of Gibraltar, you have a lot of family members who are on different sides of the frontier. You have people who want to shop in Spain during the course of the weekends, especially in the run up to Christmas. There are all sorts of human issues. But let's make no mistake about it. There are no more or less human issues between Gibraltar and Andalucia than there may be between Andalucia and the other neighbouring regions of Spain or the neighbouring towns in Portugal. We have to understand that these are extraordinary times. We mustn't pretend that we're being singled out for political whipping in some way if actions are taken which have a consequence on Gibraltar because we're taking actions that have consequence and others to.
Your Gibraltar TV YGTV. Has the Contact Tracing Bureau found that many infections take place during social interactions down town? What is the scientific basis for the new masks rules in these areas?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So there are two reasons for the imposition of mask rules in the area. First of all, as I told you last week, the Contact Tracing Bureau tells us that principally the vectors for infection are in the home and in the workplace. That represents almost 50 percent of infections. The other 50 percent are at large. And they do include being in areas where the infection may be present, like, for example, being errors of accumulations of people. And the evidence that public health now supports is that the wearing of masks reduces the viral load of the virus that the person who is infected passes on to others. And indeed, if you're wearing a mask, the viral load that you take from a third party who may have it is also reduced. And so for those reasons, we have acted in keeping with the public health advice to require mask use in those areas where we are told there is the most accumulation of people. In addition to Main Street, Irishtown, Engineer Lane and those areas I've described, remember, there is also the wearing of mask as a requirement in Chatham Counterguard when you're not sitting down at a restaurant because that is also a popular area of accumulation of people. So that is the science behind the decision making, the reluctant decision making in respect of these two particular areas of regulation.
Christina Cortes - GBC Just last week, when asked about masks enforcement, you pointed to other countries where it had been enforced, saying they were not necessarily doing better than Gibraltar. So why the change now? And are you concerned about mixed messaging, especially also given the question mark over whether people should wear masks in schools?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So I don't think there was mixed messaging. You could look at the things I've said and understand that they are different. So what I'm commenting on last week is whether or not masks should be worn everywhere at all times. And what we're doing now is in order to ensure that we don't do the things that in other countries does not appear to have the positive effect that we would all have wished, because then it would be an easy solution, is we're looking at areas of human accumulation and there saying that you must wear your masks. But a person walking on their own along saluting battery, also known as La Bateria, is not going to infect anybody because they're walking on their own. The question is whether in an area where you are coming into contact with others, even if you are not in contact with that other person for 15 minutes, within less than two metres, but you stop to talk. It's quite different to be standing facing in the same direction, two metres apart from each other and not there for 15 minutes, whilst being closer and talking to each other, you know, the most natural thing that we do on a Saturday down Main Street, can lead to that sort of interaction. That's why we're doing it in a very specific way, because I maintain what I said last week about mask wearing generally in other countries, not having had the effect that one would wish to see. But in those areas where the masks may be valuable and we haven't seen the voluntary take-up based on the strong advice that we've provided, we're moving to require it by law.
Christina Cortes - GBC On the question of the schools, we've seen the Government statistics showed a low take up of the flu vaccine in schools. Is the government concerned at all? Are there any reasons that have been given by parents for refusing to take it? And is the government concerned at all about the effectiveness of the vaccine, if not enough people take it and the effect it might have on the health services?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Well, I'm very concerned about the fact that there is a low take up of the vaccine because it can have an effect on the health services. People can get influenza that can leave the more open to COVID-19. We've explained that in a number of occasions. We're talking about our children. I can tell you my children have all had the influenza vaccine for a simple reason. I don't want my children to be more susceptible to COVID-19, although it is thank God not deadly in children. It's uncomfortable in children as well. So I don't want my children to be more susceptible to COVID-19. Additionally, I don't want my children to get the flu, in a way that we might think they may have COVID-19, so that we have an obligation under our rules to report that so that they can be tested and put my children through the testing or indeed put the system through having to test my children. That's why I would ask people to really search their consciences and make a decision about whether or not they want their children to have the flu vaccine. I've said that we're not going to make it a requirement that people should have the vaccine. We offer the vaccine. But it's a pity that people are taking the attitude that they are taking to vaccine use. I think this is all, in my view, erroneous. It's based on flawed science. It's based on social media spreading falsehoods in a way that people elevate to truth. And frankly, I think that is doing our society no favours at all. It's doing our children no favours at all. It's doing our ability to control COVID-19, no favours at all. And I would urge people to really examine their consciences when it comes to whether or not their children have the flu vaccine, because if their children don't have the flu vaccine, if they do therefore get the flu, if they become more susceptible to COVID-19 or they appear to have COVID-19 and they have to be tested for COVID-19, this is all a failure arising from the decision not to give them the flu vaccine. I've got two year old. She had the flu vaccine the other day up her nose and she didn't even realise that she'd had it. It's very straightforward. It's not painful. It doesn't even feel uncomfortable to most children. So I would very strongly encourage people to ensure that their children have the flu vaccine.
Priya Gulraj - Gibraltar Chronicle Following on from the question on the masks issue. Why do you think there is such reluctance for the take up of masks in Gibraltar? What do you make of it?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo I think your question asked me to examine the Gibraltarians psyche in the way that I would probably in a few hours to do. Why did we all take off our seatbelts when we used to drive through the frontier years ago, before it was the law in Gibraltar. We felt a sense of freedom, a sense of differentness to other places. Look, you know, we have very reluctantly taken the decision that we have to legislate in the early stages for the use of masks inside public indoor areas. In the early stages, also in respect of buses and other areas like that. Now, in areas where we are advised, the accumulation of people could result in the infection spreading more easily is masks use is not observed. So, we've come to this reluctantly because we test the advice that we are getting. We need to ensure it is robust. We will not act unless in testing our advice we are persuaded that we should act. Now, people need to ask themselves, does the government really want to require me to wear a mask? Because, you know, it's not necessary. But they just think on a whim that they would do that. Well, you know, frankly, people I think should have worked out by now that we're not doing absolutely anything on a whim. We are trying to be as un-invasive as possible in the context of everyday life. We're trying to take steps which prevent us from getting to a stage where we have to have a second lockdown. If something looks like it might help, if we test that and we believe that there is something behind it, we go for it. And that's why we've gone for mask use being a legal requirement now in the areas of Chatham Counterguard when you're not sitting down and in the areas of Main Street, Irishtown, engineer's lane,and all the areas that I've mentioned where there could be an accumulation of people. And I ask people to please understand that if we're doing that by law, we're doing it for a good reason. And I know that most Gibraltarians will follow the law and they will understand that this is a requirement that is not being brought in willy nilly.
Priya Gulraj - Gibraltar Chronicle Can I ask another quick question? You mentioned the Nightingale ward earlier? How will that be staffed? Because I remember during lockdown we had nurses from the UK fly over. So how is it going to be staffed if it has to come into effect?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So we're going to we're going to beg, borrow and steal from different parts of the GHA that might be operating in a different way if we open Nightingale. If we open Nightingale, we will have declared a major incident. And so different parts of the GHA will be operating in a different way. We'll also have to import a cohort of nurses from the United Kingdom. We're already in the process of doing the recruitment of people to have them ready to come out if necessary, and that process is on foot to the extent that we will be able to open Nightingale, now, not on 72 hours’ notice, as I announced last week, but on 24 hours’ notice.
The Olive Press OK, so back to questions from press working from home. The Olive Press asks, what will the penalty be for people not wearing masks in the town centre as described? And will they be arrested if they refuse to wear masks in these areas?
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo So that will be determined in coming days as the regulations are prepared. I think there's already a provision in our law for fixed penalty notices in the context of not wearing masks where they are already required to do so. And a matter relating to arrest is not a matter for the Government, it is a matter for the police officer who may be involved in the issue at the time. That's not a that's not a strategic issue for the government to legislate on. It's a tactical issue for the operational determination of a police officer when he's dealing with a particular individual.
Your Gibraltar TV Many countries have seen anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests. Does the government feel that this is a real possibility in Gibraltar? And does the government feel that a sense of fatigue is now common amongst many? A fatigue that may undermine the efforts to control the virus by following the rules.
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Thank you. I really don't think that in Gibraltar we're going to see demonstrations of people who would be against whatever it is that the government is doing now for a simple reason. Gibraltar has a written constitution. That Constitution protects the freedom of assembly. The freedom of assembly can, however, be derogated from by law where the advice so requires. And one of the reasons for that, a derogation, is public health. We have a law now that prevents the freedom of assembly, which we do very, very reluctantly because it's a constitutional freedom. So therefore, assembling in numbers in excess of 16 is not something that is possible under our law. And that will be prevented. But look, we've got to understand that the context of the fatigue that the questioner is asking about. Of course, we all feel it. Of course we feel it. But that's exactly why I referred to those seminal moments in our history, in the past, in our modern political history. The evacuation, the closure of the frontier, the full lockdown that we endured in late March and April earlier this year. We are a more resilient people than most. We do not succumb to fatigue. We are the People of Gibraltar. We know that we have to go through hardship in a particular way on this rock of ours where we can't grow anything, but we survive even when we are locked in, where we've been expelled from this place and we've fought to come back whatever the hardships. Look, I think of the things that my grandmother and my parents went through during the evacuation and the close frontier generation and I would be embarrassed to say that I'm giving up now, that I'm sick of this now, and I'm just giving up the ghost. You know, we are all made of sterner stuff that that.
Chief Minister - Fabian Picardo Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for joining us once again at No.6 Convent Place. These days when we call a press conference at No.6 Convent Place, it's unlikely to be to announce something positive. I look forward to the days when we will return to No.6 Convent Place to announce to you positive things, the return of the fair, the return of our mega concert, once more announcing the fantastic classical concert. I hope that will all be next year and that with the efforts that we are making together, we will get through this together. We will smile again. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.