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Four more deaths as new infections drop to six and vaccination programme resumes

Cargo is offloaded from the RAF transport plane that delivered a third batch of 8,100 vaccines to Gibraltar on Saturday. Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Frontline healthcare workers and the elderly began receiving their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines yesterday, as the Gibraltar Government reported four more deaths over the weekend even as the number of new infections continued to drop.

The Royal Air Force delivered a third batch of vaccines on Saturday night, the equivalent of 8,100 doses on the basis that six vaccines are extracted from each vial.

The latest delivery means people who have received their first dose – including frontline workers, the elderly and vulnerable people – will almost certainly receive their second dose three weeks after their first jab.

The new batch will also allow the rollout of the vaccine to younger age groups ahead of further deliveries.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Friday that Gibraltar’s small size and the mammoth cross-agency effort to the get jabs into people’s arms meant Gibraltar was moving very rapidly to vaccinate a large proportion of its population.

Geographical proximity means vaccination can start literally hours after delivery, something that may not be possible in other countries given the logistical challenges of distance and necessary infrastructure such as specialist freezers.

“We have the opportunity that perhaps no other nation in the world is able to achieve, [but] not for any reason which makes us spectacular other than our size,” Mr Picardo said.

“This is not because we have done things better than anyone, this is not a game that anyone should fall into the trap of...this is simply because of our size and the availability of vaccine,” he said.

“And because of the vaccination programme which has been done extremely well.”

“There has been not one dose wasted.”

“We don't have doses sitting in the freezer. Here, vaccines never sit on the shelf. They get quickly jabbed into someone's arm.”

“And that is why we're being given the vaccine, because we can put it to use fast [and] otherwise it may be sitting on other shelves.”

Mr Picardo acknowledged recent issues with “international supply and demand” for Covid-19 vaccines but said he was confident Gibraltar’s supply would not be disrupted and that governments would avoid “a trade war in vaccine”.

Over the weekend, the Gibraltar Health Authority announced it had created a Covid-19 vaccination record card, which is produced in-house and handed to people who have received their two doses.

The vaccine developments came as four more people were confirmed to have died due to Covid-related complications, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic to 77.

On Saturday, a female resident of ERS aged 90-95 years old and a man of the same age, both with underlying health conditions, died of pneumonitis. Both were recorded as deaths from Covid-19.

On Sunday, the government reported the death of a man in his early 70s with underlying health conditions who died from multiple organ failure as a result of Covid, sepsis and acute renal failure, and that of a woman in her early 90s who also had underlying health issues and died of pneumonia. Both were recorded as deaths from Covid-19.

Mr Picardo expressed his condolences to the families and friends of the deceased and said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss.

“One note of good news amongst the tragedy is that [on Saturday] evening we received a further batch of Pfizer vaccines from the UK which has allowed us to commence our second dose strategy this morning,” he said.

“I am truly inspired by the hard work of all the staff at the GHA, ERS and beyond who are giving everything they have to ensure the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Gibraltar.”

“On behalf of the whole of Gibraltar, thank you”

“Once again, as we commence a new phase of partial unlocking [on Monday], please follow all of the rules.”

“Assume everyone you meet outside of your home has Covid-19 in the way that you approach them.”

“The best ways to protect yourself and others remain the same. Stay at home unless you really have to go out.”

“Wear a mask in public, wash your hands and call 111 as soon as you develop symptoms.”

“Please accept the vaccine when the GHA offer it to you. We cannot give up now.”

The latest deaths came as just five new cases were detected on Sunday, the lowest daily figure in many weeks.

There are currently 282 active cases of the virus in Gibraltar, including 27 in the Covid wards, 10 in the critical care unit and 21 at ERS.

A further 605 people are in self-isolation.

Since the start of the pandemic, 3,705 residents of Gibraltar have recovered from the virus.

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