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Gibraltarian generosity comes to the fore to fight coronavirus

Paul Balban (right): "No words to describe the generosity."
Paul Balban (right): "No words to describe the generosity." / SUR
  • From donations of money for the GHA and hot food for frontline workers to making hand sanitiser instead of gin, the community is united

As in other countries, the people of Gibraltar are in lockdown and have to stay at home unless essential. However, this does not mean they are remaining passive in the fight to stop the Covid-19 virus.

Health minister Paul Balban announced this week that the Gibraltar Health Authority had received over one million pounds in donations from individuals, companies and associations to enable it to continue its vital work and invest in necessary equipment. This was not a government initiative - in fact, at the start of the crisis they reassured the community that they were able to fund the measures that were necessary - but people began asking how they could make a contribution and so a process was set up. The minister said he had "no words" to describe their generosity.

Also on the subject of money, it appears that staff at Morrisons will benefit from a UK scheme to give them a larger bonus than usual, which in many cases will total over £1,000, in thanks for their efforts during the crisis. The money will be paid in quarterly stages over a year, and also applies to staff who are off sick or in self-isolation.

Others are playing their part on a different front, helping to ensure supplies of equipment. One local company, Spirit of the Rock, is normally known for its gin which is sold to bars and restaurants under the brand name Campion, but for a few weeks now it has been producing hand sanitiser instead, in the same way as similar distilleries in the UK.

On the medical side of dealing with the coronavirus a Gibraltarian doctor, Nick Cortes, is part of a team in the UK which has developed new tests for the virus which can give results in five minutes, instead of up to a day.

Gibraltar's Director of Health, Sohail Bhatti, has welcomed the news, as it will speed up the testing process considerably, and says the GHA is now waiting for antibody tests which will enable the authorities to find out whether somebody has had the virus.

This week the results came through of a swab test which had been taken from a local man in his fifties, who was taken ill and died. At the time it was feared that he was the first person in Gibraltar to die from the disease, but the tests proved negative and it was confirmed that he had died from cardiac arrest.

The figures in Gibraltar have been encouraging all week, but the government insists that it is too soon to assume that the illness has peaked.