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Press Conference - 9th April 2020

April 09, 2020


Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Information Dr Joseph Garcia

Commissioner of Police Ian McGrail


Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia: 



Good afternoon and welcome.

Thank you for joining us once again.

This daily briefing is part of our communications strategy on the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will continue to keep you informed.

And we will once again repeat our public health message.

The Chief Minister was scheduled to be here today.

He is unable to owing to a family bereavement.

Our condolences to his wife, to the Chief Minister and to their family.

I am joined today

by the Commissioner of Police Ian McGrail.



I will start with an update from A&E and with the latest test data.

Remember that anyone with the symptoms of COVID-19 should call 111 first.


In the last 24 hours there were a total of 33 attendances at A&E.


Only four of them had COVID symptoms.


One patient was swabbed and admitted to our COVID Ward, John Ward.


Another was awaiting a decision on possible admission.


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) 1511

Results pending 94

Results received 1417


Confirmed 123

Active 63

Recovered 60


In terms of the random sample alone,

the updated results are as follows:


Random sample

Random swabs taken 400

Random swabs pending 7

Random swabs received 393

Negative 383

Positive 10


The active cases, I repeat, are now 63.


58 are at home.

There are 3 cases in ERS.

And 1 case in the COVID Ward.

There is 1 case with confirmed COVID-19 in ICU at the moment.



Just this afternoon, the GHA have advised

that in-house PCR testing for COVID-19 is now up and running.

This is very good news.

It has taken some time to get there.

A number of difficult hurdles were overcome.

Not least the shortage in supplies and equipment.

Initial in-depth testing is now complete.

And patient samples will now be tested.

The capability is for 260 tests in 24 hours.

Gibraltar will welcome that this is underway.

We are very thankful to all those who have made it happen.

More information will follow over the next few days.



The grand total of 1511 tests so far is some 4.7% of the population.

In terms of tests per capita (million),

Gibraltar is ranked fourth in the world.

Behind only the Faroe Islands, Iceland and the United Arab Emirates.

In the UK, for example, our sample would be the equivalent of 3.1 million tests.

About 230,000 have been tested there so far.

So we are doing well here.

Compared to what happens elsewhere.



The vast majority of those confirmed with COVID-19 are at home.

Again, this is a good thing.

It means that the symptoms are less serious.

And that they do not require hospitalisation.

But if they did,

there are 34 beds available in our COVID ward;

there are 13 beds in our COVID ICU;

181 beds in total at St Bernard’s;

and 190 more at the Europa Point Field Hospital.

This can be expanded to 300 in total.

Indeed, today only 38 beds at St Bernard’s are in use.

143 beds are free.

443 in total if Europa Point is included.

This high capacity will allow us to deal with a surge.

Let us hope we will never need them.

There is more.

We told you about the oxygen plant at St Bernard’s Hospital.

In addition to this,

a 3000 litre temporary liquid oxygen tank

is being installed at the Europa Point Field Hospital.

The work on a concrete plinth is complete.

Pipes are now being laid to temporary oxygen points.

This will add extra resilience to the oxygen supply.

Rest assured.

Gibraltar is as prepared as we can be.

It is impossible to do more.



Hard times also bring great moments.

You will know that over 300 people have volunteered as Care Assistants.

A three day training course has been prepared,

by the School of Health Studies,

for three separate groups.

The first group of 20 volunteers completed their training today.

Group two is made up of 30 more volunteers.

They start next week.

Group 3 is expected to be 20-30 more.

They will start on 21 April.

Once trained, our volunteers will remain on stand-by.

In case they are needed.

Many thanks to all of you who put your names down.

And thank you to those providing the training as well.



The different hotlines continue to work well.

The 111 line has now received over 4233 calls since 1 March.

This is where you report your symptoms.

Those reports peaked at 331 on 17 March.

The average this week is 93 daily calls.

When you call you will

be referred to a GP;

to infection control for advice;

to infection control for swabbing;

asked to self-isolate; or

asked to take no action.


The other hotline is 20041818.

This call centre is based at Bayside School.

1957 calls have been received so far.

The queries received are very wide.

Things like shopping, prescription collection,

travel information and border issues.

The call centre then coordinates the logistics.

These are housed at the Training Centre in the old dockyard.

The teams there organise the delivery of shopping and medication.

They have done so 238 times so far.


This service is for those who really need it.

Those who have no family or friends.

The elderly who are alone.

And the vulnerable who really need help.



Some of our citizens overseas need help as well.

The number abroad has now gone up to 30.

The increase has come in Morocco.

There are now a total of 18 Gibraltar residents there.

The other countries are:

Australia with three;

India with eight; and

one in the United States.

We continue to work closely with the UK on this.



I want to say a word or two about our beaches.

The Commissioner will expand on policing matters in general.

But in his presence,

I want to pay tribute to the work of the Royal Gibraltar Police.

They have enforced our lockdown in an exemplary manner.

With patience, with tact and with good humour.

And with a firmer hand when required.

Thank you also to Customs, the BCA and the Gibraltar Defence Police.

Our law enforcement agencies do us all proud.

Listen to them.

Respect them.

Obey them.

They act to protect you.

To protect us all.

Soon, better weather will attract you to our beaches.

You can only go outdoors for defined purposes.

Exercise is one of them.

So exercise will be allowed on our beaches.

Walking, jogging or swimming.

You must keep to the social distancing rules.

And keep to your households.

Having said that,

we know ourselves better than anyone.

So let me make it clear.

We cannot go to the beach as we are used to doing.

And I include myself in this.

This means no umbrellas.

It means no deck chairs.

It means no food hampers.

No excuse for social gatherings.

Those who attend should exercise and then leave.

Beach access will obviously be reviewed going forward.

And the Commissioner will expand on this.



Today is Maundy Thursday.

Indeed, Passover started yesterday evening.

In any normal year,

this period would signal the Easter holidays.

And the end of a school term.

Sadly, this year is far from normal.

School ended early.

Nobody knows when the new term will start.

If at all.

Uncertainty has become our new normal.

Easter is also a time when families meet.

When many gather together,

for a meal;

for a celebration;

for thanksgiving; or

to attend religious services.

We will miss all this.

Some traditionally go away for Easter.

This is out of the question today.

You will be aware of the situation in Spain.

People there are travelling to second homes.

Even though such travel is banned.

A huge police effort has been mounted to stop this.

Those people are selfish and uncaring.

Their movement will spread the virus.

The same applies here albeit on a smaller scale.

This Easter has to be different.

Not because we want to.

But because we have to.

For your own safety.

For your own welfare.

For your own protection.

So stay at home.

Remain in your own household.

With members of your own family unit.


Stay with those people who live with you.

Do not invite anybody home.

Do not go out and visit anyone.

This means no lunch with the neighbours.

It means no dinners with other relatives.

It means no parties with other students.

It means no special events.

No contact with anyone outside your household.

Lives depend on it.

Our leisure time is no longer determined by what we enjoy.

Our lives are now dictated by a microscopic virus.

A killer.

That has already infected 1.5 million people.

And killed tens of thousands all over the world.


We often say that Gibraltar is blessed.

That we are lucky as a people.

But understand that this is not about luck.

This is about science and about following the rules.

For when all this is over

Gibraltar will be a very different place.

The World also.

We will have realised the things we take for granted.

We will have learnt the lesson the hard way.

And we will cherish the things that matter most.

There is light at the end of this darkness.

But you must listen to what we say.

And you must act on what we tell you.



Before passing on to Commissioner McGrail, let me repeat our public health advice once again.


  1. Listen and act on the advice of our public health experts.


  1. When you sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue and then bin it.


  1. Wash your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds.


  1. Do not visit anyone over 70.


  1. If you are over 70 or vulnerable please stay at home.


  1. If you need medical advice call 111.


  1. If you have any other question call 200 41818.


  1. Stay home, Stay Alive.


I now pass you on to the Commissioner.





Commisssioner of Police, Ian McGrail 


The RGP very quickly set out the style of how we were going to police the emergency regulations – at least for the time being.


Understanding the impact these regulations would have on our population has remained prominent in our minds during our planning to actually  implement our style.


We are now on the 16th day of social lockdown and we are content and confident that the style adopted is the right and proper one.  A community orientated approach, interacting with the community in a variety of ways and enlisting public support in the process.  


Day and night, we are committed to the safety and welfare of all members our community. We are closely monitoring the rapidly changing COVID 19 panedmic and assure you that our dedication to protecting our community is stronger than ever. We continue to review our approach to ensure it is aligned to the advice of Public Health Gibraltar and Government.


The community will continue to have the same level of service from our personnel. We have the ability to change our style if the situation warrants it and I want offer reassurances that the RGP is always prepared to respond to emergencies and help ensure the safety of our community members during this public health crisis.


Our approach is very evident ……

We engage -  we enquire from people what they are doing out and about. We talk to them and help them understand the restrictions in place.

We Explain -  We’ll make it clear we are dealing with a serious health crisis and that they must obey our requests. We will reinforce the need of complying so that their actions and behaviours do not harm others and do not contribute to overwhelming the GHA. 

We Encourage - Officers will continue to ask people to comply with the emergency regulations.

We Enforce – As a last resort -  failure to comply will mean we will use our powers afforded to us in law.  

We can ask you to return home, or even accompany of convey you home to ensure you comply.

In doing this we can employ force, something we certainly do not want to do.


A quick reminder of what the sanctions look like. They are set at a level  5 monetary fine – this is anything between £1 to £10,000. You can actually face further sanctions if you obstruct an officer after he has asked you to comply with his directions. These regulations are already a tough cookie to deal with, please do not make it more awkward for us.


Having said this, I am pleased  with the reports from our front line officers that the majority of the population is complying with the emergency regulations which somewhat restrict us from living the normal life we are used to.


The majority of the people are doing the right thing and staying at home, only going out for essential reasons provided for in the emergency regulations.


On behalf of all those involved in the policing operation RGP, GDP and HMC officers, I thank you, I salute you for really getting what we are setting out to do.


I am also very thankful for all the many messages of praise and encouragement we are receiving, both publicly and privately. It certainly motivates us to continue doing what we are doing.


We should not get to the stage where, as a community, we regret seeing our GHA suffer and unable to cope with an unmanageable surge of persons requiring hospitalisation and compromising the lives of fellow members of our community. Together we can, and   indeed are making a difference.


We know how great it is to live in Gibraltar and enjoy what it has to offer but for now that enjoyment as we know it will have to wait.


During the normally good weather that we are likely to enjoy during the Easter break, our beaches and leisure areas would be swamped with families and friends gathering to relax.


This year, regrettably, it will not be possible. This world wide pandemic has caused for normality to stop – and stopped we certainly have.


This coming Easter long weekend break officers  will be physically  controlling access to the beaches to dissuade persons from venturing to these areas in contravention of the regulations.


It is not the time to lay out your picnic, pitch your sun umbrella, sun bathe or make sun castles. We will allow persons in to the beaches but we will expect them to remain there only for what is a reasonable time under the circumstances and we appeal that the public oblige to this stance.  A walk or run on the beach, a quick swim if they fancy that, ….this will be permitted, but that is about it. We are treating the beaches and leisure areas as we would a normal road or street. To an extent applying the same principles that some of our supermarkets are employing to ensure good social distancing.


As we continue to deal with the pandemic, it is up to each one of us to do our part for the safety of our families and those around us.


I fully understand that this a difficult time for everyone, but we need to cointinue social distancing and isolation when and where necessary to keep the speed  the virus is spreading to a manageable pace for the GHA.


Unfortunately, in parallel to the positive response by the majority of the public, our patrols are still seeing groups of young people out in the evening and at night congregating in estate underground parking areas and the likes.There are some adults doing the same too.


I urge and appeal to parents and guardians to speak to the young people in your families and ensure they are aware of the threat this virus poses – the threat does not get more real.


I get it that staying inside together in our homes is stressful and that young people may want to go out and see friends – girl friends missing their boyfriends and vice versa . We get it. But please  encourage them to accept personal responsibility for their actions – stay at home and use alternative methods of communication.  


We are also facing other issues which we attribute to the stresses brought on by the -confinement measures. These are more nuisance related. Loud music blaring out of windows in estates and causing neighbourly disputes.


I appeal for moderation in this regard. The belief that loud noise can be made right up to 11pm is incorrect. There are limitations provided for in law that make it an offence to make unreasonable noise even before 11pm. I think it is important to bear this mind.


Let me close by reminding everyone of our policing style – We are adopting a pragmatic, proportionate and engaging approach. Enforcement is a last resort but we will certainly apply our powers on those who defiantly opt to ignore or refuse to abide by directions.


Finally, If you have to ask yourself whether it is essential that you have to leave your home, then probably it isn’t. Stay home, your individual actions can make a difference in protecting lives.


From all at the RGP, and I also take the liberty to speak on behalf of all law enforcement partners, I wish all of Gibraltar a peaceful and safe easter weekend.

Thank you.