Font size





Government of Gibraltar Logo Government of Gibraltar Logo

Press Conference - 24th April 2020

April 24, 2020


Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Information Dr Joseph Garcia



Good afternoon.

Thank you for joining us for our daily briefing.

COVID-19 is still out there.

Our objective remains to keep you safe.

And also to keep you informed.


we will again repeat our public health message.

I am joined today

by the Acting Medical Director Dr Krish Rawal.



I will start with an update from A&E and with the latest test data.

Remember that anyone with the symptoms of COVID-19 should call 111 first.

In the last 24 hours there were a total of 36 attendances at A&E.


Ten of them had COVID symptoms.


Five were swabbed.


There was one admission to the COVID CCU.


And three admissions to John COVID Ward.


This morning those test results were being awaited.


The latest data is as follows:


Total swabs 2105

Results pending 74

Results received 2031


Confirmed 133

Active 2

Recovered 131


The two active cases are at home.



The grand total of 2105 tests so far is some 6.6% of the population.

In terms of tests done per capita (million),

Gibraltar is now ranked fifth in the world.

Behind Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Falkland Islands and the United Arab Emirates.

And in front of Malta, Luxembourg, Bahrain, San Marino and Estonia.

These are presently the global top ten.



The Cabinet met this morning,

for the third time this week.

Ministers continue to review the situation here.

And to look closely at what is happening elsewhere.

Coronavirus COVID-19 is new.

We have said this many times.

Studies, tests and trials are underway.

That science will determine how we react.

In turn,

the science will determine the advice we give to you.

And clearly that advice must be tailored to Gibraltar.


as the science moves the advice may also move.

This means that things can change.

The World Health Organisation itself has made it clear.

Bearing that in mind,

the Cabinet today went over elements of relaxation from lockdown;

in relation to education;

in relation to business; and

in relation to those over 70.

A draft paper will be prepared over the weekend.

And discussed at Cabinet on Monday.

It will also be discussed with the Opposition.

An announcement will be made when that process is complete.



I said that Gibraltar has had a total of 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

61 male and 72 female.

It is relevant to break that number down further by age.

27 patients were in the 0-30 age bracket.

This is 20% of the total.

66 patients were in the 31-50 age bracket.

This is the largest single group of 50%.

32 patients were in the 51-70 age bracket.

Or 24% of the total.

And of the 133,

Only 8 patients were over 70.

This is 6% of the total.

Less people have been infected in the over 70 category than in any other.

The reason for this is the action taken to protect them.

Swift and decisive action.

Early on.

You will recall that

on 11 March we advised the elderly to stay at home.

This was the prelude to a complete lockdown.

A number of conditions have now been met.

So options are being explored

to allow those over 70 to exercise outdoors.

We have shared some of those ideas with you.

These are still under review.

But whatever may be agreed going forward,

the advice is the same.

You will always be safer at home.

Despite the numbers,

there is no room for complacency.

We are not out of the woods yet.



Moving on,

I am pleased to announce a new initiative,

in my capacity as the Minister with responsibility for the Gibraltar National Archives.

This will be interesting for the community as a whole.

In particular for the over 70s.

Over the years,

many have enjoyed the exhibitions organised by the archives.

These have commemorated important historical anniversaries.

The 75th anniversary of VE Day is in two weeks time.

On the 8th May.

Given that we are in lockdown,

an exhibition to mark the occasion has had to be postponed.

We will aim to hold it later this year.

The elderly often make use of the Archives.

Both physically on-site and virtually on-line.

The team at the Archives have worked hard.

And more material has been placed on the website.

Even though staff have been deployed to the Field Hospital.

Some of this work has been done from home.

Over thirty videos are now available.

These cover:

the wartime evacuation,

the 1967 referendum,

the closure of the border,

and different periods in our history.

A short feature called

“Gibraltar Britain’s £ 50m Fortress”

is part of this new collection.

This footage dates back to 1911.

And is considered to be,

one of the earliest film clips of Gibraltar.

I urge everyone young and old to have a look.

Watch this and other videos during lockdown.

They can be found on the archives website.

This is

Many thanks to Anthony Pitaluga and his team.




COVID-19 continues its ferocious rampage through the planet.

And Gibraltar is not an island.

We have been relatively spared so far.

But we do not exist in a vacuum.

We are connected by land to Spain.

And by air to the United Kingdom.

This makes it important to monitor what happens in both.

Sadly, the death toll in the UK continues to rise.

Now to over 18,000 people.

However, the number of UK air arrivals is very low.

Only 78 passengers flew into Gibraltar last week.

And 70 flew out.

The same week last year saw over 5000 passenger arrivals.

And a similar number of departures.

Yesterday a passenger was sent back to the UK.

He was in transit to Spain.

For this a residence permit is required.

He carried a photo of his Spanish residence permit on his phone.

But not the actual document.

However, there were extenuating factors.

The BCA discussed the case with the Spanish authorities.

And the passenger will be able to return and cross into Spain today.

Once the permit was verified.

The lifeline service to Heathrow remains important.

For persons, post and goods.



As we know,

even more have lost their lives in Spain than in UK.

Now sadly over 22,000 persons.

Co-operation with Spain has been sensible and positive.

We have helped each other when we needed to.

And put people before politics.

That is how it should be.

Even more so in the face of a global pandemic.

That is still killing thousands by the day.

COVID-19 has been the subject of the Chief Minister’s conversations,

with the Foreign Minister of Spain;

with the Interior Minister;

with the President of Andalucia;

and with the Mayor of La Linea.

By air,

Spain has assisted with passengers bound for Gibraltar stranded in Malaga.

By land,

they have helped exceptional cases to cross in either direction.

I just gave an example of this.

And goods continue to flow in through the border.

Indeed, last week alone 616 trucks came in through the East Gate.

Many countries are discussing release from lockdown.

Spain is itself taking small steps.

Children will be able to leave their homes.

And exercise outdoors will be allowed.

Both are already possible here.

Others are taking steps too.

Denmark, for example, has opened primary schools.

Clearly, Spain is more relevant to us than Denmark

as we look to relax lockdown.

Because it will have a direct impact upon us.

There are small blessings though.

Andalucia is not one of the worst affected regions.

In turn,

Cadiz is one of its least affected provinces.

And in the Campo, the virus has hit less severely

than in other places.

Although there was a surge yesterday.

Spain continue to face a serious situation.

And Spain is important because of frontier flow.

That flow has reduced considerably.

From 36,300 a day to 1750.

It is now under 5% of what it once was.


a release from lockdown may lead to an increase in numbers.

In numbers infected.

And in numbers crossing.

That is why we need to proceed very carefully.

And to monitor closely what happens next door.



COVID-19 represents a danger to life.

We know that.

The spread of infection is fast.

And the consequences deadly.

Particularly for those in the high-risk category.

This is what has happened elsewhere.

There are over 2.6 million infected in the World.

And some 182,000 people have lost their lives.

This is tragic.

There have been worse.

Few now recall the so-called Spanish flu.

This pandemic struck from 1918-1920.

After the First World War.

The estimates are that 500 million people were infected.

The Spanish flu caused high mortality.

Particularly among the 20-40 age bracket,

Also among those under 5 and those over 65.

It was the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.

The virus led to secondary bacterial infections.

The top estimate is that up to 50 million people lost their lives.

So 500 million infected and 50 million deaths.

So why the history lesson?

Because the Spanish flu came in two waves.

The second more lethal than the first.

And because there are always lessons to be learnt.

Gibraltar was not immune in 1918.

Far from it.

There were over 600 cases here in the first wave.

This was during the summer.

And 21 people sadly lost their lives.

The second wave hit us from September 1918.

There were then 3000 cases here.

And 111 people passed away.

In Gibraltar.

The crisis continued until December 1918.

I thoroughly recommend Dr Benady’s book on the subject.


That was a different virus.


Medical advances then were not what they are now.

Nonetheless, I use this as a reminder.

That we must not become complacent.

That this is far from over.

And that you must do what we ask you.


The planet may be on the verge of a new era now.

A world of:

Temperature scanners;


Face masks;

Testing; and

Contact tracing.


With new routines of:

Social distancing;




And catch it, bin it, kill it.


These routines will help

And we must all play our part.


How long will this all this last?

The truth is that nobody knows.

None of us.

The World Health Organisation

has made it clear that there is no quick end in sight.

A new virus has created new challenges.

But there is always hope.

Clinical trials of vaccines are being conducted in UK

Anti-viral drugs are being explored.

Testing has been increased.

But there is no quick fix.

No magic wand.

The disruption to our lives is set to continue.

For now,

we need to adapt to this new situation.

This is the new normal.


Be strong.

Be sensible.

Be patient.

Be considerate.

Be careful.

And stay safe.



Before passing on to Dr Rawal, let me repeat our public health advice once again.


  1. Listen and act on the advice of our public health experts.


  1. When you sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue and then bin it.


  1. Wash your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds.


  1. Do not visit anyone over 70.


  1. If you are over 70 or vulnerable please stay at home.


  1. If you need medical advice call 111.


  1. If you have any other question call 200 41818.


  1. And for emergencies, call 190 or 199.


  1. Stay home, Stay Alive.


I now pass you on to Dr Rawal.


Any questions.


  • Tomorrow my colleague the


Minister for Health Paul Balban


and the


Director of Public Health Dr Sohail Bhatti


Will be here to address you and answer questions.


  • Remember – Follow Public Health advice.