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Community testing launched as two ERS carers test positive

The Gibraltar Health Authority will begin a “meaningful” Covid-19 sampling exercise of the community to ascertain how widespread the disease is in Gibraltar and to plan further action to minimise its impact on the health system. 

This random sampling, which will be conducted alongside the sampling of individuals displaying symptoms of the virus, will yield data which will be used to steer Gibraltar through the crisis, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday, as he urged the community to comply with requests for testing. 

“We have to try to have as wide a possible random test of this community for Covid-19 as possible,” he said, adding that the information will be “crucial” for the GHA to assess the current situation and to plan further action. 

In terms of the overall statistics, there were 55 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Friday, 14 of which are fully recovered and 41 active. 

Additionally, some 374 tests have been conducted and 137 results are pending. 

The move to test in the community, which was welcomed by the GSD Opposition, represents a change in policy, with widespread testing previously being ruled out on account of the GHA having a limited number of swabs. 

But with stocks of swabs bolstered, Mr Picardo said: “When you have a larger amount of swabs you can then start to fraction off those that you are going to use for those who manifest with symptoms, those that you're going to keep in the hospital so you can deal with people as they turn up there, and then to start to do a sample which is meaningful.” 

The Director of Public Health Dr Sohail Bhatti said some 400 people will be randomly selected from the electoral register and asked to attend the drive-through facility at Rooke in order to be tested. 

“At the moment our entire strategy is based on trying to capture people who have symptoms but this random sampling will try to ascertain how widespread the virus is in people who have or haven’t got symptoms,” he said. 

“I hope at the end of that exercise we’ll at least have a sense, at that particular point in time, how widespread the virus was rather than speculating.” 

This comes as two frontline workers from within Elderly Residential Services tested positive for the virus, even as both Mr Picardo and Dr Bhatti offered reassurances that there was no evidence of Covid infections in any of the residents. 

In respect of the first case, a member of staff at Mount Alvernia, Mr Picardo said the nurse had not been working at the site for a week and was identified and tested early on because of the “very strict” protocols in place at the facility. 

“The nurse had only been working on one floor which is totally isolated and contained,” he added. 

“This is a success story…testing is happening so that we can spot things from the word go.” 

The second case was confirmed mid-press conference by Dr Bhatti but that individual had been in isolation anyway. 

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