Information briefing 3rd May 2020
Hello and good afternoon.
Thank you for joining us for today’s information briefing, I hope that you are safe and well.
Today I am joined by the Commissioner of Police, Ian McGrail, who will no doubt have a lot to say about the enforcement of the lockdown regulations, particularly so over the last few days.
But first today’s statistics:
The COVID-19 figures as at this morning are as follows:
- Total number of swabs taken: 2827
- Confirmed cases so far: 144
That leaves us with 12 confirmed positive cases today.
In the last 24 hours, there have been 26 attendances at A&E - 8 with COVID-19 symptoms, all of whom were swabbed.
There has been 1 admission to the COVID ICU and 4 admissions to the COVID John Ward.
These figures include the new frontline targeted and systematic testing programme where 397 swabs have already been taken. The results I have given show that since yesterday we have had 171 results received with no additional confirmed cases.
Still, we have 141 results pending of which 84 are from the frontline workers targeted and systematic testing.
The aim of this targeted testing, as you know, is to identify the presence of the virus among us by testing individuals who work on the front line as there will be many people who are carrying it who are asymptomatic.
Our numbers in general are still relatively low and manageable, but unless we are careful with how we behave we will spread this. If we spread the virus we are putting lives at risk, especially vulnerable people who are over the age of 70.
It is time to reflect on how we behave. On how we behave when we are out in public because of the effect that this could have on all of us.
Let me start by saying that we continue to be in lockdown.
In the last week you have seen that we have started to relax the lockdown provisions:
- Last week we made provision for people who are over the age of 70 to go out in order to undertake exercise. We have provided safe spaces for them to do so on weekdays during the golden hour, at specified times and specified locations in order to mitigate the risk.
- As of yesterday, businesses have started to operate subject to restrictions and public health measures.
We are starting to unlock the lockdown in a way that is controlled, so that we can measure its impact and it will be reviewed over short periods. Our unlocking measures must be gradual for them to be effective and to avoid our services from being overwhelmed should a surge occur.
This does not mean that the lockdown is over, the lockdown continues and is very much in place.
Our message to you is the same: do not leave home unless you absolutely must.
If you must visit a shop in Main Street to buy something that is non-essential, you must go alone. That is what the law says.
The shops are open, if you must go to a shop, go to the shop and return home. This is not a time to be walking up and down Main Street to socialise. This time will come, but it has not come yet.
It seems that the more often people go out, the more complacent some seem to be. Many forget the social distancing rules, especially when they meet close friends and loves ones and feel tempted to greet each other in our normal warm ways.
The reality is that we are very privileged in Gibraltar. Amongst other things, when it comes to shopping, most cases, we do not even have to go out if we do not want to. So many businesses have changed the way that they sell to us now by delivering to our doorstep. Many continue to offer this service in order to reduce the number of people in shops. We should continue to take advantage of this when it is available and we should continue to shop in this way for now.
The hairdressers are also open for business; to the relief of many I am sure, but their business must be by appointment ONLY. Be sure to call up and make your appointment before visiting your salon. Do not turn up without an appointment and have to hang around outside to wait for a slot, or worse still, hang around town or sit somewhere with a drink if the wait for your hair cut is a long one. These are all breaches of the lockdown regulations.
Breaches of the law have consequences, as I am sure the Commissioner of Police will explain. Is it so hard to get organised, pick up the phone and make an appointment to visit the hairdressers before you go?
These rules are in place to limit the number of people who are out, as well as for the safety of the staff in the establishments that you are visiting.
These same rules apply to beauty salons and estate agents.
Now is not the time to let down our guard. You do not relax and let down your guard when you are at war. This is no different, we are at war with an invisible enemy and we must not let the enemy get the better of us. We have done very well so far and that is thanks to you as a community for following the rules. Let us not lose the battle now.
Our advice to stay home and only go out if it is absolutely necessary, therefore, must continue.
A lot of what we have done hinges on legislation that has had to be drafted specifically for the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
Since February, a dedicated team of Government legal drafters and those who produce our Government Gazette have been working tirelessly on ensuring that our legislation is fit for purpose. To prevent, mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 in Gibraltar to give effect to our Government policy, which is based on scientific and public health advice, in regulations that are made under the Civil Contingencies Act 2007.
The first pieces of legislation regarding COVID-19 were published on the 31st January 2020 by notices to make COVID-19 a notifiable disease. Little did we know back then how much we would have to legislate. Since then we have seen a total of 47 pieces of secondary legislation of varying degrees of length and complexity dealing with the issue.
Most of it has been drafted internally by our lawyers from the Government Law Offices and the Ministry for Justice, usually at short notice, and on many occasions late in the working day. Other Government lawyers have also been involved in drafting legislation where it touches on their particular department.
In many cases the legislative solutions that they have prepared have needed to reflect decisions that have been made that very day by the Government whilst ensuring that they are proportionate and constitutional.
I am grateful to them and to the Attorney General who has personally certified this, for the way that they have been able to adapt to drafting legislation so quickly and well in an area of law that none were experts in a few short months ago.
The need to produce legislation quickly has also meant that there has been a need to publish this at very short notice in the Gibraltar Gazette. This team, a part of the Gibraltar Law Offices, have published the COVID-19 legislation in 28 separate editions of the Gibraltar Gazette, 24 of which have been extraordinary Gazettes. That is not the usual weekly publication of the Gazette. 7 of the publications have taken place after working hours on a weekday and 4 on a weekend or bank holiday. You may have noticed that 5 were published last Friday on the May Day bank holiday. This was required because of the life of the regulations and this meant that most of the team were working with me on this throughout the day of the bank holiday.
Publication involves not just the preparation of the Gazette and the legislation online but also the transposition of any amendments to any other legislation included into the versions of our law on the Laws of Gibraltar website. Again, I thank the staff of the Gibraltar Gazette for being able to turn around the publication of these necessary pieces of legislation at such short notice and outside their usual hours of work.
Thanks to their work we have in place a legislative framework which initially slowed the appearance of the virus in Gibraltar by imposing restrictions on travel from certain countries and requiring self-isolation of those who did return from those places. Imposing a lockdown first on certain business, then on people over the age of 70 and then the whole population. Also imposing price controls on certain items, postponing the referendum and the lottery, creating temporary accommodation for the homeless, changing legal rules regarding certain court services and the registration of births and deaths and creating the BEAT COVID regime.
As we move into a new phase I am certain that we will be able to continue to rely on them to provide the appropriate legislative measures that reflect Government policy and the scientific advice to navigate our way out of this emergency.
I would like to thank the Attorney General and his team of Government lawyers:
Nadia Sisarello Parody
The Gazette Administrative staff Jason Segovia and Wesley Fernandez and Douglas Pitaluga
Before I hand over to the Commissioner of Police, I would like to express my thanks to him, his team and his officers for all the work that they are doing during this time. The Royal Gibraltar Police, who are supported by their colleagues from Customs and Gibraltar Defence Police, have a hard job to do and they do so very well. Please do not make it harder for them than it already is by challenging the lockdown rules. They are there to enforce a law which is for our collective benefit and is designed to save lives. This is a time to respect the law, not to try and find loopholes in it or to try and cheat it.
If you try to abuse or break the rules you are not clever. You are being irresponsible, and you are likely to be putting the rest of us at risk, and not least, will result in adding pressure to the GHA services unnecessarily. Think about that carefully. This is a process; we must be responsible if we want this process to succeed. We are all in this together for the benefit of Gibraltar, especially those who are over the age of 70 who are the ones who are most at risk.
That just leaves me to ask you to ensure that you follow the rules, that you follow public health advice, that you stay home and stay safe. Keep well everyone.
I know pass you over to the Commissioner of Police.
Commissioner of Police
Good afternoon –
In my last address to you all on 21st April 2020, I explained how challenging and complex it was to police the emergency regulations which provide for the community safety measures we are all very aware of.
I say complex because from the very beginning I wanted to strike the right balance of how the theory behind the regulations was to be upheld in actual practice and in a manner which was lawful, proportionate and fair.
I say challenging because as I have said before, in Gibraltar, we police by consent and I’ve had to give very serious consideration to the impact our enforcement activity would have on the legitimacy of the RGP and our relationship with the community.
In a way, policing of the stricter earlier versions of the regulations has been easier to manage. With the gradual lifting of the restrictions I envisage more challenges for policing.
Challenges from members of the public who push boundaries of what Public Health Gibraltar and Government are trying to
achieve. We cannot for a moment lose sight that the existing measures and their gradual unlocking are considered and implemented on public health and economic advice.
During the easing of restrictions I would ask you not to feel sour that it is the police who are telling you what is and what is not allowed.
We are the tool that give effect to what the law states on the advice of Public Health and economists.
We are here to ensure the individual and collective safety of Gibraltar. But what is clear is that this responsibility is very difficult to uphold by ourselves, even with the support of other law enforcement partners.
It is as much the responsibility of businesses and the individuals to support the policing efforts to mitigate the risks of a surge of the virus.
And therefore I will refer to one of the principles of modern day policing created by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, that is 191 years ago, and which still remains ever so relevant today and more so during these times.
The founder of modern policing said ………“the police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
So what did Sir Robert Peel mean when he set forth this principle?
He meant that
(i) The police are members of society (we are all in this together)
(ii) The police are paid to enforce the rules of society
(iii) Everyone (every citizen) has a duty (the duty is incumbent) to follow and to enforce the rules of society
Community welfare and existence refers to those rules which are needed for the good of us all so that we can live together – which is precisely the situation we face today with our Government fluidly issuing and tweaking rules for the benefit of us all as we navigate through the pandemic.
In essence, the founder of the Bobbies said that even though the police are paid to monitor society we are also members of
that society and that everyone has a similar duty.
And so I say, start policing your very own selves so that we, as a society, can pull through this a lot better.
I say this because I strongly sense that many people have formed the mind-set that they are immune to the virus or that it is worth while taking unnecessary risks.
These people will no doubt be the same ones who will offer views that the public health crisis we are ALL living through was inappropriately handled by the authorities when the virus spreads and potentially starts claiming lives.
Regrettably, it seems that the penny will not drop until fatalities begin to occur.
I most sincerely hope that we do not become the victims of our own success after the great community effort displayed to supress the wild spread of the virus.
But if people fail to assume responsibility for their behaviours, ignoring public health advice and abusing the exemptions of the law, COVID-19 will spread and some of us will pay the
price.…..you can ask the Italians that or the north Americans who didn’t take this seriously initially.
What we have noticed since Government announced the easing of some restrictions is that many people have used this opportunity to push through a false sense of security that everything is back to normal when it is not.
There are still many of the restrictions in place; you can only go out to exercise, to go the doctor, to walk a dog, to attend to the care of a vulnerable person…..and now under the easing of restrictions you can also, for example, shop for non-essential goods and attend a hairdresser or barber.
But this does not mean you can show up at the barber’s shop without an appointment - and if asked to move on by a police officer go and sit down in the piazza waiting for your turn which is an hour away.
It does not mean waiting outside a shop whilst your wife or husband or partner does the shopping.
It does not mean relaxing and doing some people watching sat on public benches or gather in groups with people you haven’t seen for a long time and hug and kiss.
It does not mean going down to the small boats marina and hanging about on a berthed boat with a picnic and friends, because we are treating this area like a car park.
What it does mean is “go to shop, buy what you need and get back home”….. “have you haircut by all means, and then go back home.”
Do not remain wandering around the streets - do not head off to the beaches or up the rock because we are controlling access.
I have said it all along, we fully understand the stresses the restrictions bring on us. Enforcement is not our preferred option but we will process people if they do not take heed of instructions or requests made by officers.
The following is the latest data up to 8am today relating to the interventions our hard working officers have made with regards to breaches of the COVID19 regulations.
These statistics cover the period of 23rd March to 0800hrs today 3rd May:
Overall total of interventions stands 965 which I can break down as follows;-
48 persons have been arrested.
12 have been reported for process
83 persons taken home in accordance with the powers conferred by the regulations
438 were requested home
384 have been warned and offered advice.
From the overall total of 965 there were 216 that over 70 –please bear mind that the data in this regard includes the period before the restrictions for the over 70s were modified to allow for exercise.
When providing you with these figures, I want you to know our officers do not turn up for duty to spoil your day or infringe on your rights. We are here to help our beloved Gibraltar come out of this in the best possible way.
In addition to the interventions I have referred to, we are constantly dealing with other crimes and calls for our services - and I must say officers are responding to these admirably.
Many a times we draw comparisons with policing in the United Kingdom – and indeed we are modelled as such.
I am in close communication with our counterparts in both the UK and across the border and can proudly say, the manner in which the officers of the RGP and partner agencies have stepped up to the plate during these times stands out remarkably when compared to these other nations.
Yes, we are a smaller jurisdiction but we feature as the police force with the lowest percentage record of sickness absence in the whole of the UK and overseas territories and crown dependencies. Our sickness absence averages 2% where the UK average is 10%
I am told that the levels for the GDP and HM Customs are also very low which is extremely encouraging.
I want to thank ALL our law enforcement officers and support staff who operate behind the scenes…….. our front line officers, supervisors, , planners, admin staff, commanders, our media team. A great all round effort indeed.
Before I finish my address, I want to highlight another seemingly silent risk that is out there and which should remain very prominent in the minds of parents and guardians of young children.
I know during these times of being asked to remain at home our nerves and patience can be tested to great lengths. But I would ask that you do not drop the guard on what your kids are doing on-line.
Who are they accepting as friends on FaceBook, Tik Tok, Instagram and the likes? Who is following them? Who are they engaging with? What sites are they visiting? What apps are they using?
Your child may be a teenager who thinks he/she are adult enough, but the reality is they need your wisdom and guidance.
Talk frankly to your children about issues related to health, well-being, body image and sexuality on-line, as well as bullying and posting hurtful or misleading comments.
Make you child aware of the dangers of sexting and inappropriate use of webcams. There are predators out there, and some so called friends that are not really friends, when they share compromising selfies.
Give your child control of their own budget to download apps/music, but equally it’s okay to agree boundaries so they manage their money responsibly.
Don’t give children access to your payment card or other financial details.
It is important to stay safe and stay at home, but it is also very important to stay safe on-line.
Thank you for your attention.