It has been a pleasure to work with those who were members of COVID Platinum Executive Committee.
We have worked as a team at the most difficult periods of the pandemic.
I have, however, been particularly pleased to be able to disband COVID PLATINUM yesterday.
As at today there is one case reported of COVID-19 in our community after 888 tests carried out yesterday.
There are only 20 active cases in our community and we have seen that the numbers of people in St Bernard’s Hospital has greatly reduced.
Overnight there have been no new admissions to our CCU.
There has been one discharge from Victoria Ward and no further admissions.
The overall picture now is therefore 3 patients in CCU with 3 ventilated and ONLY 1 patient on Victoria Ward and that patient, I am very pleased to say is stable.
So Mr Speaker it is with great pleasure that it is possible for me to confirm to the House that Gibraltar will step down from its Major Incident posture – one that we have held for over two months - at 6:00 AM on Monday the 1st of March.
As from that date our catering establishments will be free to open once again.
We do still have to remain vigilant and for that reason we will need to have certain constraints on the operation of our catering establishments.
All staff in catering establishments will be required to wear double masks for the 30 days of March.
The international evidence suggests that double masking reduces even further the possibility of the spreading of the virus by up to 95% and given the demographic nature of the staff of most of our catering establishments, and the fact that they will not have the benefit of full immunity from vaccination in the early days of the reopening of our catering establishments, we have decided that the staff will have to double mask for the first 30 days.
In order to assist all our catering establishments, the curfew rules will change as from the 1st of March and it will no longer be from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
Instead the curfew will be from midnight to 6:00 AM every day at least for the first 14 days of March.
The total number of people who will be able to gather in one place will remain 12 for the first 14 days of March at least.
And in our catering establishments we will introduce a Rule of 6 so that the maximum number of people who will be able to book a table or sit at a table will be 6.
In order to ensure that we do not see great accumulations of people and the loss of inhibitions which can lead to behavior that is more conducive to a lack of social distancing, there will be a temporary control on licensing hours so that there will be no alcohol sales between 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM in any catering establishment in the month of March.
This is the balance that we are trying to do to enable our catering establishments to remain open later and to be able to offer a greater service to the public whilst at the same time not having the difficulties that we can have if we open our catering establishments and we permit business as usual.
The curfew and the control of licensing hours will be reviewed after the first 14 days of March.
Additionally, during the first 14 days of the month of March, only table service will be permitted.
Mr Speaker, the epidemiological advice that we have tells us that the prevalence of the virus worldwide is in decline at last.
We may be at the beginning of the end at last and we may be seeing an end to this dreadful virus.
Mr Speaker, the public health advice is that it is now safe for people to return to their offices so long as they observe the basic rules of social distancing wearing masks where required and hand hygiene.
Given the low numbers of inpatients at St Bernard's Hospital, I have directed that the Nightingale Hospital can now be decommissioned.
It will be now once again on 14 days notice.
Although we are able to take these faltering steps towards normality we will only be able to do so if we maintain the full effect of our Contact Tracing Bureau in order to be able to deliver and efficient test, trace an isolate strategy in the instances where there might still be cases of the virus.
Test, trace and isolate and our Contact Tracing Bureau will become once again more important now than they have been at the worst periods of high infection in our community.
As we welcome back the opportunities for live sporting and cultural events we want to work with our cultural and sporting associations and the promoters and organizers of sports and cultural events to try and reintroduce not just the sporting and cultural activities themselves, but also the ability of audiences to be able to attend those sporting events.
Working with Public Health Gibraltar we will put in place protocols that will enable all those who are practicing sports or performing in cultural activities to have their supporters and fans with them after the second half of this month.
That will include working with the Gibraltar Football Association for a live audience in their international matches at home and with the promoters of the heavyweight title fight between Whyte and Povetkin to be organized in Gibraltar at the end of the month.
We very much hope that these will be the first events that we will see return to our calendar although this year.
It is, however, probably too late to see some of the larger events organized and we will nonetheless all want to be very prudent about the numbers of persons permitted initially at such events and the social distance required between them.
Before I continue, I want to congratulate today the Gibraltar Boxing Association on behalf of the Government and the whole House, no doubt, for the double achievement of admittance to the International Boxing Association and to the EUBC.
This is extremely good news not just for the GBA but also for Gibraltar as a nation, in terms of our recognition on the European and World stages.
I want to thank all those in the team who have fought hard for this recognition.
It is right that this achievement is publicly recognised and that the GBA is duly congratulated.
We will obviously gladly consider ways in which the Government can assist the GBA going forward.
I now urge the GBA to continue to work with the GSLA and GSAC and address the minor details which will bring to an end over three years of work.
This will allow the sport of Boxing to flourish and develop.
Together with the announcement of AIBA membership we will hopefully see the return of the glory days of Gibraltar Boxing.
Mr Speaker, I cannot thank all GHA, ERS, CARE AGENCY, LAW ENFORCEMENT and other frontline staff enough for the fantastic work that they've done in the worst periods of this pandemic.
I will say more when the House has been able to agree its Motion to thank them and to mourn all those who have passed away.
Today as we celebrate the first faltering steps towards normality we must also unfortunately record another covid death bringing the total death toll to 91, 84 of them this calendar year.
I know that I speak for the whole of this community when I say that we will never forget any of them any of those lost to this awful disease.
Mr Speaker I should also just add a word of best wishes to the Jewish Community, who will be celebrating PURIM tomorrow.
As I reckon the House is in for a long and fairly adversarial session, I want to just record that now and wish all the best to all members of our magnificent Jewish Community and not least the Honourable Lady.