As we continue to manage all aspects of this dreadful pandemic, I would like to give you some background as to where we are in terms of our Business Community.
Many of our businesses continue to work, as best they can, servicing their clients needs all over the world.
Many of our own Governments functions continue to work servicing you across all areas, in as normal a manner as is reasonably possible.
When our movement is restricted, and every contingency plan in the world is unworkable, how are we able to do this?
The answer is simple – technology.
Who would have believed that much of our public sector would have been able to carry on working from home in the manner we are doing or that most of our financial services firms and Gaming firms are continuing to work remotely, servicing their clients and having virtual meetings.
Our investment in technology will continue. Our ITLD team have delivered remote working capability to our public sector and we have changed the way we work in the month or so that we have had to.
Just imagine if we had not been able to.
To have such plans in place has been a regulatory requirement for our financial services and Gaming firms and these have been successfully triggered.
We continue to engage with these firms and as part of our work on Task Force Future, I have this week invited all of our associations and Gaming firms to work with us in developing our strategy for the future.
The response to this call has been phenomenal.
My colleagues Ministers Licudi and Daryanani have done similarly in their respective fields. We will work together to present to Cabinet a comprehensive and coordinated plan for our future.
The GFSC, The Gambling Commission and the Finance Centre Council continues to function and support our work.
Next Tuesday, as we do every month I will join Marc Ellul and his members at their monthly meeting of the Council, albeit remotely, with my colleagues from Gibraltar Finance in preparing for our future. My thanks to them all.
Today we have published our BEAT COVID 19 regulations to support Inactive Employees in the sectors that we have identified.
The Relevant Sectors list has been extended from the previous list, but please note that this extended list is ONLY for the purposes of the BEAT Covid measures in these regulations.
This list of firms eligible for BEAT COVID support now includes security and cleaning related businesses, Courier and Freight businesses, Estate Agents, Bureau de Change and Wholesalers who do not have a tobacco licence.
The Excluded Sectors listed in the Schedule continue to cover for example Law firms, Accounting firms, Gaming firms and all firms regulated by the GFSC.
As at Midnight Tuesday 14th we have had applications from 1,170 firms covering a total of some 5,700 Employees.
Since last Tuesday Midnight we have had a further 54 applications.
Most of these firms will have had an email from us acknowledging receipt of the applications.
We have received some 780 email queries to our dedicated Beat Covid email and all but 9 of these have now been individually responded to.
Each of these applications are being considered and scrutinized by the Employment Service, The Tax Office and the team at Treasury.
Any application can be referred to the office of the Financial Secretary for further investigation or clarification.
Our sincere thanks to the incredible work being done by all of those involved in this process.
In just a few weeks we have designed, built, processed and scrutinized data and details pertaining to a significant chunk of our businesses and working population.
In that time we have also developed and now published complex Regulations giving legal effect to our Beat Covid plans to support Employees in Gibraltar.
In less than 10 days time, payments will begin to flow to support these employees.
All applications received by 21st April will be considered and processed by 30th April. Those received after the 21st may take a little longer.
Only Employees that have been INACTIVE for the ENTIRE month of April will succeed.
Applications for the month of May will only be accepted by the system on or after the 5th May, for payment at the end of May.
All Employers and their individual Employees will be notified by Government if their application has been successful or not.
Appeals of Government decisions may be referred to a purpose-built Appeal Board.
It is important to recognize the support we have received from the wider community in completing this work; CELAC representing the private sector and all associations, the Unions and of course the Opposition who have significantly contributed to this work.
We face an unprecedented pandemic and economic crisis. We have never faced anything like this.
Our ability to move on as a centre of International business will depend on our ability to move on from this pandemic.
A joined-up approach is where we are working towards. We need to hold our nerve, prepare and be best placed to move on, once we are able.
Good Afternoon, thank you for joining us once again today for our daily COVID-19 update.
I am joined today by my colleague Albert Isola, Minister for Digital and Financial Services, who will be focusing on aspects relevant to our business community.
I would like to start by running through todays COVID Statistics:
As of this morning at 9:
The total number of swabs taken so far is 1813
Results pending 53
Total Results received 1760
Negative results 1590
Confirmed cases 132
Active cases 27
Recovered cases 105
I will now share our hospital statistics.
In the last 24 hours there have been a total of 31 attendances to A&E of which 11 had symptoms that could be related to COVID 19.
10 of these were swabbed.
There were no admissions to COVID CCU.
There were 5 admissions to COVID John Ward of which 2 had negative swabs and 3 are pending results.
Today we have a total of 378 free beds, between SBH and the Nightingale Facility.
This includes 12 free beds in our COVID CCU, 7 free beds within our non-COVID CCU and 28 free beds within our COVID Ward.
SBH & the Europa Point Hospital Nightingale Facility
Yesterday the GHA received the first consignment of hospital profiling beds which will further increase bed capacity at SBH and the Nightingale Facility.
These beds will bring St Bernard’s acute bed capacity up to 195 from 149 by providing John Cochrane Ward with new profiling beds.
This converts the Elderly Residential Ward to another Acute Ward for the duration of the crisis.
SBH, for all intents and purposes, is now a fully-fledged Acute Hospital at part of our COVID-19 surge preparations. This places Gibraltar in an incredible position to be able to cope in the event of a surge.
80 new beds have been received so far with an additional 40 beds due to arrive by the end of April.
Nightingale has therefore also increased its bed capacity.
28 new profiling beds have been added to the Nightingale Facility bringing the total capacity of Nightingale up to 238 from 190.
The New Oxygen Plant at Nightingale is in the process of being commissioned and will be able to provide piped continuous oxygen to 22 patients if we have the need to.
Following its commissioning, the plant will be fully operation before next week.
By the end of April, it is expected that further infrastructure will be completed to be able to provide oxygen to 44 patients in total.
This Oxygen Plant complements our recently commissioned oxygen plant at SBH as recently announced.
Mt Alvernia – Isolation unit completed
Meanwhile at Mt Alvernia, the dedicated isolation unit is due to be completed today providing a further 4 isolation beds.
Following Public Health Advice and as mentioned by Dr Antonio Marin at yesterdays Press Conference, 67 out of 289 residents were randomly swabbed throughout the ERS sites - including Mt Alvernia, BellaVista and Hillside.
This helps provide us with very valuable data regarding the status of the residents within the ERS facilities.
I am very pleased to announce that they have all returned negative which is great news and testament to the incredible work that is being done by the ERS Team led by Dr Marin and Susan Vallejo.
I am also pleased to announce that a second, CT scanner, has now been received on a temporary basis providing resilience should the CT Scanner at SBH be out of service for whatever reason.
This portable CT Scan has been located within the MUGA Facility within the Tercentenary Hall Sports Complex.
The Scanner has been powered up and is being commissioned and will be deep cleaned in preparation for its use.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank GibElec, the GHA Technical Team, the GSLA Team and our GHA domestic staff for setting up and preparing this facility.
Swabs – No of swabs carried out – Drive through
The GHA continues swabbing via our Drive Thru facility at Rooke.
So far, a total of 820 swabs have been taken via the Drive Thru facility which continues being a very useful means to test the community and help us gather data in a safe, environment.
111 Call – Statistics
As of today, there have been over 4500 calls received via the 111 Service and there have been over 1400 submissions on the COVID-19 On-line System Checker.
Laboratory Equipment carried out locally
A total of 180 swabs have already been processes via our in-house laboratory testing equipment since we started our in-house testing on the 9th of April.
Our on-site equipment allows a quick turnaround of tests results.
I would now like to mention the OUTREACH – FAMILY CENTRE
Following the closure of the Family and Community Centre within Mid-Harbours Estate as a result of the COVID prevention measures by the Care Agency, families have had to adjust and adapt their usual routines, which may not have been easy.
As school and work-life have merged within the home environment for many, as a result of the lockdown measures, parents and their children are spending most of their time together under one roof for very long periods of time.
Furthermore, many children and families have had to deal with not seeing their loved family members and friends face-to-face due to social distancing and isolation measures.
This can lead to mounting stress at home and issues associated with the lockdown.
The staff at the Family and Community Centre have now extended its support to parents and carers during this challenging time by way of an Out-Reach Service.
The Family and Community Centre therefore still offers opportunities for families to reach out and receive necessary support if needed.
An additional helpline service has been set up to offer one-to-one support and advice to parents and those with parenting roles.
The team is comprised of trained Parenting Educators, Social Workers and Therapists, who will be able to offer advice on different strategies that may help families build resilience during these difficult times.
The team will also help to link those parents or children in need, to other support services in the community.
The Family and Community Centre Team can be contacted on 20046386 Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8.45am–4.30pm or on 20042448 after working hours.
Alternatively, the team can be contacted by email on email@example.com
I am pleased to announce that donations received to date have now passed £1.5M.
We are most grateful to all those that have contributed so far.
Children’s Health Centre opens tomorrow after decontamination
I will now provide further details following yesterday afternoon’s Press Release confirming an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Children’s Health Centre (CHC) at Europort.
The facility was immediately closed for a deep clean and full decontamination.
This was completed swiftly within hours and the Children’s Health Centre re-opened this morning at 9am as usual.
There are six confirmed cases and one suspected case among GHA staff.
Five of them were sent home and one was admitted to the COVID Ward at St Bernard’s Hospital.
All of them had been working at the Children’s Health Centre and were doing so in the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. This suggests that there is likely to have been sustained transmission over a period of several weeks, during which clinics have been ongoing.
Most of the dentists have been doing telephone consultations and had attended to emergency cases only.
Following established infection control practices dental clinics are always deep cleaned after every use and the dentists have worn full PPE throughout.
In order to control the outbreak those in direct contact with those affected have been asked to self-isolate.
A total of eighteen staff members were swabbed and will be tested in-house.
The advice to members of the public, including persons who attended the children’s medical or dental clinics, remains the same.
In the event of showing any symptoms associated with COVID-19 people should call 111 and follow the advice given to them.
It is important to stress that Government is taking very seriously all the concerns of the community.
The case at the Children’s Health Centre is proof that although we have done very well as a community in following the advice given to us, COVID-19 is still circulating in Gibraltar and can cause us a great deal of harm to us if we do not keep these efforts up.
Staying indoors has a very direct bearing on the civil liberties that we have been so used to as a community, and we are very aware of these but our health should be of paramount importance at the moment.
Once again, I would like to stress that our success as a community is down to you all; for observing the new rules so well.
We must continue to work together and keep up this great effort to ensure the safety of our loved ones and especially the most vulnerable within our community.
We will restore our community together and become once again the place we have all been used to. But this will still take time and a lot of patience and we will always heed the advice of our Public Health and Medical Professionals.
My heartfelt gratitude once again goes to TEAM GHA, TEAM ERS and TEAM Care Agency for doing such a great job on the health front.
I would also like to mention and thank the Royal Gibraltar Police for making today an extra special day for one of our residents at Dr Giraldi Home who is celebrating his 71st birthday in lockdown, a massive fan of the RGP.
This story will run tonight on GBC News.
Please remember to respect and observe the COVID Rules:
- Good hand hygiene - Washing hands for at least 20 seconds
- Catch it - Bin it - Kill it
My colleague Albert Isola will now talk about our initiatives in support of our valued business community.