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Ministerial Statement by the Chief Minister

May 21, 2020

Good evening

At midnight tonight the social lock down ends.


The regulations which restricted your freedom of movement will lapse.

I will not seek that those restrictions should continue

I will not grant my consent for the regulations to be renewed.


That applies to all age groups including the over-70s.


This is as a result of the very low numbers of infections presently detected in our community.


For this reason, the Cabinet has agreed that it is no longer proportionate to restrict your civil liberties.


I have also agreed with the Leader of the Opposition that this is the right course of action.


But our advice to you all, in particular the over-70s, continues to be to stay at home.


Because despite this positive development, what we must all do is be prudent.


We must all be prudent.


We must all be careful.


That is why we are trying to gradually move out of lockdown.


And that is why one restriction will remain.


A restriction on the size of gatherings.


A restriction on your constitutional right to freedom of association.


The regulations published today limit gatherings to 12 people.


You will therefore now be free to meet with members of your family or friends but not in groups larger than 12 for now.


You can now visit or meet your relatives.


You can now visit or meet your friends


But for now you must keep your groups to 12 or less.


This is for your own safety.


Please, also, use your common sense when you are in a group.


Keep your social distance.


Observe the rules of respiratory and hand hygiene.


Remember, the best advice;


the safest advice;


Is still to stay home.


Follow our advice and stay at home as much as you can.

Because some cases continue to be identified in our random testing.


The 3 new active cases yesterday remind us that complacency is the enemy of unlocking.


We continue to have 5 active cases in total today.


All of these are cases which require no hospitalisation.


But the COVID infection is still out there.


The virus must still be a source of concern for all of us.


We cannot let down our guard, even as we relax the regulations.

For now the virus has not taken any Gibraltarian in Gibraltar.

I am however conscious of at least one case of a Gibraltarian lost to COVID beyond our shores.

And more than one friend of Gibraltar also.

The Public Inquiry that I announced on the 6th of April will tell us more in hindsight of what we have done right.


It will tell us how we can improve in future if Gibraltar is ever faced with such a crisis again.

Because the spring of the third decade of the third millennium has been like no other we have ever known.

It will go down in history.

Elsewhere in the world, it will be remembered as an infamous time of illness and the tragic loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.


A time of suffering and pain.


For us, it has been a time of some inconvenience.


A time of extraordinary change.


And a time of personal difficulties, sacrifice and adjustment.


But we have not suffered the loss of a single life.


And we must rejoice in that.

Today, as we start the gradual process of lifting the lockdown, we must remain vigilant.


Because we are not free of the virus.


It is not realistic to think that we will be.


There will be new clusters.


But we must avoid a new wave.

When the lockdown came, you responded bravely and courageously.


Despite the restrictions on your freedoms.


Despite the economic damage.


And despite the emotional toll.


From every sector we saw support for our necessary measures.


Now, I still need your support.


In fact, I need your support now more than ever.


Your support NOW is critical.


The sacrifices of the past ten weeks will mean nothing if you ignore our advice now.


So please familiarise yourself with the rules of social distancing.


Ensure you do not put yourself or your family at risk.


If we become complacent and return to old habits, there is a real risk that the virus can spread again.


The WHO has already said that this virus might never go away.


There can be no guarantee that a vaccine will be available soon.


We need to live with this in the way the world today lives with other potentially deadly conditions that do NOT paralyse society.


To do that, you are the front line of the battle against the virus.


You are the front line of the war against COVID.


You must be ready to follow the rules.


You must be ready to remind friends, relatives and strangers that they too must follow the rules.


That is how you will put us in the strongest position to deal with this virus as it lurks in the background.


And we must ALL be ready to stand sentry in the face of this virus.


Because, know this:


Your Government’s ability to tackle this threat, from all angles, is now as good as it can be.

But you are the key to the strategy.


You must self-isolate immediately if you get the symptoms.


You will get tested very quickly when you call 111.


With our ability to test 2% of our community EVERY DAY, we can keep your self-isolation to a minimum.


If you test negative, you can return to work and your daily life immediately.


If you test positive, be assured that we have all the resources we need to care for you.


If your symptoms are serious, we have all the latest therapies and medications to try to help you get through the infection.


Our GHA will not be overwhelmed.


And we will be constantly vigilant.


We will be aggressive in our contact tracing.


And in a few short weeks we will also deploy an app to assist in this aspect of our fight against COVID.


I am hopeful that it can be available by mid-June.


And we will test all those who want for antibodies.


So we will know how many of us have had Covid.


With all that, we will be blind no more.


But science and technology alone will not save us.


What we need is your courage, your community spirit and your common sense.

Because we are not going to pretend to police how far apart you stand.


But if you stand too close it could be you that gets the virus from someone who shows no symptoms.


It might be dangerous for you or for one of your loved ones who might get the virus from you.


So please, use your common sense.


We also need your community spirit.


Because, we must now be committed to a greater good.


A commitment to the community above self.


To ensure that we can continue to concentrate resources where we are likely to need them more.


On the front line of our health service.


To support the great men and women of the GHA and ERS who have done such a great job.


This is not over for them.


THEY stand ready to treat every case.


And it is not over for any of us who might be the next person to catch the virus if we are not careful.


But we must be careful, not timid.


Because to restart and recover, there is much that needs to happen now too.


Our public sector must be able to continue the great work it has done in these past ten weeks.


Businesses must be able to re-open for economic activity to prosper.


Employees must be able to go back to work in a safe environment.


And parents must be able to go to work, leaving children in a school that is safe for them and their teachers.

All of us, every one of us, has a critical role to play in this renaissance of Gibraltarian society.

But without common sense, none of this will be possible.


Observe those rules of social distancing.


And use your common sense wherever you may be.


For example, it is common sense that we can be close enough at the beach without sitting practically in each other's chairs.


It is common sense that if you keep a safe distance, in the open air, in the company of those who are not symptomatic, without physical contact, you are going to be safe.


But none of this works if you fail to keep your social distance – however hard it may be.


Finally, let me remind you of the heroes of this crisis.


There are many heroes of the past 10 weeks.


From the frontline GHA workers who were bravely waiting to treat those with the virus.


To the frontline law enforcement agents of the RGP, Customs and the GDP.


Our Borders and Coastguard personnel who have manned our entry points at all times.


Our teachers, working shifts and weekends to keep schools available for the children of key workers.


Our Port Launch crew and RGP launch crews who crossed the Strait to bring Gibraltarians back home.


The members of our Regiment and our wider public sector that kept us all going.


And not least the teams led by the Financial Secretary, the Commissioner of Income Tax and the Director of Employment.


They have made our BEAT COVID measures a deliverable reality.

And I especially want to highlight also the team in the Civil Contingencies Department so ably led by Ivor Lopez.


They have been the core of our coordinated action through this crisis.


Acting on the advice of Sohail Bhatti and Krish Rawal, we have got through this first part of the COVID CRISIS together.


I express my sincere thanks to all of them on your behalf.


Parliament will no doubt wish to record the gratitude of the people of Gibraltar in an appropriate and more permanent way.


For now, let us celebrate the end of the lockdown not with a party but with a pledge.


A pledge to continue to keep each other safe by observing the rules of social distancing.


A pledge to continue to be prudent in the exercise of our freedoms.


And a pledge to continue to work together to ensure that we win every round against COVID-19.


Because now we embark on a better time.


After 10 weeks of turmoil, it is now time to start to smile again.


Thank you for your sacrifices these past 10 weeks.


Thank you for your support these past 10 weeks.


And thank you for listening tonight.