Gibraltar government advises residents not to travel to Spain

File photo of Gibraltar.
File photo of Gibraltar. / H. B.
  • The Rock closes catering establishments, tourist attractions and stops religious services, although schools remain open

Things have been changing very rapidly in Gibraltar this week, as the government keeps up to date with developments regarding the coronavirus situation.

On Wednesday, the government advised those over 70 and anyone with chronic health conditions to keep their movements in public to a minimum. It also began to send COVID-19 statistics every afternoon by text message to all mobile phone users in Gibraltar.

Abortion referendum postponed

On Thursday it was announced that the referendum on changing the abortion law in Gibraltar, which had been due to take place on 19 March, was to be postponed.

On Thursday bars, restaurants and nightclubs were also told that they had to close by 8pm, but this proved ineffective and two days later it was announced that all catering establishments were to close altogether, with the exception of the airport and hotels. However, hotels are only permitted to cater for people who are staying there.

Many of Gibraltar’s tourist attractions are closed now, and all visits from cruise ships have been stopped.

Bus service

One measure which was introduced early was to ban those aged 60+ from using the local bus service, in order to protect the elderly who are at risk from the illness. This is about to change. With effect from Monday 16 March, only schoolchildren may use the bus services, which have already been scaled down. An adult accompanying a schoolchild may also use the bus service, but only if they are under the age of 60. Bus drivers are required to check identification to ensure that passengers are complying with this regulation.

Religious services are no longer being held in places of worship.

Spanish lockdown

On Saturday evening, following the Spanish government’s decree to declare a State of Alarm, the Gibraltar government issued a statement calling on: “All Gibraltarians resident in Spain and … all cross frontier workers to familiarise themselves with the terms of the said Decree and the effect that the restrictions on movement might have on them".

The statement continued, "Additionally, cross frontier workers are recommended to check with their employers to determine whether their places of work will be operating on Monday at all. The Government of Gibraltar has made further statements on restrictions of businesses in the catering trade which will impact many frontier workers.

"Noting the terms of the said Decree, Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar therefore recommends that residents of Gibraltar should not travel into Spain, on foot, in a vehicle or by any other means, unless such travel is for essential purposes. All Gibraltarians who need to visit Spain for reasons which are essential, should also familiarise themselves with the terms of the State of Emergency declared in that country”.

The chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said the Gibraltar government was clarifying with Spanish colleagues that people coming to work in Gibraltar could continue to do so in the normal way. There have been no further updates on this issue since then.

Avoid travel to Spain

Regarding the Spanish lockdown, he went on to say about the measures: “We must respect them and as a neighbour we must assist them in these measures having the required effect. We should entirely avoid travelling to Spain for any reason if it is not essential, and, if in Spain, any Gibraltarian must ensure we adhere to the terms of the decree…. the virus knows no frontiers, and we will continue our own work, based on our Public Health professionals’ advice, to implement the best plan for Gibraltar to slow down the inevitable spread of the virus in Gibraltar and in that way help the most vulnerable in our community”.

From midnight on Sunday there was a complete ban on all military personnel resident in Gibraltar from travelling to Spain, issued by the Commander British Forces Gibraltar.

At present, all schools in Gibraltar remain open. The government has taken advice from Public Health professionals and it is deemed safer to keep children in school and away from other public spaces and contact with the elderly and vulnerable as much as possible. This situation is being reviewed on a daily basis.