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Press Conference 13th April 2020

April 13, 2020

Good afternoon and welcome to the Government’s daily briefing on COVID 19.

I will start by giving you the figures as at 8.30 this morning.

Total swabs taken: 1649

Results Pending: 88

Results Received: 1561

Negative: 1413

Confirmed: 129

Active: 36

Recovered: 93

Of the 36 active cases, 35 are at home, 1 is in John Ward (COVID ward), 0 in the COVID ICU.

The three at the Elderly Residential Services facility at Hillside have recovered.

There were a total of 31 attendances to A&E in the last 24 hours.

Three with COVID symptoms and all three swabbed.

Of these three, one was admitted to ICU.

The presentation was primarily cardiac but the patient also had chest infection symptoms, hence admission to ICU.

There were two other admissions - one to clean ICU and one to Victoria Ward but these were non-COVID admissions.

I will say more on the figures later.

Today, as you all know, is Easter Monday – a bank holiday and the last day of the traditional long weekend.

In other years, many of us would have gone away for the weekend or even gone to the beach.

How different it has been.

During the long weekend and, indeed, the whole of last week, our school facilities have, unusually, been open - catering for the needs of those critical workers who have had to work and also for vulnerable children.

For the rest of you, instead of enjoying country walks, barbeques, picnics or swimming, you have been told that you have to stay at home.

Your constitutional rights have been limited.

Measures that none of us could have imagined a few short months ago have been implemented.

All of that has been aimed at one thing and one thing alone – saving lives.

We have seen similar measures implemented in numerous countries right across the world.

We still see hundreds of deaths happening every day in many countries – including the UK and Spain.

In Gibraltar we have not had a COVID death.

And that, in large measure, is a testament to the efforts and sacrifices which you are all making.

It is not easy to suddenly find yourselves not being able to do the things you want to do, the things you enjoy, seeing family or friends.

But it is vital that we all realise how necessary all of this is.

Stay home, save lives – we must constantly remind ourselves of this message.

The Royal Gibraltar Police, and law enforcement partners HM Customs and the Gibraltar Defence Police, have been active all weekend – ensuring that the regulations we put in place limiting the movement of our community were complied with.

The policing of the COVID19 emergency regulations has in fact received very welcomed support this weekend from the general public.

There have been no enforcement interventions for breaches of these regulations having to be made during the whole of the Easter weekend.

It has undoubtedly been the quietest Easter weekend that we have ever known.  

Whilst the inclement weather no doubt will have been a contributory factor for  people staying indoors, we are nonetheless very grateful for the part the public is playing in this health crisis.

Of course, as we have said many times, we cannot become complacent and we appeal for this support and demonstration of personal/collective responsibilty to continue.The RGP supported by partner law enforcement agencies remain very active to ensure there is compliance with the emergency regulations.

They apply a community engagement approach explaining and encouraging compliance and if need be, as a last resort, enforcement.

One week ago the number of confirmed cases in Gibraltar was 109, today it is 129.

The number of active cases was 57, today it is 36.

And the number of recovered cases was 52, today it is 93.

As expected the number of confirmed cases has gone up but we have not seen the exponential rise that we have seen in other countries – some of which have experienced a doubling of the number every few days.

At the same time we have a fall in active cases and a significant rise in recovered cases.

The trend in active cases and in recovered cases is certainly in the right direction.

But before anyone jumps to any conclusions on this, I would say that now is not the time to let our guard down.

If anything, we must redouble our efforts in our fight against COVID 19.

There is, however, one thing that we can be absolutely sure about.

Had we not acted the way we did and had we not taken the measures that we have taken, the figures would have told a different, and more sombre, story.

What we, collectively, have done by slowing the rate of spread of infection has enabled us to be in a state of readiness for whatever may come.

We are certainly in a better place now than we were one month ago.

We now have a ready and fully functional Nightingale facility at Europa Point.

Ready to take patients at any time with all of us wishing that not a single patient needs to be treated at Nightingale.

We have been able to relocate some of the St Bernard’s facilities such as the treatment of cancer patients to the cancer relief centre and ophthalmology to the University of Gibraltar.

These and other measures have allowed us to free up much of St Bernard’s where we have more available beds than we have ever had before.

Some countries, such as Austria, Denmark and Norway are talking of possible plans to relax some of the more stringent measures.

Spain has today seen non-essential workers being allowed back to work.

The World Health Organisation continues to ask for prudence and caution about any relaxation of these measures.

In Gibraltar, we do not want any measure that limits anyone’s rights to be in place longer than necessary.

But that must also mean that those measures need to stay in place as long as they are necessary.

The time will come when we can all enjoy our time out in the open or socialising as we used to.

Until that happens we must all continue to play our part.

We need to put our self-interests to one side and act for the collective good.9

And as we make these sacrifices, we also look forward to the time when all of this will be behind us.

I will now pass to Dr Bhatti, the Director of Public Health for a public health and medical update.

The Chief Minister, in his Easter message spoke of hope – hope in a better, fairer future.

He spoke of a spirit of defiance and survival that has not been seen since the Evacuation and the closed frontier generation.

That message of hope reminded me of a mural painted by children of St Joseph’s school on the last day before the school closed as a result of COVID 19.

It depicts the rainbow of hope.

It is a message of hope, and indeed expectation, of a reopening of St Joseph’s and, of course, of every school.

It is a message of hope for the re-opening of our bars, restaurants, shops and all other businesses which have been so heavily affected by this crisis.

It is a message of hope for a return to work and restoration of a sense of normality.

It is also a message of hope in a future where we will all have learnt lessons from this – lessons about how we can do things differently, how we can be more efficient and how we all have a part to play in the collective well-being.

We will be putting out the pictures of the St Joseph’s mural in the Government’s social media platforms.

I would ask you all to share those pictures and even to create your own pictures or videos depicting the rainbow of hope.

It is that collective energy and strength of feeling which has never failed us and which will get us through this crisis.

I want to finish with an account which I read this weekend of an RAF pilot during the second world war who spoke at a symposium in 1976.

He recounted how buildings, factories, businesses were devasted during the war.

And yet there was a sense of coming together in a united effort which was strengthened at a time of crisis.

He spoke of the many sacrifices which were made and of the unsung heroes who worked tirelessly including those making the aircraft parts which allowed him and his colleagues to win the battle for the skies of Britain.

He concluded by saying:

“That is what mattered. It was a united effort by everybody”.

We also have to salute all those heroes in Gibraltar – whether it is front line staff, back-office workers, volunteers or even those staying at home.

Our thanks to all of you.

In particular, to our elderly residents who are not just being confined to their homes but who miss so badly those hugs and kisses from their children and grandchildren.

As I said earlier, the day will come when all of this will be behind is.

That will only happen if we continue to follow the rules which have been set.

Remember – by staying home you save lives.

Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to and if you do maintain social distancing and keep washing your hands.