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Gibraltar introduces curfew and strict new coronavirus measures after 'stark increase' of positive cases

The border between Spain and Gibraltar. File photograph.
The border between Spain and Gibraltar. File photograph. / EFE
  • With effect from 10pm Sunday, 27 December there will be a curfew for the whole population of the Rock imposed by law, announced Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has issued a statement about the Covid-19 situation and announced a raft of containment measure, enforceable by law, that will come into effect from 10pm on Sunday, 27 December.

The full statement reads as follows:

"My dear fellow Gibraltarians and residents of Gibraltar,

I am addressing you today because of the continuing stark increase of positive cases of the COVID-19 infection in our Community.

The total number of active cases is up by 68 today.

That gives us a total of 482 active cases.

Additionally, we have now got 1,703 persons in self-isolation.

That number includes a large number of persons in our frontline services.

There are now 9 persons in St Bernard’s Hospital in the COVID ward.

There is 1 person in the Critical Care Unit with COVID.

We have now carried out a total 116,862 tests for COVID.

That is almost as if we had tested the whole resident population THREE TIMES OVER!

Before I carry on, I want to therefore thank our test and tracing teams.

They have made super-human efforts, especially over this festive period.

The whole Community is indebted to them for their dedication at this time.

The virus is now behaving differently and it is 2 times as infectious as it was before.

Our R rate is now at 1.79.

And it is clear that this virus is relentlessly looking for easy wins.

That means that if we continue meeting and congregating outside of our households as if nothing was going on, the virus will continue to spread LIKE WILDFIRE.

The high number of people who are in isolation is also having an impact on our services because people who work in frontline services are not able to go to work.

It is imperative that we increase our measures to stop the virus from spreading.

I am therefore left with no choice but to announce stricter measures for at least the next 14 days as a firebreak.

These measures have been proposed by the COVID ex-co and I have agreed them with the key members of the COVID Platinum Command.

I have also considered these proposed additional restrictions with the Leader of the Opposition.

Please note that these measures will be in addition to those I already announced last week in Parliament.

So our recommendation to work from home continues to be current.

Please do NOT go to your place of work if you can work from home.

As from tomorrow, additionally, the following new measures will come into effect in Gibraltar:

Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo

Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo / AFP

NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL

All non-essential retail establishments will be required by law to close to the public as from tomorrow.

We will permit operations for deliveries and collections so that an online or telephone trade will be able to continue.

So non-essential shops must close but can continue to sell online and via telephone sales.

Organised collection and delivery will be permitted.

The period for returns and refunds in respect of products bought from the 1st November will be extended by law for this year to the 14th February.

Obviously, as we are closing businesses, we will be introducing BEAT style payments for the period of closure.

We will provide more details in coming days of how to claim, amounts payable etc.

We will also be asking landlords to work with us again in respect of rents payable by businesses that are closed.

DELIVERIES

Given that there will be greater use of delivery personnel, we will require all those who undertake deliveries to be swabbed every 2 weeks in order that we are screening against them delivering with COVID.

SUPERMARKETS

All essential shops, in particular bakers, grocers and supermarkets must close by 9pm by law, other than duty chemists, in order for there to be ample time for those shopping to be home in time for the curfew.

HAIRDRESSERS & BEAUTY SALONS

All hairdressers and beauty salons will also have to completely close by law as from tomorrow.

DENTISTS etc

Pharmacies and chemists, petrol stations, bunkering operators, opticians, dentists, estate agents and car dealerships may remain open, subject to continued compliance with strict public health rules.

GATHERINGS

By law, the number of people who can gather will be reduced to 12.

MIXING OF HOUSEHOLDS

Our strong advice now, after Christmas, in order to try to restrict the chances for the virus to pass between relatives, is that households should NOT mix at all.

However, we appreciate that this can be a difficult time of year for those who live alone and if absolutely necessary, our strong advice in this respect is that a maximum of only 2 households should mix.

But our advice is that you do not gather at all.

We know this is hard, especially at this time of the year.

We all want the company, comfort and companionship of our loved and dear ones at this time.

But we also want to protect our loved and dear ones at this time.

And that is why these restrictions are relevant.

I do hope that these restrictions will be short-lived and that we will all be able to make up for lost time with our loved and dear ones in coming months.

ELDERLY RESIDENTIAL HOMES

In order to safeguard our elderly residents who live in purpose-built Government flats for the elderly, we shall tighten restrictions on visits to these flats and these will be imposed by the Housing Department as landlord.

Visitors will need a negative COVID test at drive-through before entry, valid for 24 hours only.

There will be maximum of 2 people permitted for any visit and only one visit per flat per day.

OVER 70s

In the general over-70s population, we will not provide for a legal lockdown.

But if you are over-70, I implore you to behave as if you were locked down.

We love you dearly.

Our nation is built on your effort.

Locking you down would be the very safest route to take.

But out of respect for your sense of responsibility, we are not doing so legally.

So PLEASE do act entirely responsibly.

Do not put yourself at risk for a celebration.

STAY AT HOME and away from younger relatives if you can.

The vaccine is round the corner.

We are almost there.

Please do not put yourselves in danger now.

Behave as if you were locked down by law.

For your own good.

CURFEW

For that reason, with effect from 10pm tonight there will be a curfew for the whole population of Gibraltar imposed by law.

The curfew will be from 10pm to 6am.

The only exceptions to this will be for those who are undertaking employment, for the delivery of food, to walk a dog and in cases where medical attention is required.

There will be no legal restrictions on movement during the day, but the strong advice remains you should try not to leave your home unless you are taking out children, exercising or walking a pet or for one of the other exceptional reasons provided for.

There will be one exception to the curfew on New Year’s Eve where there shall be no curfew.

This exception is made bearing in mind those who live alone, and isolation during this difficult time would present additional hardship.

The advice that household mixing is not encouraged still stands.

It is not lost on me that this is the first time a curfew has been imposed in Gibraltar by the civilian authorities.

In the spring, our lockdown was general.

Now it is only at nights.

What we are trying to do now is to curtail activities and not general liberties.

We are not seeking to curtail civil liberties with these measures in any way, shape or form.

We are seeking to save lives and to save the GHA including the ERS and also the Care Agency from being overwhelmed.

Additionally we are seeking to ensure all our essential services are able to continue to discharge their functions.

Our frontline services can collapse if we see many more people positive or in self-isolation.

That is why we MUST act.

This is NOT just about how many people are in the hospital in the COVID ward or in the CCU.

There are many other factors to this.

For that reason, all of these measures are in addition to the measures already in effect today.

And this posture will continue until at least Sunday the 10th January 2021.

I will be making a further statement on or before Thursday the 7th January 2021 in order to determine how we might change or continue certain restrictions after that date.

In the first week of January we anticipate the arrival of the PFIZER vaccine in Gibraltar.

And it is important that we understand that we are in a race now.

We need the vaccination to start to counter the risk we are facing in the loss of our front line staff, the risk to our elderly citizens and the risk to the most vulnerable in our society.

We will pursue the receipt of as many doses as possible as soon as possible.

But we will do so with an outlook of complete solidarity.

In the end, the whole world needs to have the immunity this vaccine brings in order for us to be able to finally live with this virus in the background.

The positive news expected this week on the Astra Zeneca Oxford vaccine will really help in that respect also.

That vaccine is easier to transport and we expect that it will be even more widely available.

Those will be the real game changing events in this marathon.

The final steps in the defeat of this virus as a life-limiting infection.

The beginning of the end.

But we are not there yet.

We are only at the beginning of the end of the beginning.

And that is why we are here today and imposing these further restrictions.

Believe me there is nothing I would want to be doing less on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year than standing in front of the cameras, making this announcement.

This year, with the BREXIT negotiations still ongoing, and the clock still ticking, in relation to Gibraltar I would not be here making a statement on this matter if it was not absolutely essential.

So please understand the seriousness of the situation.

Please understand that it is NOT just about the numbers in hospital but also about the numbers in self-isolation.

Please understand that all our frontline services are under severe pressure at this time.

We are so close to the vaccine programme that it would be abject surrender to give up now, with the finish line in sight.

And Gibraltarians never give up.

We won’t give up on COVID.

And we won’t give up on BREXIT.

On both of these fronts, it’s five minutes to midnight and it’s the moment when we face the maximum pressure.

So now is the time to see that LEGENDARY, LIONISED, ROCK-LIKE GIBRALTARIAN RESOLVE kick into action.

Let’s stick together.

Let’s stick to the rules.

And let’s stick it to the virus.

Fabian Picardo, QC