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Covid-19 fines issued to employees, as Agency highlights need for pandemic prevention

Johnny Bugeja

Six fines have been issued to employees for not wearing a mask contrary to Covid-19 measures, the Environmental Agency said as it stressed the importance of pandemic prevention as part of World Environmental Health day.

Today marks World Environmental Health day, with the Agency this year focusing on Covid-19.

A new line of their work has been responding to complaints from the public that certain establishments are not adhering to Covid-19 measures.

“We have also been collaborating with the police as they enforce the social gatherings aspect. We have had to highlight high risk areas where people tend to gather,” said Chris Segovia from the Agency.

“Focusing more on night time, like Friday night or on National Day. In Casemates, Ocean Village, Chatham Counterguard, Queensway Quay and maybe other places.”

“We took the opportunity to spot check places at night because we have encountered issues with them and we just want to follow up and ensure they have heeded our advice or warnings.”

He believes that the vast majority of establishments and people complied with the measures, but as with most things a small few did not adhere and that is where enforcement comes into play.

Mr Segovia does note that the catering industry has “taken a battering” due to lockdown and subsequent Covid-19 measures.

And, with this in mind the Agency’s approach to the Covid-19 measures is to explain them and to have empathy for what the businesses have gone through.

“The last thing we want to do is cause any unnecessary stress. It is just that we try to encourage that collaboration between us and them. At the end of the day it is a global thing and not just a Gibraltar thing,” he said.

The theme World Environmental Health day this year is ‘key public health intervention in disease pandemic prevention’ with emphasis on Covid-19.

While this year the Environmental Agency are not running a stall due to Covid-19, Mr Segovia said they are marking the day on social media.

The Agency worked throughout the lockdown but had to operate differently like many other entities and businesses. When possible officers and other staff worked from home.

“Complaints were still dealt with but we dealt with them in a different way depending on the complaint. We tried not to go into people’s houses to not pose a danger to the person or to ourselves, but sometimes we needed to depending on what the complaint was,” said Mr Segovia.

“We have a pest control team and sometimes we have to get in there and tackle the problem, be it with rats, mice etc.”

The biggest change has been in relation to food hygiene.

“We have seen it all over the world. The measures have been taken against the catering industry because of the risks, people gather at restaurants, bars, cafeterias,” he said.

“We have been involved in the permitting process. We have been working closely with the office of civil contingencies and director of public health to come up with permit conditions for restaurants, bars and cafeterias to comply with.”

“The permit conditions are designed to mitigate the risk of infection, so staff could work safely and members of the public could go out to eat like we all enjoy doing in Gib as safe as possible,” he added.

When the Agency visits a premises for an inspection they focus on different elements including bacteria such as salmonella, E.coli.

“But all the principles are the same, cleaning etc and it is not something that is unusual it is just that the most unusual is the capacity, distances between tables, contact tracing. These have never happened before. It has obviously increased workload because the inspectors are going out to do the normal food hygiene inspections plus the Covid measures,” he said.

High risk premises such as a restaurant are inspected every three months.

As World Environmental Health day passes and the Agency looks towards the future it will be business as usual said Mr Segovia.

“We have our day to day dealing with complaints, we have our food import office at the Frontier that as well was operated every day during lockdown, testing bathing and drinking water, air monitoring,” he said.

“This will all continue, but with Covid-19 also.”

“A lot of the work that is being done is to keep people as safe as possible. The scientists, the Chief Minister, they have all said it ‘we are trying to buy time’. We don’t know when the end is going to be and the work that the agency does we are just trying to make sure that in relation to Covid we want things to run as normal as possible. No one here wants to see a lockdown or what has happened in the UK where they have to close at 10pm.”

“We do not want any form of restriction, we are just very keen to work together with the industry. Our intention is to keep the public safe and staff to work safely.”