Gibraltar's Brexit preparations inadvertently help with the coronavirus situation

St Bernard's Hospital's oxygen supply is now guaranteed.
St Bernard's Hospital's oxygen supply is now guaranteed. / SUR
  • Last summer, with all eyes on Brexit, nobody could have imagined that Gibraltar would be in need of oxygen due to a new virus six months later

Back in the days when Gibraltar was preparing for every possible Brexit scenario, including Britain leaving the EU without a deal, it was decided that the Gibraltar Health Authority needed to be as self-sufficient as possible and less reliant on medical supplies having to be brought across the border from Spain.

Last summer, therefore, the government decided it would be best to purchase an oxygen production plant rather than to rely on the existing liquid oxygen tanks which are topped up from the depot in San Roque and cylinder compressed oxygen which is refilled at the depot in Jerez. It also calculated that the plant would prove more cost-effective within a reasonable amount of time.

At that time, nobody could have guessed that around six months later Gibraltar would be in lockdown due to a completely unknown virus, and that the bed capacity at St Bernard's hospital would be expanded with an additional facility at Europa Point as a precautionary measure in case of an increase in patients with COVID-19.

So, with a worst-case Brexit scenario in mind, the GHA's technical team travelled to Eastern Europe to see a particular plant which was being used successfully at a number of hospitals.

It was then decided to purchase this system and, as a result, the equipment is now up and running in Gibraltar. It can produce more oxygen than St Bernard's would normally need and can be used to fill other cylinders.

The Nightingale hospital facility at Europa Point is currently equipped with oxygen through portable concentrators and compressed oxygen cylinders, but will soon use a temporary liquid oxygen tank and fixed supply points installed by multinational medical gas supplier, Linde Plc and local medical gas supplier, Oxy Ltd.

Gibraltar's coronavirus statistics continue to be low and relatively stable so far. Thanks to the recent addition of random testing as well as those with symptoms, 5.5 per cent of the population have been tested, placing Gibraltar fourth in the world in this respect.