Monday 6/7/20 – Press Room, 6 Convent Place – 11.00am
Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Information Dr Joseph Garcia
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
Welcome and thank you for joining me
for our weekly briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gibraltar continues in Phase 5 this week.
And remains on target for Rock Unlock on 1 August.
So we are in a good place.
Together, we defeated COVID-19 in round one.
The number of active cases remains very low.
But we must still remain vigilant.
Please bear in mind that this is not over.
We remain in a public health emergency.
The global pandemic continues to rage.
And everything here can change very quickly.
Gibraltar continues to de-escalate.
We are paused but poised.
And we stand better prepared to face COVID-19
than ever before.
So if a second wave comes our way.
Gibraltar is ready for it.
As you know,
190 beds remain in place in the sports hall at Europa.
Those can be activated in 72 hours.
A further 110 beds can be added within days if needed.
So we maintain a state of readiness.
But we continue to de-escalate at the same time.
The GHA clinical restart plan continues to move forward.
There are now more face to face appointments,
more screening appointments, and
more routine surgeries are being carried out.
This new posture brings new practices.
Social distancing continues to be observed.
And there are gaps between one appointment and the next.
The objective at the GHA is a return to full clinical activity by 1 August.
This is in line with Rock Unlock.
There has been change in other areas too.
The Swab Preparation Administrative Team have been relocated.
They have moved to the Europa Point Sports Complex.
The main call centre 20041818 is also moving there from Bayside School.
This call centre is now working from 8.00am until 2.30pm as part of the de-escalation.
It remains the focal point for non-medical COVID-19 queries.
And will soon take on a new role.
All areas continue to de-escalate in accordance with approved plans.
This brings me to the latest test data.
Total swabs 14,646
Results pending 10
Results received 14,636
Confirmed Cases 179
Recovered Cases 176
Active Cases in Gibraltar 2
Non-resident active cases detected here 1
The active cases are all at home.
The results of swabs are awaited from two patients.
And there are now a total of 57 persons in self-isolation.
I want to give more details about the testing programme.
There are two types.
The first is the diagnostic swabbing.
This takes place at the GHA laboratory
at St Bernard’s Hospital.
It covers persons who turn up at A&E;
patients in wards;
GHA staff screening;
and contacts on day 10 of isolation.
The second type is the frontline, targeted and systematic sampling
of persons with no symptoms.
This is conducted by Public Health Gibraltar
at their laboratory.
And it now stands at 6682 tests.
It has confirmed 33 positives in total so far.
That figures reflects the low incidence of COVID-19 in Gibraltar.
It also confirms that there are people around us,
albeit not many,
who may look and who may feel perfectly fine
but who are still infected.
This testing programme originally covered:
employees in the health and care sector;
the emergency services;
the Ministry of Defence;
the Borders and Coastguards Agency; and
other parts of the public service.
The scope of this testing has been expanded considerably.
62 categories of employees have been tested so far.
Both in the private and in the public sector.
nearly 1000 people in education have been tested;
over 100 restaurant staff;
over 50 in private dental and medical clinics;
over 150 in security companies;
175 at Gibdock; and
44 in construction companies.
Some car dealers, retail, cleaning companies pharmacies, banks, couriers, gyms, accountants, food delivery companies, lawyers, hairdressers, wholesalers and electrical contractors have all been sampled already.
As I said, there are 62 such categories.
This wide sample will reassure the community at large.
It will also reassure visitors.
Now that our tourist sites have re-opened today,
and as our shops and restaurants settle down
to the new normality.
60 staff at Gibair have already been tested.
13 staff at Gibraltar Air Terminal Ltd.
And 41 hotel staff as well.
In these tourism-related areas all the tests have come back negative.
Our proud message to visitors is that
our country is safe.
And we want it to stay that way.
TEST NUMBERS AND LEVELS
Aggressive testing is the key to ensuring that safety.
This is how the virus is hunted down.
Before we isolate it and destroy it.
The numbers tested each month have increased.
There were 741 persons were tested in March;
1930 in April;
5336 in May; and
6234 in June.
The grand total of 14,646 tests so far represents some 46% of the population.
This has made Gibraltar the world leader.
TESTS AVAILABLE FOR THE PUBLIC
I am pleased to announce that Public Health Gibraltar is now going a step further.
Testing will be ramped up even more.
It will be extended to anyone with a GHA card who wants to be tested.
All you have to do is call 20041818 to arrange an appointment.
The swabbing will be carried out at the Drive-Thru facility in Rooke.
This will be accessible by car or on foot at your allotted time.
The result will usually be communicated within 12 hours.
a certificate of COVID testing, to assist with travel requirements, will be provided from here.
The test will be free.
There will be a charge for the certificate later on when that service is introduced.
This testing service is not available for children under the age of 16.
So let me clarify the following.
People with COVID symptoms should still call 111.
Those with no symptoms, who want a test, should call 20041818.
Remember you will need your GHA card number.
This initiative should increase the flow of persons through Rooke.
The aim is that people book early.
In this way, the first batch of swabs can reach the laboratory sooner.
The earlier the test, the earlier you will know the result.
Further details of this new testing programme are being published later today.
DOWNLOAD THE APP
Contact tracing is an important part of this strategy.
is to interrupt the chain of transmission of the virus.
is to identify those who have been in contact with active cases in order to isolate them.
The contact tracing app can speed up this process.
The app will warn anyone who has been near a positive case.
There is always a risk that an infected person may unknowingly go on to infect others.
So the sooner you know, the sooner you can act.
We urge you to download the contact tracing app.
This will let you know quickly.
The infected person will not know who you are.
And you will not know who they are.
There is no storage of data.
a total of 6681 persons have downloaded the app.
The more who download it the better it will work.
It is available on Android and in the Apple Store.
Search for “Beat COVID Gibraltar”.
QUESTION OF RISK
As you know, the Public Health message
has changed as we unlock.
The management of risk is now your responsibility.
This has passed from the Government to the citizen.
And that power of choice continues to move in your direction with each unlocking phase.
So exercise that choice wisely and sensibly.
Put your risk in context.
Each indivdual will see it differently.
Those who are elderly, for example,
or who have underlying health conditions,
will balance their level of risk in a different way.
Those categories still need to take extra care.
There is no vaccine for COVID-19 and no cure.
So the risk to our over 70s still remains.
Please do not get carried away.
As we lose the compulsion of law,
your common sense must take over.
The Government is proud that
most people continue to do the right thing.
sticking to your social bubble;
limiting gatherings to 20 persons;
wearing a face mask where necessary; and maintaining your social distance.
Above all, I repeat, please use your common sense.
I have been asked to remind you of the procedure in place for restaurants, cafeterias and bars.
First, remember that a table must still be pre-booked.
The aim is to reduce the number of people who congregate.
Second, the establishment must request and keep the name and contact number of the person who made the booking.
This is to assist with contact tracing in the event of a positive case of COVID-19.
Third, the size of a party must be limited to a maximum of ten persons per table.
And fourth, establishments must keep a record of staff working in the business.
The objective is to provide a safe environment in which customers can enjoy their meals.
The RGP continue joint patrols with Environmental Health Officers.
Any questions or observations can be put to the Environmental Agency on Tel 20070620.
Please follow the rules.
SPAIN AND THE BORDER
The truth is that ignoring the rules always carries a risk.
The World Health Organisation has highlighted a “significant resurgence” in COVID-19 cases in nearly a dozen European countries.
Spain alone has reported over fifty clusters.
Some precisely because people ignored the rules.
In one case,
over thirty infections, were traced to a family party.
to a passenger flying in from South America.
And in another,
to a player in a baseball team.
The level of risk in Malaga and Granada has increased from low to medium.
There are now 103 cases in Malaga, for example.
Nonetheless, next door,
the Cadiz area of Spain is classified as low risk.
And the Campo area in particular also.
The latest data shows:
10 active cases in Algeciras;
1 in San Roque;
1 in Tarifa; and
zero in La Linea, Los Barrios, Jimena, Castellar and San Martin.
The advice to Gibraltar residents travelling to Spain is to be sensible.
It is important to be familiar
with the rules and regulations across the border.
These are not identical to our own.
And Gibraltar is not an island.
So we need to be aware of the evolution of the pandemic around us.
Indeed, the number of persons crossing the border continues to increase.
In April there were 63,037;
in May 108,283;
and in June 373,168.
The figure for June is still well below June 2019
when over a million persons came in.
We are looking at some 15,000 people and 6,000 vehicles a day.
UK AND AIR BRIDGES
A word now about the United Kingdom.
Air arrivals from Gibraltar no longer need to quarantine on entry into the UK.
But bear in mind that no travel is risk-free.
Particularly during an ongoing pandemic.
You will know that the city of Leicester is in a local lockdown.
Other areas may soon be locked down too.
Make sure that you check the position at your destination before you travel.
And please remember that some rules differ in England to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Air travel to Gibraltar has picked up in June.
There were 25 private aviation movements.
And 17 scheduled flights.
The latter all operated by British Airways
with a 77.9% load factor.
Contact Tracing forms are now handed out for completion by all passengers.
During the month of June,
1962 passengers flew to the UK
and 2296 flew into Gibraltar.
This is some ten times less than last year.
In fact, based on the published schedules of the airlines,
25 BA flights;
96 Easyjet flights; and
8 Royal Air Maroc flights;
were NOT operated in June.
A total of 129 flights.
Like many parts of the world,
the situation has improved slightly
but there is still a long way to go.
it is also important to keep an eye on developments in Morocco.
The number of confirmed cases there is over 13,000.
Sadly, 232 persons have now lost their lives.
Morocco is in total lock-down until Friday.
So there have been no air or maritime communications with Gibraltar.
the Moroccan authorities assisted with the two repatriations of Gibraltar residents who were stranded there.
There are now 6 Gibraltar residents remaining in Morocco.
The total number stranded abroad has dropped from 19 to 16.
This follows the return of 3 residents from India last week.
There are 9 remaining in India, 1 in the Philippines and 6 in Morocco.
So Gibraltar has done pretty well overall.
It is a tragedy that,
the World does not have such a good story to tell.
A million new infections have been reported in a week.
Over two hundred thousand in a single day on Friday.
Eleven million people have been infected.
And over half a million have died.
As you know,
the focus now is on North America and South America.
In particular the United States,
which has surpassed 2.9 million cases
and 132,000 deaths.
Florida, Texas and California have shut down.
Brazil has over 1.5 million cases
and over 63,000 deaths.
Russia and India are also in a difficult situation.
These countries are still in the first round.
But a few days ago,
South Korea officially confirmed a second wave of infections in that country.
Closer to home,
you will know that Lisbon has locked down 19 of its 24 districts.
200,000 people were put on lockdown this weekend in a part of Catalunya.
And 70,000 were locked down yesterday in Galicia.
So the message is that this is not over.
And that as Gibraltar unlocks,
we must continue to take great care.
When this is finally over,
the Government remains committed to a public inquiry.
This will look at way in which the COVID-19 pandemic was handled.
An important objective will be to learn any lessons.
And to establish what could have been done differently.
The record of a number of meetings will be made available to assist the inquiry with that analysis.
This will comprise many hundreds of pages.
Those records will cover meetings of:
the COVID Strategic Group;
the COVID Platinum Command; and
the Gibraltar Contingency Council.
In addition to this, volumes of other information will also be made available.
This will include:
the Common Operating Procedure;
the Daily Situation Reports (SITREP);
the legislative framework; as well as
the Communication and Public Information campaign.
Gibraltar may have stood down from the Major Incident.
But the Public Health Emergency continues.
Gibraltar continues to unlock to a new normal.
On 15 July we will move into Phase 6.
Followed by Rock Unlock on 1 August.
But the way we live and work with COVID-19 will be very different
to the way we have lived and worked before.
Expert advice is that the virus is here to stay.
At least for now.
So we must continue to take sensible precautions in the months ahead.
Even after we have unlocked.
In the meantime, Gibraltar needs your help.
Aggressive testing and
aggressive contact tracing
form the backbone of the new normal.
The only forward is to test, trace and isolate.
So help us to hunt down COVID-19.
Help us to stamp it out.
I would now like you remind you to listen and act on the advice of our public health experts.
- When you sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue and then bin it.
- Wash your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds.
- If you must meet anyone over 70 please take extra precautions.
- If you are over 70 or vulnerable - it’s safer at home.
- Maintain social distancing of 2m.
- Stick to your social bubble of 20 persons or less.
- Wear a mask in enclosed public places where social distancing is not possible.
- If you have COVID symptoms – call 111.
- If you have no symptoms but want a test – call 20041818.
- And remember – please follow the rules.
We will continue to beat COVID together.