Gibraltar increases preventive measures and steps up preparations for new cases

.The border between Spain and Gibraltar is much quieter than usual.
.The border between Spain and Gibraltar is much quieter than usual. / REUTERS
  • Two people who were previously confirmed as having Covid-19 have completely recovered and the government says there are currently eight active cases

It was a sobering end to a serious speech. "My dear friends, our resilience will be tested, but our resolve will never be broken. Stay safe. Keep your loved ones safe. If you believe, pray. And if you don't, hope. Because better times will come. We will smile again and return to normality as soon as we are able to. Goodnight," said chief minister Fabian Picardo at the end of a televised address on Tuesday evening. If anything brought home the severity of the coronacrisis, that did.

The situation in Gibraltar is constantly changing, with new measures continually being introduced according to Public Health advice. Restrictions on movement have now been imposed on people aged over 70, for their own protection. Some shops and businesses are closed.

The government is giving daily briefings, and the Covid-19 statistics are sent by text message to all mobile phone users in Gibraltar every afternoon. Schools are open but children are not obliged to attend, and from Monday the schools will provide a safe environment for extended hours for the children of workers who are not otherwise able to make safe alternative childcare arrangements without involving relatives over 70 years of age.

Currently, two people in Gibraltar have recovered fully from Covid-19, and eight cases are currently active.

It has been a frenetic week for Gibraltar on other fronts, too. On Sunday Juan Manuel Moreno, the president of the Junta de Andalucía, announced that he had recommended to Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez that Spain close its borders to contain the virus. A Spanish newspaper assumed that would include the Gibraltar border, and said as much. It was picked up by other media and went viral. Gibraltar's Chief Minister spoke by phone to the Andalusian president, who insisted that he had not recommended closing the border, and he made a public announcement to that effect. On Monday, Spain, like other EU countries, announced that it was closing its land borders so that only Spanish citizens, legal residents, cross-frontier workers and those will documented justification could enter the country that way. This, of course, meant that workers from Spain would be able to cross into and out of Gibraltar.

But then there were rumours that the border guards were to demand to see work contracts and other documents from people crossing from Spain to Gibraltar; Gemma Araujo, the former mayor of La Línea who is now an MP, investigated and reported that this was not the case. Everything appeared to be normal for the early part of the week, but there are reports that on Wednesday evening queues built up as the Spanish border guards wanted everyone crossing to show their NIE (foreigner identification number) and work contracts.

The Gibraltar and Spanish authorities are also working together against Covid-19 and keeping border fluidity while respecting the State of Alarm in Spain and restrictions in Gibraltar.