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Community gets behind lockdown measures

Main Street deserted on Monday evening. Photo by Alice Mascarenhas

by Stephen Ignacio and Priya Gulraj 

Retailers across Gibraltar showed their support in the fight against the spread of coronavirus as the community went into “total social lockdown” this week. 

This announcement by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo meant that all shops except for those selling essential items would have to remain shut for the next few weeks. 

Mr Picardo also paused construction work across Gibraltar, except for those projects approved by the Chief Technical Officer. 

This lockdown will tighten measures already in place that most people have already been following voluntarily, and Mr Picardo said these measures will put Gibraltar’s economy into an “induced coma”. 

But as the community rallies together in support of these measures to stop the spread of the virus, businesses in Gibraltar said they would also adhere to the rules to ensure safety for themselves, staff and their customers. 

Christopher Wall, director at Newall Holdings, told the Chronicle: “I can’t really say much. I’m not surprised by the announcement, but need to find out more details.”

Speaking earlier this week, Mr Wall told the Chronicle that he would like “more clarity”on how the lockdown will work. 

But as an amateur sportsman he welcomed the measure that individuals will still be able to exercise and either go for a jog or a walk either on their own or the people they live with.

Meanwhile Adrian Lima, of Easi Print, revealed that he had this week been instructed by the GHA to self-isolate due to an underlying health issue. 

Also speaking earlier this week, he remained cautious at the news of the lockdown and said: “I am basically waiting for full details of the measures, nothing is clear at the moment.”

Mr Lima said he will be waiting on measures for self-employed individuals and local businesses similar to the ERTE programme as seen in Spain, where employees in the private sector receive temporary layoffs during the coronavirus crisis. 

On Tuesday, after the interviews took place, the government released further details of the measures it is putting in place to help local businesses and employees ride out the crisis.

The announcement by Mr Picardo on Sunday means that all jewellery shops, hair and beauty salons, clothing stores and other retailers were ordered to remain shut for the coming weeks. 

Some businesses that cannot offer their services online are those such as beauty salons and hair salons, with those in the industry left with no choice but to close shop until they are once again allowed to operate. 

Helen Darvill, manager at Aphrodite Beauty Salon, described the past week as “surreal” as many people chose to work from home if it were possible. 

Despite having a quiet week, safety and hygiene for her staff and clients was very important, with gloves and masks provided for her team and moving furniture around to create distance between treatment stations. 

“After the speech on Sunday, I felt relief,” Miss Darvill said. 

“Knowing that we will be supported financially the best we can be was welcomed.” 

“I have complete faith in the Chief Minister and our community and feel like everyone is doing an amazing job.” 

“Although I am still concerned as bills still need to be paid, reduced or not, I do feel relieved knowing we are all doing our bit to prevent the spread of the virus.” 

“We all just need to do our bit to ensure we come out of this stronger.” 

Sarah Carreras, owner of Mayfair on Main, shut shop on Monday evening, but has plans for her clients to be able to maintain their hair while the salon is closed. 

The team at Mayfair on Main will provide online tutorials on how clients can manage their hair over the coming weeks until salons are up and running again. 

This will help to “spread positivity”, while also giving clients something to do while they are at home, Mrs Carreras explained. 

Since hearing about the spread of the virus, Mayfair on Main became “even more stringent” with ensuring the salon was clean. 

But, Mrs Carreras said, it is very difficult to maintain a distance while cutting someone’s hair, adding that stylists and beauty technicians have to be in close proximity to their clients. 

They had prepared themselves for the announcement, adding that Mayfair on Main was fully in support of this measure. 

Mrs Carreras added: “This has been a nightmare for the hair and beauty industry but we must stop the spread of the virus throughout Gibraltar.” 

Other retailers such as Imagine That, a gift and accessory store located in Casemates, saw a large demand for DIY and activity kits for school children who were being kept at home last week, or hand sanitisers that were sought after by many. 

Namarta Gulraj told the Chronicle the shop started offering deliveries across Gibraltar, and which led to a boost in sales last week. 

But Imagine That will be closing its shop for the next few weeks under new measures for the lockdown, and Mrs Gulraj told the Chronicle: “Our priority is safety for everyone, not just the staff and for ourselves, but for the community.” 

“We are happy to comply with what the Government is implementing because safety comes before everything.” 

But she questioned how long this closure would be sustainable for, especially as it is a new business that has been operating for under a year. 

Construction firm, Platinum Gibraltar, has had to put a pause on four ongoing projects, and project manager, Michael Double, is concerned that this will lead to further delays for future jobs. 

Mr Double said the company tried to apply for a special permit to continue doing their work, but was told all non-essential work must stop for now and adhere to the Government’s safety measures. 

But this has been a cause of concern for Mr Double, who said he had sub-contractors and workers to pay, and he is not sure if the company will get financial aid after having to shut because of coronavirus. 

Meanwhile people who are involved with sports in Gibraltar have already seen a number of sporting activities come to a halt. 

The new measures imposed will allow people to go for a walk or exercise with those they live with, including children, gyms across Gibraltar were also ordered to close. 

Adam Roberts, who works as a security officer but also runs the Football Gibraltar website, has been directly impacted by the precautionary measures imposed on sporting activities in Gibraltar. 

But despite the restriction on his work at the website, he showed support for the Government. 

Mr Roberts told the Chronicle: “It comes as no surprise to hear of the lockdown.” 

“Hopefully during these times we can grow stronger together.”

“Let us all listen to the advice given by the professionals and do our bit to speed up the process.” 

Similarly Darren Olivero, secretary at the Darts Association, has also been directly impacted after one of the main events was cancelled this week. 

Adhering to the regulations to avoid large social gatherings, Mr Olivero said: “We had shut down all activity already.” 

“It's a tough situation and we must all do our bit.” 

“I hope everyone heeds the advice of the professionals and stays safe.” 

“Happier times will come.”

The news also came as no surprise to former police inspector Ian Howes, who since retirement has enjoyed his sports becoming a prolific trail runner and known to run over 100km challenges.

He took self-isolating in his stride, and has been indoors for the past 10 days, adding that it was “necessary” but Mr Howes will continue to walk his dog. 

The Gibraltar netball team were hoping to play before a large crowd in Gibraltar in May, but the tournament has been put on hold. 

Captain, Bryony Rovegno, has been training with her team via the internet and she said: “This is the best approach.” 

“I have been doing this since last Friday and working from home, however, for those that think they’re invincible, no one is invincible.” 

“Who knows if you’re a carrier and others are at risk. I urge everyone where possible to stay home, stay safe and stay fit.”

“Mental health matters in times like this and as a community we’re a team and together we will beat this,” Ms Rovegno said, while also praising the staff at the GHA.  

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