CHIEF MINISTER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
14 APRIL 2020
Good afternoon, Ladies & Gentlemen,
Welcome to No6, Convent Place and to the latest information conference by the Government.
The purpose of these information conferences is to ensure that you receive the latest and the best up to the minute information, on the spread of COVID-19 through our community.
I will therefore start this afternoon by giving you all the updated statistics on COVID-19.
I will then take you to the relevant dates we are dealing with in respect of the currently applicable regulations and their renewal, I will address the exit strategies we are looking at in Cabinet today and will end today looking at the work of Task Force Future and Task Force Restart and Recover.
After my address, you will have a chance to hear from the Commander of British Forces in Gibraltar, Commodore Tim Henry, who joins me this afternoon.
Turning first then to the relevant statistics, the grand total of swabs taken in Gibraltar to date is 1691. That amounts to approximately 5.25% of the population having being swabbed although in some cases the same individual may have been swabbed more than once.
We have already received 1,577 test results back, 16 in the last 24 hours leaving pending the results of 114 swabs.
1,428 have been negative swab results. 15 of those have been received in the past 24 hours.
129 have been positive.
Of these, 25 are active cases and 104 are already recovered. That number has increased by 14 in the past 24 hours.
This morning, I reviewed those statistics with Cabinet colleagues.
We have given particular thought to the story that these numbers are telling us about the progress of COVID-19 in our community.
It is clear that we do appear to have slowed the progress of the virus in our community.
This is no doubt assisted also by the lock downs in place in the United Kingdom, in Spain and in Morocco, the nations with which we have direct links.
As we look forward, we have been considering not just the impact of the measures that we have taken, but also how we will be able to end the lockdown and the closure of businesses and schools etc.
Our main aim is to ensure the protection of human health in our community in order to save lives.
Additionally, and no less importantly, we are concerned to ensure that the measures we have imposed which derogate from your civil liberties do not remain in place for one moment longer than they are required.
In that respect, of course they must also remain in place for every single moment when they are required. This morning the Cabinet reviewed all those measures.
The measures affecting the general population, the over seventies in particular, and the measures affecting all businesses, especially the retail sector, construction and ship repair.
The meeting commenced at 10 am and we were joined by the Leader of the Opposition at 12.30.
Again, I want to express my thanks to all those in our community who are over 70 for their observance of the rules of confinement which are, in particular, applicable to them.
The Cabinet has today decided to extend the confinement of the over 70s for another 30 days until the 15 May.
We have done so with the benefit of the views of the Leader of the Opposition and with his agreement.
We have additionally included in the regulations a weekly review of these rules.
This will mean that the rules will next be reviewed in Cabinet, next Monday.
On that day, we will also be reviewing the continuation of the rules of lockdown and confinement applicable to the general population.
My view is that it is very likely that the general lockdown will be extended also.
But we will want to have a weekly review of the lockdown and of its terms.
The same will be true of the lockdown of particular areas of business.
We will therefore be reviewing the application of all rules to keep businesses closed and to keep people confined on a weekly basis.
But I want to be clear to all businesses and to every citizen in our community that we do not presently see circumstances leading to an immediate change in the rules in the next seven days – but we owe it to you to keep these extraordinary measures under constant review and not take their continuation for granted for one moment longer than is necessary.
As I said of course we must also, not fall into the trap of lifting these measures one moment sooner than may be prudent. Today, I have agreed with the Leader of the Opposition that there is no need to change the powers in the regulations governing the over 70s in order to give the police any greater levers of enforcement.
The over 70s are amongst the most respectful of our population and therefore there is no need to increase the powers available to the police in respect of their confinement.
One thing that you will also notice about the new rules of over seventies is that the regulations in Regulation 3 recite the current numbers of persons diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide and the number of deaths reported.
In the last iteration of the regulations, dated 16th March 2020, at the time of publication there had been more than 164,000 confirmed cases globally of COVID-19 and more than 6,400 people had died.
Well today, the updated figures in the recital in Regulation 3 will refer to 1,128,900 diagnosed confirmed cases and nearly 100,000 deaths.
That increase in numbers is really in itself a justification of the measures we are taking to slow the spread of the virus in our community.
We are giving a lot of thought to exit from the rules of lock down, as I have said, and the mechanics of that.
We are looking at progress with vaccines.
We are looking at progress with the use of medications.
We are looking at tests involving technology and the use of mobile phones in future for contact tracing.
In fact, we are in contact with the UK Department for Health & Care on what measures they are discussing with Google and Apple in respect of Android and iOS systems assisting with contact tracing.
But all these things are for future announcements.
For now, we will continue to look closely at progress in the Far East in places like South Korea and others, as well as to how releasing populations have fared closer to home in places like Italy, Spain and France, as well as in the United Kingdom.
Gibraltar is different though and we are designing a tailor made exit strategy for Gibraltar.
In that respect both the TASK FORCES I have created, Task Force Future and Task Force Restart and Recover, are already in motion.
Many will soon be contacted to feed ideas into their work.
We are all in it together after all.
We went into lockdown together and we will come out of lock down together.
All our ideas will be necessary to refine the best solutions for Gibraltar.
The whole community will need to be mobilised in this respect.
I will therefore make no apology for consulting widely on this subject now and in the future also.
In this respect, I will be meeting, virtually or in person, with the Leader of the Opposition in coming days, also to discuss the exit strategies, as well as the next stage of our measures for businesses as we emerge from this induced coma.
Finally, this afternoon I have spoken at length to the Minister for Europe, Wendy Morton.
We discussed the UK’s continued support for Gibraltar in these trying times.
I also extended to her, the best wishes of the Government and People of Gibraltar to the Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable Boris Johnson.
We have all be very happy to see him leave hospital and return to Downing Street and Chequers as he starts his own personal journey of recovery.
Boris Johnson has been a friend of Gibraltar in all the posts he has held.
Gibraltar wishes him well now and a speedy recovery back to his important duties as Prime Minister.
Now before I take questions, it is a pleasure to welcome the Commander of British Forces on the Rock, Tim Henry.
Tim, as CBF has been instrumental in assisting us in the work done pursuant to our requests for military assistance and he is a friend of Gibraltar writ large.
BCA RULES FOR CHECK IN FOR FLIGHTS TO GIBRALTAR UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
Entry into Gibraltar (Airport)
Following measures for the control of the outbreak of Coronavirus, which was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, the CEO of the BCA has directed the following:
Only the following categories of persons are to be granted leave to enter the jurisdiction of Gibraltar:
- Persons who are registered Gibraltarians either by birth or by naturalisation
- Persons who hold residence in Gibraltar
- Sea farers on transit to a vessel which is berthed at Gibraltar and has immigration pre clearance letter from the Borders and Coastguards Agency
- Spanish Nationals which are on transit to Spain
- Persons who travel to Gibraltar and transit to Spain and hold lawful residence in Spain
- Persons who are taking up employment in Gibraltar or carrying out a work activity in Gibraltar
- Military personnel who have been issued with Travel Orders.
- Persons who hold an electronic letter from the Borders and Coastguards Agency granting them leave to enter Gibraltar.
Further clarification can be obtained on +350 5435 0000 or email@example.com
- Any person who does not meet one of the above categories will be refused entry into Gibraltar.
WASH YOUR HANDS
KEEP TO THE SOCIAL DISTANCING RULES
EASTER IS OVER BUT THE REGULATIONS STILL APPLY
HELP THE GHA
An opening statement by Commodore Tim Henry, Commander British Forces Gibraltar.
Chief Minister, thank you for inviting me to join your daily press conference today; a physical and visible manifestation of how closely British Forces Gibraltar has been working alongside and in support of the Government of Gibraltar. I thought it might be useful for me to explain what we have been doing as part of Gibraltar’s response to COVID-19.
Firstly, and closest to Gibraltar’s hearts, is our Regiment, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. At the start of the emergency, a large number of the RG were on exercise in the UK and having completed the essential training to remain in date to meet their operational commitments, a decision was made to bring them back early in order that they could be ready to support any requirements here. At the same time, as the Spanish State of Emergency started to be imposed, those that don’t have a home in Gibraltar, but rather live in Spain, were directed to return to the Rock. Many of those chose to bring their families with them and they continue to live in temporary accommodation here for the duration of the emergency.
To date, the Government of Gibraltar have made two requests for military support from the UK, these are generically described as MACA (or Military Aid to the Civil Authorities). The first was for a pool of manpower to support general activity around setting up the Europa Point Hospital and other preparations in Gibraltar. So far, the RG and elements of the civilian manpower around British Forces Gibraltar have helped the GHA with moving equipment, setting up some of the fencing and setting up some
elements of the facility at Europa. With those major works complete they have returned to Devils Tower Camp but are ready to provide further support if deemed necessary and appropriate.
The second MACA request was for the support of my medical staff here in Gibraltar. As many will know, the Princess Royal Medical Centre in Devils Tower Camp is no longer a small cottage hospital; simplistically it now provides GP and dental services to the Military community. But the medical staff that work there bring vast experience at operating in austere and more challenging places – be it on a ship in the middle of an ocean or during an operation or exercise in the middle of a desert. That experience and those skills have supported the Gibraltar Health Authority as it leads on ensuring that all aspects of medical support are optimised for the COVID-19 emergency. Practically, military medics have trained alongside the Ambulance Service, ready support if needed; and they have provided some of the swabbing teams at the Rooke Site, easing the load on the GHA.
And beyond these two MACAs we continue to support Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Defence Police are working alongside the RGP, HM Customs and the Border and Coastguard Agency in ensuring that we abide by the lockdown rules and keep our most vulnerable safe.
RAF Gibraltar including the NATS Gibraltar and the Met Office, along with the Airfield Fire and Rescue Service, continue to keep the airfield open and safe, thus assuring our aviation links with the UK. This has allowed the RAF to support the supply of medical stores to the GHA and, last week, a consignment of PPE was delivered on the A400 aircraft that came in – but it also allows the MOD to continue to provide a sovereign and assured airfield which is entirely dependable and can be relied on to support operations further afield.
And, of course, on the water the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron continue their daily vigil around BGTW and beyond. The element of the port operated by the MOD remains ready, as it always is, to support the Royal Navy and our Allies. In fact, this morning
we saw the MOD chartered vessel, the MV EDDYSTONE, arrive from Southampton with routine stores.
Finally, my workforce, supported by their families and friends and our contractors, have gone out of their way to ensure that they continue to deliver all that is asked of them under these extraordinary circumstances. And, as is always the case, British Forces Gibraltar will continue to work closely with the Government of Gibraltar as we deal with the realities presented to us by the virus and our response to it.