CHIEF MINISTER’S SCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE 6th APRIL 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening, welcome to No6 Convent Place.
Thank you very much for joining us once again, this afternoon, for our daily press conference.
This afternoon, I am going to go through the new, updated statistics for the progress of the COVID-19 disease through our community.
Then, I am going to address matters related to those statistics and how we are seeing them develop in our community.
I am then going to tell you about matters relating to our business and employees scheme the BEAT COVID Measures as well as identifying issues, which we see arising in that respect.
And this morning after a meeting of the Cabinet we reached certain conclusions that I want to make you aware of.
I will also end my first part of my intervention this afternoon with a reference to the affliction of the Prime Minister in the the United Kingdom and the remarks made yesterday night by Her Majesty the Queen.
The test data as at 8.30 this morning is as follows:
I am giving you the grand total first.
This includes the random test samples.
Total swabs (including random) 1387
Results pending 355
Results received amount to 1032
Covid-19 positive confirmed 109
In terms of the random sample alone, the updated numbers are as follows:
Random swabs taken 391
Random swabs pending 207
Random swabs received 184
So generally, of the now active cases, which are 57:
49 are at home.
There are 3 cases are in ERS.
And there 3 cases are in John Ward.
There are 2 cases with confirmed COVID-19 in the COVID ICU at the moment.
Importantly, you can see from the ongoing results in respect of the random test that we are carrying out, that the rate of infection in our community in a random sample at the moment, is at about 2% of those that have been returned.
I expect that this week we will be able to share with you more information, perhaps in graphic form, of how the virus has spread and what we think the ‘curve’ may now look like for Gibraltar.
The initial predictions we had were based on data from outside of Gibraltar with no preventative action on Government’s part.
Current predictions now have the benefit of our own data and follow a number of measures such as the lockdown of over 70s, the restaurant lockdown and subsequently, the general social lockdown.
So we are now in a better position to have more accurate predictions.
There is also a real suggestion that our measures are working.
The previous predictions were that by 5th April, we would have had 592 cases instead of 109 cases that I have been able to report to you this afternoon.
So, this is the difference that our legally enforced changes in public behaviour are making and have made.
Turning now to our BEAT COVID-19 Measures, I can tell you that the legislation we are working on should be ready in the course of the next couple of days.
This has been a huge exercise on which many branches of Government have cooperated and, indeed, the Government has cooperated closely, with the Official Opposition.
In fact, I want to thank the Office of the Commissioner of Income Tax and the Director of Employment and the Financial Secretary for the work that they have been doing over the weekend on the detail of the many thousands of applications that we have received.
The work has been ongoing in respect of the claims already made. To date, we have received 556 company applications in respect of 3,941 employees and 244 applications by self-employed individuals.
We are starting to see details, which suggest that there is an attempt to abuse these measures.
I have already made very clear, we will not tolerate any abuse. I have said we will come down like a ton of bricks on anybody who tries to make a claim which is not legitimate.
We will come down like a ton of bricks on anybody who makes a claim that is not legitimate and we have already identified a number of such claims which will lead us to further investigate attempts to abuse the BEAT COVID Measures.
If you do not need to make a claim for BEAT COVID benefits, do not make a claim for BEAT COVID benefits.
Also let me tell you, I am extraordinarily proud of the way the Public Sector has stepped forward, our Law Enforcement Agencies, our Public Sector as a whole, in particular ERS and the Gibraltar Health Authority have done a remarkable job of preparing Gibraltar for the potential onset of a surge in the pandemic through our community.
But I have also identified pockets of those who do not want to cooperate, who want to find every excuse to do less instead of stepping up to do more.
That, we will also not tolerate.
I am sure that everyone in our community will expect that I should deal with that in exactly the same way as we would deal with any other attempt to abuse.
At this time, I am hoping that I have misinterpreted some of what I am being told about some pockets in our Public Sector. Indeed, some very, very minor pockets of our Gibraltar Health Authority.
If I have not misinterpreted, the community will expect me to deal with those who are failing to step up in the way that everyone would expect in this very difficult moment in our history.
Let me turn now to the relevant decisions of the Cabinet this morning.
This morning we had a video meeting of the Cabinet.
We are looking carefully at all aspects of the COVID pandemic.
We have been very alive to the issues being faced by all of you in relation to the lockdown.
We are particularly aware of the issues being faced by families with children with autism and other conditions.
We also note how difficult the confinement is for our over 70s.
We are doing this to protect you above everyone else.
For everyone, we realise this is hard and must not last one minute longer than is necessary.
We have agreed in the Cabinet today to establish a Public Inquiry once we declare that the emergency is over.
This will be an essential part of how we learn of what we have done right and what we have done wrong in this uncharted territory.
We will learn for an early repeat if necessary.
And we will record and learn for future governments of relevant matters for our historic record as a community.
This will guide us also in respect of how we fashion a better GHA for the future and a better public service generally and indeed, a better Gibraltar.
Additionally, we are going to have a more introspective Task Force established.
This will be called TASK FORCE RESTART AND RECOVER and it will work in parallel to Task Force Future.
RESTART AND RECOVER will be looking at national issues and public sector issues generally.
We need to be ready to look after our public sector staff as they come down from the emergency and the Major Incident.
And we need to take forward the things that this emergency has taught us.
And not least, we need to look at how we are going to loosen the lockdown, how we emerge from it as an administration and how we use this challenge of today to make us stronger tomorrow.
I have already informed the Leader of the Opposition of these decisions and have advised him that I will be looking to ensure that we try to agree the terms of reference of the public inquiry.
I will also seek and welcome Opposition input on our RESTART AND RECOVER initiative as we have on Task Force Future.
Finally, in the United Kingdom we have seen a new Leader of the Labour Party elected.
I have written to my old friend, Kier Starmer and to other members of the Shadow Cabinet to congratulate them on their appointments.
I have also been in touch with electronically with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to wish him a speedy recovery on behalf of the Government and People of Gibraltar.
Boris Johnson has been good to Gibraltar and I know you will all want to join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.
Finally, yesterday night we were able to see on GBC the address by Her Majesty the Queen to the whole of the UK family, of which we are a part, and the Commonwealth.
Her Majesty said that “[she hoped that] in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”
I have written to Her Majesty today to thank her for her message and to assure her that the British Gibraltarians will remain as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar on which we live and that we will never fail her.
We too will succeed in this challenge as we stand with the People of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in seeing off the worst effects of this disease.
With that, I will now pass over to Dr Rawal who will address you on matters relating to the GHA.