Press conference 5 April 2019
Minister for Public Health, Dr John Cortes:
Good afternoon and welcome to No 6 Convent Place for the daily COVID-19 press briefing on this first Sunday of April.
I am joined today by the Director of Public Health Dr Sohail Bhatti.
As we near the end of the second week of lockdown, and on behalf of the Government, I want to thank everyone who does so - the great majority of Gibraltar - for keeping to the rules. And to once again insist to those of you who don’t, that it’s not a choice. It’s an obligation backed by law, backed by common sense, backed by solidarity to the whole community, especially to the elderly.
So please stay at home and if you must go out make sure it’s for a reason provided for in law, and make sure you keep your distance from others.
If you go out for exercise you can run or walk, but please don’t loiter. A walk is not a picnic.
It may not be easy. We all find it hard not to be able to greet our family and friends, with a handshake, a hug or a kiss, but it is necessary. The virus can be kept at bay, but only by keeping to the rules. In this way, we can each of us save lives.
Now this is important: The weather will turn for the better soon and Easter weekend is coming. Traditionally that is the start of when we go to the beach. Well, sadly, not this year.
The beaches have not been closed as such, but going to the beach in the way that we do is NOT allowed. You can walk along the beach, even go down for a quick swim if that is your preferred form of exercise, but ‘going to the beach’ and spending time there is not allowed under the regulations. It would inevitably lead to close contact between households, including children doing what comes naturally to them, playing with each other. This is just the opportunity that the coronavirus is waiting for to spread and infect many more people. This year’s ‘resfriao de verano’ would be a deadly one.
We must NOT allow this. This must not be abused. If we find that it is being abused we may be forced to close the beaches altogether. We don’t want to do this and it would be unfair on those who keep the rules. But we will if we have to. We must keep ahead of the virus and we must save lives.
Many people have been thanked many times in these briefings and I echo all those thanks - to the GHA and ERS, the emergency and support services, teachers, MOD, volunteers.
I want to thank also those other who are still at work, including those working from home and those still attending their usual work place, including my staff throughout my Ministry in Environment, Heritage, Culture and of course Public Health, for keeping Gibraltar going. Those in offices, public buildings, in restaurants doing the cooking for delivery and and the delivery services themselces, even those in shops who provide delivery services so we can procure items that we need in order to keep some semblance of normality in our day to day lives.
And always in the background, to the wider Public Service. The Chief Secretary and his team, including Human Resources who have been working so hard in deploying and redeploying staff. To heads of department and their teams. In my own area, all those at Environment including the Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Environmental Agency, as well as horticultural, cleaning and other contractors. They have been all continuing with their own important work, including looking after our planted areas, looking after the macaques, controlling the gulls, refuse collection, street cleaning and the patrolling of BGTW, with the Department also liaising with supermarkets and wholesalers ensuring that we have the supplies we need and also dealing with the unpleasantness of ensuring we have capacity for burials.
To all of them - to the whole community, renewed and continuing thanks.
It’s important, I think, to keep reminding ourselves about our state of readiness.
I visited the Nightingale facility at Europa a few days ago and was amazed at the progress to absolute readiness that had been made there since my earlier visit just a little over a week before. It was impressive, and the energy I could see in the place, including the training that was going on, was inspiring.
At the same time it was scary. I really don’t want to see it put to any use at all - but it brings home the fact that we are in danger still.
But we are ready: as Dr Rawal said yesterday we have an incredible number of beds available: 132 at St Bernard’s, 190 at Nightingale ward and 16 at the elderly residential sites making a total of 338. That is completely unprecedented for Gibraltar.
And as of today, we have 55 ventilators as well as other devices to supply oxygen.
Our visiting expert Prof Ian Cumming, told me just a few days ago that we were far better prepared in Gibraltar that they were in the U.K.
That is the result of the detailed planning and hard work of those involved and of the whole community.
I will now share the information on A&E.
In the 24 hours to 8.30 this morning, there had been 39 attendances in total at A&E. Of these, 4 had COVID symptoms, 3 of those attended during the day, and one during the night. All were swabbed. Two were admitted.
And now for the COVID Test results.
Excluding random samples:
Total swabs 1001
Results pending 202
Results received 799
Confirmed cases 102
Active cases 50
Recovered cases 52
Swabs taken 344
Results pending 230
Results received 114
We have therefore now taken a total of 1345 swabs - I believe about the third highest per capita in the world.
As you know there are scientific and statistical experts analysing the data that are emerging. My colleague Gilbert Licudi gave more information about this yesterday. Having looked at the latest information a few trends appear to be emerging.
One is the fact that the number of persons who have recovered has at least for now overtaken the number of people still with an active infection.
Significantly perhaps the rate of increase in the number of positives detected seems to be dropping, a drop which seemed to start around the time of lockdown. This is what we mean when we say we want to flatten the curve.
BUT, it is too early to confirm this and, as I say every time, this is not a trigger for complacency. Quite the contrary, if the trend is true, it is proof that we MUST take the measures we are taking and that we MUST stay at home.
If something is working, that is the main reason to keep at it.
It’s somewhat similar to say, starting a course of antibiotics. They start to work, you start feeling better, then you don’t finish the course and the infection comes back with a vengeance. WE MUST FINISH THE COURSE!
So, if the strategy IS working, that is the main reason for keeping at it. The virus lurks. It is lurking, it is there, awaiting its opportunity to infect, to hurt, and to kill.
We will still have more cases and we will still have deaths. We cannot escape that reality.
Thank you everyone for allowing us into your homes this Sunday afternoon.
Stay at home. Stay safe. Keep the rules and obey the law. Do this for the health services and do it for the elderly as well as for the rest of us.
Call 111 if you have symptoms. Call 20041818 if you have other concerns.
There’s a deadly virus lurking. Don’t play it’s game. Don’t spread it. Let’s defeat it.
Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives.