Gibraltar steps up action after first coronavirus case confirmed

Gibraltar receives visitors from all over the world.
Gibraltar receives visitors from all over the world. / DEBBIE BARTLETT
  • The patient, who had returned from northern Italy, is said to be recovering well in self-isolation and his partner is showing no symptoms

A case of coronavirus, or COVID-19, was confirmed in Gibraltar on Tuesday and the authorities stepped up their actions to try to prevent the risk of the illness spreading.

The patient's identity has not been revealed to protect his privacy, but it is known that he and his partner had been to northern Italy and had no symptoms when they arrived back in Gibraltar. They are in self-isolation and he is said to be recovering well.

The government issued a statement following the confirmation, explaining that the young couple had not been in the category of people that Public Health England advised should be tested for the virus. They returned to Gibraltar from northern Italy before the date that Public Health England advised was relevant for testing people from that area, and the man who has now been confirmed as having coronavirus was tested as a precaution when he began to show symptoms.

The government set up a special committee several weeks ago to monitor the coronavirus worldwide and make recommendations on local prevention and protection. People returning to Gibraltar from countries with the virus were asked to notify the authorities in advance and to self-isolate.

Public Health Gibraltar are in direct contact with Public Health England, who in turn report to other European and international bodies. Gibraltar's authorities are also working with Spanish public health bodies to ensure full transparency, communication, coordination and co-operation against this global concern. Several cases of the virus were confirmed in Marbella and Fuengirola last week.

Public Health Gibraltar issues regular updates and advice on the virus, including on social media. People are being urged not to go to the Primary Care Centre or St Bernard's Hospital if they feel unwell and fear they may have coronavirus, but to ring the emergency number 111 for advice. They are urged to use a Gibraltar landline to make the call, because it has been discovered that some mobile phones are automatically programmed to contact the police or fire service if that number is dialled.

Some events in Gibraltar have been cancelled, such as the performances at John Mackintosh Hall for World Book Day yesterday, and the government is advising people not to attend any events which involve large numbers of people.

It also continues to urge people to follow the guidelines about thoroughly washing hands for 20 seconds, using disposable tissues, and not shaking hands, hugging or kissing for the time being, especially people over the age of 70.