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Catering sector and test centre under strain as Covid cases rise

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

As the number of active Covid cases edges to 500, the Gibraltar Catering Association as held an emergency meeting with Government due to the downturn in business and the Drive Through Testing Centre is under strain.

On Tuesday Covid-19 cases rose again as 69 new positive cases were identified following testing, with 498 active cases currently in Gibraltar.

There are 577 people in self-isolation, and two positive cases in St Bernard’s Hospital, one in the Covid-19 Ward and another in the Critical Care Unit.

The recent steep rise in cases has added pressure on two sectors in Gibraltar, the testing facility and the catering sector.

Queues of cars could be seen outside Midtown car park on Tuesday as cases have continued to rise.

But as cases rise, so does demand for Gibraltar’s essential 111 phone line and testing centre, meaning test results could take longer than 24 hours.

The Government said the testing centre has experienced a significant increase in the numbers of people turning up for a test and encouraged anyone who is symptomatic to call 111.

Symptomatic individuals will be given an appointment to attend the drive-through for a test to see if their symptoms are of Covid-19 or not.

“Close contacts of positive cases or people believing to be close contacts should not immediately attend the drive through for a test,” the Government said.

“This is because of the incubation period for Covid-19, which means that the swab is likely to be negative if the test is carried out straight after being notified that you are close contact.”

“You should therefore arrange to get tested if you start to develop symptoms by calling 111 immediately.”

The Government advised anyone experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms should go home immediately, self-isolate and call 111.

The symptoms to look out for are: Headache, blocked nose, weakness or severe fatigue, muscle ache, runny nose/eyes, loss of taste/smell and/or appetite, sore throat, fever, tummy upset including diarrhoea, persistent cough and burning eyes.

After a test, the public are advised go home straight away and self-isolate until results are received, which would normally be expected within 24 hours.

“However, due to the increase in cases the test results may take slightly longer,” the Government said.
“Please do not call 111 to ask for test results.”

“They will not be able to assist and this puts extra pressure on the service, taking time and resources away from other urgent matters.”

“Please be mindful when attending the drive through for a test, wear a mask and keep a safe distance from others whilst waiting.”

The Minister for Health and Care, Samantha Sacramento, said: “It is up to all of us to be responsible and to follow the instructions of clinicians. If you have symptoms, go home and contact GHA 111 at the earliest opportunity. We have to work together.”

CATERING

Last week in response to the mounting cases the Gibraltar Government issued a press release advising all Government parties to be cancelled and urging caution.

The Gibraltar Catering Association (GCA) has felt the impact of this statement and said members have reported cancellation of parties across the industry.

The GCA said this has caused concern that a vital Christmas period will once again be decimated.

“The catering industry has endured a huge downturn in business during the Covid pandemic with many businesses still struggling and catching up on bills whilst accruing more and more debt,” the GCA said.

“The industry is still reeling from increases to Social Insurance, water and electricity costs as well as increased prices from our suppliers due to Brexit. All this has only compounded the problems that restaurants and bars are facing at this difficult time as they recover from Covid shutdowns.”

“The government’s advisory notices which falls short of enforced restrictions for now are having a detrimental effect on bookings and footfall.”

“Christmas business is vital for the restaurant trade to pull them through the low season from January to May.”

“If cancellations continue it will spell trouble for a large percentage of local business of who many are already struggling in paying operational costs like water and electricity, suppliers and taxes.”

The GCA said if the downturn continues they will have no option but to lobby for more assistance such as rent relief and employee subsidy.

The association has also made plans to reach out to the new Director of Public Health and create a line of communication so as to not be caught by surprise with new rules as happened last December.

To assist the industry, the GCA urges businesses who are considering cancelling their Christmas Events, to await for more clarity.

Then if necessary, instead of cancelling, postponing where possible and transferring deposits to the new date.

Any bars and restaurants wishing to join the Gibraltar Catering Association should contact them via email: Gibraltarcateringassociation@hotmail.com

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