Good afternoon and welcome to No6 Convent Place for this afternoon’s daily Press Conference.
The number of samples for COVID-19 taken in Gibraltar to date is 2,626.
We have received 2,407 results and those show 13 active cases out of 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date.
That is an increase of three cases.
No one is in hospital with COVID-19 today in any ward or indeed in the ICU.
Our Nightingale Ward remains available but empty.
My dear friends
On the 17th of March I stood before you and announced that we would lockdown our over 70s for their own protection.
On 22nd of March I stood before you and announced that we would implement a Social lockdown for all our community.
You have done a magnificent job of working with our law enforcement agencies in keeping to the lockdown.
You will have to do so for a little longer still.
Because we cannot yet say that our lockdown has worked.
But we can say that our lockdown is working.
We have succeeded in reducing the rate of community infections.
We have succeeded in ensuring that the GHA has not been overwhelmed by patients requiring care for COVID-19.
We have succeeded in rolling out a programme to protect businesses and employees in our economy.
But I know that the social need to relax the lockdown is greater each day.
And the potential long term public health risk of continual extensions of lockdown also give rise to their own risks.
And the potential long term economic damage is worse each day that passes.
But any relaxation of the lockdown regulations creates a likelihood of increased community infections of COVID-19.
For that reason, the pace of relaxation of the lockdown will have to be gradual.
It will have to be prudent.
It will have to be closely controlled.
And social distancing will be here to stay for the foreseeable future.
As a community, we have done a great job to date.
We calibrated our lockdown to be less tough than in most other places.
That means that we have allowed throughout some of the things which are only now being permitted in other places where lockdowns are being relaxed.
Yesterday we saw our over 70s out doing exercise.
Today, I am going to announce a measure of relaxation which will come into effect as from the 2nd of May.
But our approach will continue to be to prioritise public safety and security by seeking to continue to suppress the spread of the virus as much as possible.
This will mean that restrictions will be removed gradually, prudently and asymmetrically.
There is no ‘off switch’ that can be pressed that will provide a safe and secure immediate return to ‘normality’ as it was before the lockdown.
In addition, the ‘unlocking’ will require great amounts of sampling and testing.
That is how we will identify and isolate both asymptomatic and symptomatic infected persons who may otherwise spread the virus more widely.
Without a vaccine or a medicine, the advice which is received by the Government is that these are the new mechanisms which must be put in place for ‘normal life’ return.
Totally isolating those who have come into contact with the virus for a short period.
Because we have to be clear that we are going to move to a stage now when we are going to be living with the virus.
Remember that the lockdown was not intended to pretend that it was possible to achieve the elimination of the virus by keeping the population in lockdown.
So we are going to need the cooperation of members of the public, including our non-resident, working population, on testing.
We will also require cooperation for effective contact-tracing, data-sharing and self-isolation.
Only in this way can we start the process of easing lockdown further.
All of this will be set out in great detail in a master document on how we UNLOCK THE ROCK.
This will be a fluid document which sets out a route map out of lockdown.
But as the understanding of the virus and the effects of easing lockdown becomes apparent, our route map and our master document may also have to change.
Our strategy has to be fluid not rigid.
And that is what our size enables us to be.
We can be nimble in a way that larger countries cannot be.
And we will be telling you clearly what our plans are.
And when our plans change, we will be telling you clearly why our plans have changed.
So that you have the confidence that you are getting all your information from a trusted source.
So an end to confinement will come.
But it will come with the start of a new way of living.
In every instance, activity will return to each sector strictly subject to the observation of the rules of social distancing.
For now, we will be able to start to slowly unlock the Rock in some areas of business activity.
But we recognise that some of these areas will need to restart very slowly.
So, despite the unlocking of these areas, they will still be considered “included” for the purposes of the BEAT COVID Measures and will still be able to claim the minimum wage payment for employees that might remain inactive.
And all the measures which we announced were in place to relieve all businesses for April will continue in place for May.
Let me now take you through some of the relaxation measures which we will now implement.
First let me turn to the retail sector.
Shops which have been closed by the regulations will be able to re-open as from Saturday 2nd May.
In order to be able to re-open, retailers will need to put in place measures to comply with the rules of social distancing.
This may mean that fewer people can be inside a shop at any one time and queuing outside must be properly managed also.
Where the rules of social distancing cannot be observed, masks will have to be worn by staff members in retail outlets.
Retail outlets will have to provide sanitising gels at places of access and egress to shops.
Shops will only be able to open, initially from 1000hrs until 1730hrs.
Offices and premises operated as Estate Agents will have to ensure social distancing but can also re-open as from the 2nd May.
When showing properties, social distancing must be observed by Estate Agents also and it is advisable that, inside properties, face masks should be worn.
Construction sites have remained open in the United Kingdom and Spain (subject to a hiatus of some weeks) whilst in Gibraltar they have been largely closed.
Only some sites will have remained opened and these have required a permit from the Chief Technical Officer in order to operate.
At the moment, Gibraltar is the only, or one of the only, European jurisdictions where construction remains closed.
More construction sites will be able to re-open with a permit from the Chief Technical Officer as from Monday 4th May.
These will be sites that are self-contained.
Operation of construction sites will be subject to a permit that will provide very strict controls about access and operation.
Construction workers will have to remain on site and move from their homes (or, where, relevant, from their point of entry in Gibraltar) to the site.
Construction workers will not be permitted to leave construction sites during their working hours.
Deliveries required for the operation of construction sites will have to be arranged with those supplying materials so that they can be delivered by employees who will not be exposed to those working on site.
Interaction on construction sites will have to be – insofar as possible – in keeping also with the rules of social distancing.
Where the rules of social distancing cannot be observed, masks will have to be worn even if work is being carried out in the open air.
Additionally, access to all construction sites by employees will require a control of the temperature of all employees on a daily basis.
Any employee who registers a high temperature will have to be tested and will have to self-isolate until test results are available.
Minor works inside homes or office buildings will still not be permitted.
We are re-opening self-contained construction sites only.
Shipbuilding and Ship Repair
Shipbuilding and ship repair will be permitted from Wednesday 6th May but only with strict observation of the rules of social distancing and the wearing of masks.
Additionally, access to all ship repair sites by employees will require a control of the temperature of all employees on a daily basis on the same basis as those accessing construction sites.
Hairdressers, Beauticians etc
Hairdressers and beauticians will be able to commence offering services again on Saturday 2nd May.
Services must be offered on a strictly ‘by appointment’ basis.
This is designed to avoid persons gathering in waiting areas.
Persons providing hairdressing and beautician services will be required to wear masks in order to minimise the possibilities of potentially, unwittingly transmitting infections to clients.
Strict hygiene rules will also be implemented.
Personal trainers will be able to resume work from Saturday 2nd May where their training sessions are held outdoors.
If trainers offer services to more than one client at any time, they must ensure that each person is at least two metres apart.
Large scale random testing will be carried out in each of the sectors which are being eased open.
Gymnasiums must remain closed for now.
The Government expects to be in a better position to re-assess opening of commercial gyms in coming weeks.
Restaurants will have to continue to operate as takeaway only services for now.
Our plan next week will set out in greater detail how they may reopen in future.
Bars, cafeterias, discotheques and night clubs will also have to remain closed for now.
Again, our plan will set out how we address their ability to return to trading in the longer term.
After a pause of three weeks - if we have seen no resurgence of the virus - there can be changes to this approach.
In the Gibraltar Health Authority, as from Monday 4th May waiting list patients will be called and screened.
Lists will be updated.
Relevant urgency levels will be assigned to patients.
And urgent patients will be given appointments for interventions as necessary.
After a pause again of three weeks, other services will be reintroduced.
This is as important to the public health of our nation as the approach to the pandemic.
There will be no change in posture on education for now.
The detailed plan being finalised envisages the first changes three weeks from now starting on the 18th May.
We are working closely with the NASUWT on these issues and want to progress in partnership with that Union on the re-opening of education for our children.
As we do in all sectors and with all unions.
Because we are all in it together.
This is a battle that we will win as one Gibraltar.
And that is why we have worked with Opposition colleagues in the past weeks and will continue to do so going forward.
I have today been in touch with Leader of the Opposition, as I have in past days, on these unlocking mechanisms.
We worked on lockdown together.
It is right that we should work on unlocking the Rock together also.
And I expect that in the last week of May, we will be able to hold a session of Parliament, although it may not be as extensive as it usually is.
But it will be important to see our democracy starting up as much as it is important to see our economy starting up.
Next week, our fuller plans will be approved by the Cabinet and will then be published in greater detail.
For now, we are moving in a direction which is the one we all want to see.
But we are taking small steps.
We cannot do more at this stage if we are going to be as gradual in the approach that we want to take.
And as we take small steps we recognise that for businesses this will be far from business as usual.
For now, we will continue to offer our BEAT COVID Measures even in the sectors we have started to ease open.
We will also introduce, next week, a new measure we are finalising which will provide for a type of BEAT COVID Measure in the excluded sector also.
On reflection, it may be that bringing about the lockdown and holding the virus at bay in March and April may turn out to be the easiest part of this process.
Because it is clear that the gradual re-opening will be very hard indeed.
Tomorrow is Workers’ Day.
The 1st of May.
Each year since I was elected we have enjoyed fun days and speeches on the 1st May.
Tomorrow, we must celebrate the sacrifice workers have made in the past in their fight for rights at work.
And in particular, we must celebrate that the safety of workers and the rights of workers are as much the guiding principles for the community’s return to economic activity as anything else.
Yesterday, GBC held an ad hoc version of its Open Day.
I want to thank all at GBC who made the effort to produce that special day of entertainment on radio and television.
I want to especially thank them for having collected £168,000.00 for the GHA.
That is a remarkable achievement of which they should be rightly proud.
It has raised the morale of the whole nation.
I think it has also raised the morale of those working on the front line in our health services.
Thank you to all.
My dear fellow Gibraltarians.
We are still in lockdown.
The rules have not changed.
There may be more shops open as from Saturday.
But normality has not yet returned.
Remember that there are now 3 million people infected with the virus in the world.
More Americans have died in the United States ofthe virus than died in the Vietnam War.
More people have died in the United Kingdom from the virus than died in the Blitz.
So please understand that we are still in the grips of danger and the steps we are taking are small steps.
Prudent and careful steps.
Do not see them as a licence to just go out as normal.
You must still not leave your home unless you are going to work, to shop, to exercise or for other reasons provided for in the law.
And if you can continue to work from home, please do so.
Please help us by continuing to observe the law.
Please help yourselves by continuing to observe the law.
Show your solidarity with our health workers and our law enforcement agencies by continuing to observe the law.
We are still not stepping back from the declaration of a Major Incident.
Command Structures will continue in place for now.
But further relaxations of the law will come as long as we do not see spikes in the infection rate and our Health Authority being overwhelmed.
For now, we must hold on for a little longer.
I especially want to thank families of people with disabilities.
I know this time is especially hard for you.
Today, as we start to ease the lockdown we can all crack a smile.
But we cannot get over confident.
We cannot yet let down our guard.
In weeks to come, if things go well, we will all smile again.
From ear to ear.
With our loved ones.
With our friends.
And with our Gibraltar once again open for business, for leisure and for fun.
But not yet.
Thank you for your attention.
I will now take questions from the media at No6 Convent Place and from those who are joining us virtually.