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‘Deep concern’ as Gib registers 180 new Covid cases

Eyleen Gomez

Gibraltar registered its highest daily spike in new virus cases on Wednesday, with 180 new Covid-19 infections detected in a development that has caused “deep concern” for officials.

The total number of active cases on the Rock rose to 714 cases, including 706 residents and eight visitors to the Rock.

Including cross-border workers detected in Gibraltar but recovering in Spain, the number of active Covid-19 cases would rise to 751.

Five new cases were recorded among Elderly Care Services residents, and at present there are 15 patients in the hospital, with 12 in the Covid Ward and three individuals in the Covid Critical Care Unit.

In a statement, the Gibraltar Government urged caution while it also welcomed the news of approval for the use of the new Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “Today is a day for deep concern and for great hope.”

“The deep concern comes from the fact that we are seeing huge numbers of new infections of Covid-19 in our community.”

“These likely do not reflect the effect of the restrictions put in place by the Government last week.”

“We need to give those restrictions time to take effect before we decide if we need to increase the controls in place.”

“We have to reserve the possibility that we may need to act quickly to further graduate the restrictions in coming days and weeks.”

“The great hope comes from the UK MHRA approval of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.”

“Everyone will hope that we will see that vaccine soon become widely available in the UK and through the UK in Gibraltar, alongside the Pfizer vaccine.”

“This very high number of new positive infections of Covid-19 today emphasises the importance of complying with the restrictions put in place by the Government to prevent the spread of the virus,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.

“The huge numbers of new infections and the huge numbers of people in self isolation are putting massive pressure on the ability of the Government to continue to provide public services.”

“In particular, there is massive pressure on the 111 and Contact Tracing services as well as the Gibraltar Health Authority and all front line services as a whole.”

“It is therefore fundamentally important that the public should adhere to the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.”

On a more positive note, the Gibraltar Government welcomed the news that the United Kingdom Government has accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise the Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.

“This recommendation for approval follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” the Government spokesman said.

“The United Kingdom has already acquired 100,000,000 (one hundred million) doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.”

“The UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will shortly now also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive this vaccine.”

“This will be taken into consideration in Gibraltar in order to set our own priority group hierarchy.”

“The GHA has already developed a vaccine delivery plan for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that is shortly due to arrive in Gibraltar.”

“The GHA will also now pursue acquisition of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine and will plan for the roll out of it in anticipation of its arrival in Gibraltar becoming an early reality.”

For his part, Mr Picardo added: “For now, we have to rely on people following the Government’s rules and the strong advice from the Government to try to stem the growth of infections and try to reduce the spike of the progress of the virus in our community.”

“This matters, even though we thankfully have room in our hospital for more cases, because of the effect even the numbers we are seeing now have on our ability to continue to deliver front line services.”

“So, I ask people to show responsibility and stay home as much as possible, to follow our rules and to follow our strong advice. We need to curb the growth of the numbers of infections.”

Of the 171 new resident cases, 42 were close contacts of existing active cases, the government said.

The positive cases were detected in 1,749 tests carried out in the 24-hour period, in line with the daily standard in place for some time now.

There were still 893 tests pending results.

A further 2,030 people are in self-isolation at home in Gibraltar.

A total of 28,318 tests have been carried out so far in the frontline, targeted and systematic sampling.

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