COVID-19 UPDATE: Masks To Now Be Worn in Main St & Surrounds by Law.

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The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, held a press conference earlier today, Tuesday 27th October, to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation.

UPDATED STATISTICS
114 active cases detected – all residents
14 of those are residents of Elderly Residential Services
1 person in critical care.
679 total cases since the start of the pandemic
+71 new cases since last week
10 new cases a day on average
44 million cases worldwide (increase of 4 million in 7 days)
63,113 total tests carried out

“This is getting worse before it is going to get any better. But better it will get, if we ensure we follow rules.”

The Chief Minister expressed the importance of adhering to Government advice and legislation in order to ensure Gibraltar remains on the safe travel corridor for the United Kingdom, as well as maintain a regular flow of passage across the frontier.

Last Sunday, the Spanish Government once again declared a state of emergency. The regional governments will have the power to determine many of the measures applied during this period, which may last up to 6 months.

The Government will introduce the following system in coming days and weeks:

  • Random tests will be carried out on cross-frontier workers as they enter or leave Gibraltar. These tests will not be compulsory.
  • In respect of the maintenance of the travel corridor, the Government is looking into the testing of passengers making their way to the UK. Passengers will also be able to take advantage of random testing on disembarkation. A fee will be payable for these tests, without which, a small period of quarantine may be required.

RESTRICTIONS
Last week a series of strong recommendations and legislative measures were announced. The Chief Minister thanked our over 70s who have, as a rule, heeded this advice, stating: “Our elders led the way in wisdom, and in responsibility,” but added that he “cannot say the same about the rest of us.”

RGP data suggests that just 20% of people were wearing masks in Main Street on Saturday. On Monday, this fell to just 13%. For this reason, mask use in the areas of Main Street, John Mackintosh Square, Irish Town, and Engineers Lane, Governors Street, Town Range, Casemates, and the lanes connecting these, is now compulsory by law

There is sufficient evidence that mask use depletes the load of the virus both received and transmitted.

Chatham Counterguard remains the busiest of all our leisure areas, at weekends in particular. At the end of the evening on Friday, patrons were not dispersing from the area. As a result, a new legal rule against loitering between 11pm-1am will apply from Thursday to Saturday, to assist police in the execution of their duties in moving people along.

These restrictions, if followed, could very well avoid the alternative of a lockdown or curfew. We will have a better indication next week whether they have been effective, or whether tighter measures need to be implemented.

The Chief Minister went on to say “We are seeing curfews for the first time in Europe since the end of the Second World War. We do not want to move down that route in Gibraltar,” adding that in this respect, “young people hold the key”.

The public were reminded that it is illegal to consume alcohol in any public place after 11pm. This is to prevent people gathering outside to drink ‘botellon‘ style. By avoiding this, there will be no reason to impose a curfew.

OFFICE WORKERS
The Chief Minister urged office workers to work from home wherever possible. “Anybody in the legal profession, accountancy, gaming or insurance; in every industry where you spend most of your time in front of a screen, do it from home if you can.”

GIBRALTAR HEALTH AUTHORITY (GHA)
The CM reported that the GHA is coping well at the moment. After his instruction last week, the Nightingale Ward at Europa is now on just 24 hour notice to reopen if necessary.

The UK Government has agreed to supply Gibraltar, and other overseas territories, with the COVID-19 vaccine that it will be procuring, thus demonstrating their continued commitment to support us in these times of adversity.

ELDERLY
– There are 14 patients positive for COVID-19 in the John Mackintosh Wing, aged from 64 to 101.
– 13 are female patients, and 1 is male.
– The total frailty score of the residents in question ranges from 6-8, with the mean being 7 ‘severely frail’.
– 9 of these residents suffer from dementia.
– Currently, all are clinically stable with no fever.
– 5 patients have an oxygen requirement of 2 litres.
– They all continue to eat and drink, and have not developed a delirium.
– There are 7 further residents in isolation.
– In total, in the ERS GHA-run facilities, there are 2 positive staff members, and another 19 in isolation.
– At Mount Alvernia, 1 non-clinical member of staff has tested positive.
– In the ERS Meddoc-run facilities, there are 12 positive clinical staff, and 29 in isolation.

It is suspected that ERS infections came in via a visitor to the John Mackintosh Wing. The decision was therefore made to move the remaining residents who are still negative out of the premises to safeguard them. These residents were transferred to Bella Vista’s third floor on Friday night.

“That is why it is so important, however painful, that we should shut down our facilities at the ERS for visitors.”

In view of the rising numbers in the ERS and Gibraltar as a whole, as from tomorrow (Wednesday 28th October) all day centre activities at Bella Vista will be temporarily discontinued.

The Chief Minister assured that these measures are “temporary” and “under constant review”.

The influenza vaccine specifically for people aged over 65 is now available in the Primary Care Centre (PCC) from Monday to Friday, 1pm-5:45pm. Appointments must be pre-booked on: 200 52441 between 1-3pm.

The GHA’s flu vaccination programme for this year’s flu season has been extended, with more groups now eligible for the vaccine than in previous years. This is because COVID-19 is likely to in close circulation with the flu. It is therefore vitally important to protect those at risk of flu, or those vulnerable to hospitalisation as a result of COVID-19.

The Chief Minister appealed to members of the public to make an appointment for the flu vaccine – particularly those over the age of 65 or in any other way vulnerable.

Getting the flu can make you more susceptible to COVID-19. Additionally, the flu could be mistaken for COVID-19, meaning valuable testing resources will be used, taking up both health professional’s time and your own, unnecessarily. The CM revealed his own children, including his two-year-old, had received the flu vaccine which was not in any way painful nor uncomfortable.

The public were lastly reminded that trick or treating or any other Halloween/Guy Fawkes parties should not go ahead this year. Public health advice remains to avoid unnecessary contact, and observe social distancing rules.

The Chief Minister ended the conference by saying: “As the numbers of active cases in our community has risen, we must take care to protect our neighbours, our health services, and indeed ourselves. Our aim is to avoid a second lockdown, curfews, or other tighter restrictions. But to do these things, we need your help. Please follow the rules we are setting out. We’re doing so in order to balance your civil liberties with your health. It’s not an easy balance to do. History will judge whether we got the balance right.”

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