COVID-19 – Weekly Press Conference
Monday 8/6/20 – 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 us
for our second COVID-19 weekly briefing.
As the Chief Minister said last week,
the Major Incident has come to an end.
But we remain in a Public Health Emergency.
This means that we must continue to act responsibly.
Both for our own safety and for the safety of others.
Today I want
to update you on the progress of unlocking;
to explain some of the action we are taking; and
to repeat important guidance and advice.
That advice has changed as we de-escalate.
During lockdown the message was blunt and simple.
As we unlock,
that message has become more nuanced,
and more refined.
It is no longer black and white.
This mirrors the position all over Europe.
These weekly briefings serve to remind everyone of what their country expects of them.
That we are all part of Team Gibraltar.
And that Team Gibraltar now counts on you.
More than ever.
We look to you
to exercise common sense;
to remember your civic duty;
and to maintain the discipline shown so far.
Gibraltar is now de-escalating across the board.
This does not mean the pandemic is over.
It means we move to a different posture.
A posture where we remain prepared.
And one where we continue to follow the rules.
As you know,
the COVID Critical Care Unit has closed.
John Ward, which was the COVID Ward, has reverted to its former rehabilitation role.
The Nightingale facility at Europa Point has been partially decommissioned.
However, 190 beds will remain in place for now.
As a precaution.
This decision will be reviewed in December.
Those 190 beds can be activated in 72 hours.
And, if needed, a further 110 beds can be added within a week.
It is better to be prudent at this stage.
The Garrison Gym,
which served as a shelter for the homeless, has now closed down.
And Elderly Residential Services has submitted and approved a de-escalation plan.
This will allow a cautious and phased return of services and visitors.
The Housing Department has adopted a staggered de-escalation plan too.
This is in respect of the senior citizen accommodation blocks.
Records of visitors may still be taken for the purposes of contact tracing.
On Friday, the volunteer service came to an end.
Most volunteers are now back at work.
You will recall there were over 1100.
They processed some 1600 requests.
And they answered over five thousand (5653) telephone calls.
Thank you to everyone.
Service users are now being told to return to the system they used pre-lockdown.
The involvement of the Ministry of Defence has also scaled down.
We have worked together very well over the past few months.
There are now no active requests for Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA).
Nonetheless, MOD medical personnel will continue to liaise with the GHA and Public Health Gibraltar.
And they may look to support specific areas like Contact Tracing.
QUESTION OF RISK
Gibraltar may have won the first skirmish against COVID-19 but we have not won the war.
We must therefore be careful and remain vigilant.
In many areas,
we have moved away from the compulsion of law
to the discretion of guidance.
But increased freedom comes at the risk of an increase in the spread of infection.
So we must all proceed with care.
Much of this now is precisely about risk.
About personal risk.
In other words,
as we move away from the force of law,
risk becomes a personal choice.
After lockdown, that choice is in your hands.
It means that you decide.
But in doing so,
you need to take care that your choice
does not jeopardize others.
Let me give you an example of what NOT to do.
A young man tested COVID positive in Ceuta.
He skipped quarantine and went to a party.
There were eighty people there.
The virus had been pretty much under control.
But the party led to a spike in positive cases.
37 last week with many partygoers among them.
And 121 people in self-isolation.
The result today is that Ceuta has not moved to the next phase of unlocking in Spain.
They have remained at Phase 2.
So the actions of one person have spoilt it for the whole territory.
Indeed, 11 countries worldwide have had to reinstate restrictions over fears of a second wave.
There is an important lesson to be learnt.
And this is why we urge you to act responsibly.
GATHERINGS OF 12 PERSONS
So let me explain the position on gatherings.
Large public gatherings remain illegal.
During lockdown you had to stay at home in the company of members of your household.
This group is known as your social bubble.
The law was later modified to allow the expansion of that bubble.
This grew from your own household to
up to 12 persons.
Meaning the same twelve persons.
The object is obviously to limit the number of people that each of us come into contact with.
This policy is being applied all over Europe.
In England last week, the figure was set at 6 people;
in Scotland it is 8 people;
in Spain 10 at first, then 15;
in Jersey you are allowed contact with 5 people you do not live with
and in Northern Ireland the group is two households of 8 people.
So Gibraltar law provides for social gatherings of 12 or less.
There is a reason for this.
By limiting contact, we limit the spread of the virus.
Please help us to starve COVID-19.
This cannot work without your cooperation.
I also want to say a few words about the concept of social distancing.
This means ensuring a safe space between people.
The advice is to maintain a distance of about 2m.
This does not apply to anyone who lives with you.
But it is particularly important when you meet others.
The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
Droplets which contain the virus are launched into the air.
Keeping your distance from other people will control the spread of the virus.
Social distancing provides a safe space.
So please ensure you are safe.
And keep your distance.
Face coverings offer another layer of protection.
The effectiveness of masks has long been the subject of debate between international experts.
Nonetheless, the guidance from Public Health Gibraltar is clear.
Face coverings should be worn in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible.
This means, for instance, that a mask will be required to use our bus service.
it is still important to wash your hands
before putting the mask on
and again when you remove it.
a mask can give a false sense of security.
You must continue with other hygiene measures as well.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, we need to establish who has been near them.
At a distance of less than 2m for more than 15 minutes.
This process is called contact tracing.
The Contact Tracing Bureau is already doing this by telephone.
Public Health Gibraltar
expect to put a system in place shortly where this will happen automatically.
A mobile phone App has been designed and produced to assist with this.
Digital Services have worked with Apple, the Irish Government and their developers to bring Gibraltar’s unique contact tracing App to fruition.
The App and the Contact Tracing Bureau will work together side by side.
The App does not store personal data - not even your name.
There is no need to insert any personal details.
It does not use location data.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, the GHA will give that person a code.
The code is inserted into the mobile App.
It will send out a message to those mobiles which have been in the proximity of the infected person’s phone.
And ask them to call 111.
You will not know who the infected person is.
The automated system will require 60% of the population to download the App.
More details will be made available shortly.
I now want to clarify the position regarding those members of our community who are over 70.
The law of confinement has been repealed.
However, our guidance has not changed.
Our strong advice and recommendation to the
over 70s is that it is safer at home.
The Unlock the Rock document sets it out clearly in those terms.
Remember that whether the elderly go out or not is no longer a matter for the Government.
This is now a question of personal risk.
And a matter of individual choice.
But if you are over 70 please understand that it is safer at home.
If you do go out,
then please mitigate the risk:
maintain social distancing;
follow the hygiene rules; and
use face masks where appropriate.
It is also up to everyone else to respect our elderly.
It has been a difficult time for those persons over 70.
They were isolated for months for their own protection.
And kept away from friends, family and from the people they love.
Gibraltar was the only place in the world that protected the elderly in this way.
And our measures have worked.
The message to those over 70 is therefore to be extra careful.
We have a wonderful story to tell.
Let’s keep that way.
In this and other areas,
the advice has evolved with the progress of the pandemic.
And the beaches are a case in point.
we would like the bathing season to commence on 16 June with the start of Unlock Phase 4.
In the meantime, the message has been updated.
So if the beach is overcrowded;
and social distancing is not possible;
access may be controlled; and
time on the beach might be restricted.
However, if there is plenty of space on the beach, then
you may go to the beach as usual;
keeping to social distancing rules; and
in gatherings of 12 persons or less.
The less people on the beach
the more flexible the approach.
The same criteria is being applied in other countries.
But for this to work smoothly
it depends on the common sense and
the cooperation of everyone.
Let’s all enjoy the summer.
But stick to the rules.
And please do not spoil it for other people.
The A&E data and the latest test data is as follows.
Remember that anyone with the symptoms of COVID-19 should still call 111 first.
In the last 24 hours there were a total of 52 attendances at A&E.
Four presented with COVID symptoms.
All four were swabbed.
There was one admission to the COVID CCU.
The test result is awaited.
The latest data is as follows:
Total swabs 9033
Results pending 11
Results received 9022
Confirmed Cases 176
Active Cases 11 (6 residents/ 5 frontier workers)
Recovered Cases 165
The eleven active cases are all at home.
There are a total of 72 persons in self-isolation.
The frontline, targeted and systematic sampling is included in the above.
This now stands at 3979 tests.
I said that there were 11 active cases at the moment.
8 of these are in the frontline sample of persons with no symptoms.
TEST NUMBERS AND LEVELS
The grand total of 9033 tests so far is some 28% of the population.
Increased testing has moved us up in the global league table.
In recent times, Gibraltar has been ranked at number 1 or number 2 in the world in terms of tests done per million.
We are now an established global leader in terms of testing for COVID-19.
A second type of testing is also progressing well.
You will recall that 55,000 antibody tests have been purchased.
And that a pilot project has started to test GHA staff who come forward.
So far over 800 GHA staff members have attended for the blood testing programme.
That process resumes today.
The test will determine whether the subject carries the antibodies associated with COVID-19.
In other words, it will show whether someone has had COVID-19,
not whether they have it now.
The objective remains to offer this test to the entire population at the right time.
The Government continues to monitor closely the progress of the pandemic in the United Kingdom and in Spain.
You will know that air arrivals into the United Kingdom are required to quarantine for two weeks as from today.
This applies to persons arriving at Heathrow from Gibraltar.
It also applies to all the other Overseas Territories
and to every country outside the Common Travel Area with the UK.
But there are a number of exemptions.
Passengers travelling for pre-arranged medical treatment and an escort will not have to quarantine.
Likewise exempt are UK residents who are employed or self-employed in another country and who travel to their country of work at least once a week.
The full list of exemptions are available on the gov.uk website.
Many Mediterranean countries are increasingly desperate for British tourists.
So the creation of “transport corridors” or “air bridges” is being mooted.
The proposal is that these would connect the UK to countries with a low or lower rate of COVID-19 infection.
And in that situation there would be no need to quarantine on entry into the UK.
Some reports indicate that this scheme may be in place by the end of the month.
The Government continues to make representations to the UK on this matter.
The science is helpful to our argument,
given the low rate of infection here.
In the meantime, a total of 1925 passengers flew into the United Kingdom from Gibraltar in May.
And 1074 flew into Gibraltar from Heathrow.
SPAIN AND THE BORDER
Parts of Spain have moved into their third phase of unlocking today.
Their Phase 3 allows for inter-provincial travel.
This means, for example, that residents of Cadiz province will be able to travel into Malaga province.
The state of emergency in Spain has been extended for two more weeks until 21 June.
And they expect to welcome tourists as from 1 July.
All of Andalucia has moved into Phase 3.
However, no change is expected at the border at this time.
We will share new information on this as we receive it.
Numbers crossing have increased as both sides have unlocked.
A total of
63,001 persons came through the border in April
And 98,192 in May.
The equivalent figures for 2019 were just over a million each month.
So the number of arrivals by land is still ten times lower than it used to be.
This is down from some 32,000 people a day to some 3200 people a day.
The continuing impact of the pandemic is clear at all entry points.
In the first five months of the year, compared to the first five months of last year:
- the number of persons crossing the border is down 51%;
- the number of vehicles crossing into Gibraltar is down 63%;
- the number of air arrivals and departures are down some 60%;
- the number of arrivals on cruise ships is down 88%.
The rebuilding of all this is a key task going forward.
A short update on Gibraltar residents stranded abroad.
There are now 19.
This follows the return of two large groups from Morocco.
And the return of 1 person from South Africa.
That leaves 12 people in India,
1 in the Philippines and
6 remaining in Morocco.
This week, there have been 6 new cases of COVID-19 in Gibraltar.
A total of 22 new cases in the last two weeks.
In April, the number of active cases went down to 2 and then rose to 13.
In May, the number of active cases also went down to 2 and then increased to 22.
This is to be expected as people expand their social bubble.
And as more tests are being carried out.
Our objective now is to hunt down COVID-19
and to stamp it out.
Gibraltar has done very well for now.
And we can all be proud of how we have risen to the challenge as a people.
But we urge you to cooperate.
Call 111 if you have symptoms.
Self-isolate if you are asked to.
Assist the contact tracers if you are called upon.
Limit your contact with others as we unlock.
And please remain disciplined and follow the rules.
Our target is Rock Unlock on 1 August.
The GHA and the Government have played their part.
You must play your part now.
You must help Gibraltar to reach that target.
Your cooperation is the key.
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.
- Do not visit anyone over 70.
- If you are over 70 or vulnerable, it’s safer at home.
- Maintain social distancing of 2m.
- Stick to your social bubble of 12 persons or less.
- Wear a mask in enclosed public places were social distancing is not possible.
- And remember - follow the rules.