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Curfew ends Thursday as Gibraltar leaves behind ‘the deadliest winter’

Zero new Covid cases in four days is what Gibraltar had ‘hoped, wished or prayed’ for, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo announced in Parliament as he scrapped the midnight curfew.

The announcement comes after weeks of slow easing of restrictions and a robust vaccination campaign.

Gibraltar now has 25 active cases, of which 10 are visitors ,and over 23,000 people have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Mr Picardo confirmed there are no Covid patients in St Bernard’s Hospital and said routine work in the Gibraltar Health Authority will soon continue.

“This was the first time since late December that St Bernard's was free of covid patients,” Mr Picardo told Parliament on Monday.

“This will bode well for the restart of routine GHA work which I know is so important to so many in our community.”

“Additionally, it's important and a demonstration of the effectiveness of our lockdown and vaccination programme.”

The continued easing of restrictions comes four weeks after schools reopened in late February and three weeks since the catering industry reopened.

“It is two weeks since we started to relax restrictions even further and today for the fourth day in a row we once again report zero new cases of Covid, zero cases in hospital and zero new cases reported,” Mr Picardo said.

“This is the direction of travel we all hoped, wished or prayed to see developing.”

Mr Picardo added the midnight curfew will end on Thursday, March 25, in time for Passover and Easter.

“I know this will be a blessed relief for our Jewish community in particular who will be celebrating their Passover feast starting this weekend,” he said.

“Additionally, Mr Speaker, it will be a blessed relief for our Roman Catholic community whose Easter vigil mass on Easter Saturday also starts late on Saturday the 3rd of April this year.”

The further relaxation of rules comes as Gibraltar is set to hold two major sporting events, including the Gibraltar FA's international match against Norway and the Rumble on the Rock heavyweight boxing fight.

These events, Mr Picardo said, will “almost be a public health experiment”.

“We will see people gathering for these events but in a controlled manner,” he said.

“I expect will also be able to greatly relax our measures as to numbers in restaurants and more generally in coming weeks.”

“We should also hopefully, Mr Speaker, be able to take a different approach to areas in which mask's may be necessary.”

“Mr Speaker we are at last leaving behind us our deadliest winter.”

Leader of the Opposition Keith Azopardi urged caution and sought clarification on the restrictions and resumption of GHA routine work.

“We can’t let our guard down, Covid is all around us,” Mr Azopardi said.

“Indeed there is still a chance even vaccinated, that you can get Covid, even a smaller [chance] so we have to be careful.”

He asked for a timescale in relation to restrictions on restaurants and social gatherings and on the right to demonstrate in Gibraltar.

Mr Picardo said, in regard to the GHA, there are communications that will follow.

He added it is not prudent to give timescales on restaurants and social gatherings, adding this needs to be judged carefully.

Leader of Together Gibraltar Marlene Hassan Nahon called the vaccination programme brilliant, but also asked for clarification on the high death toll in the Elderly Residential Services last January.

She asked when the inquiry process would begin.

Mr Picardo replied the process will begin once Gibraltar is free of the pandemic.

“The number of hours that it will take to do this inquiry and to do it properly cannot be underestimated,” he said.

He added that the process would begin “fairly soon”.

GSD MP Elliott Phillips asked about the government’s current thinking in relation to mask wearing and social distancing given the open nature of the border.

Mr Picardo said the Government will continue to keep this under review.

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