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Gib keeps a close eye on Campo as Spain eases lockdown restrictions

By Gabriella Peralta and Brian Reyes

The Campo de Gibraltar will be among the areas of Spain moving to the next phase of the country's exit from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, with bars, restaurants and places of worship allowed to reopen as from today.

The relatively low number of cases in the Campo, coupled to available hospital capacity, means Spanish authorities say it is safe to move cautiously into this new phase of exit.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Campo stands at 283 since the start of the pandemic, with 33 deaths recorded of people with coronavirus and 187 cases still active, according to Europa Sur newspaper citing health data.

Spain's Health Emergency Chief, Fernando Simon, told a news conference at the weekend that 51% of the population would move onto the next phase of easing lockdown measures, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

However the country's two biggest cities do not currently meet the government's criteria for easing measures, and neither will there be any immediate change to restrictions at Spain’s borders.

Madrid and Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, account for nearly half of Spain's cases of infection.

"I want to insist that this is not a race, decisions must be based on cooperation and caution,” Spain’s Health Minister, Salvador Illa, said.

The developments north of the border are being closely monitored in Gibraltar, where the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, said on Saturday they could be directly relevant to Gibraltar’s own plans.

“The situation next door can have an immediate impact on what happens here,” Dr Garcia said.

“So we will continue to keep a close eye going forward.”

He added Gibraltar will also be impacted by decisions made in the UK and any plans to ease the lockdown here should encompass these surrounding factors.

“It doesn’t hold that Gibraltar can behave as if it was an island,” Dr Garcia said.

“We are not an island, we are connected by air to the UK and by land to Spain.”

“What happens in those countries will have a bearing on what we do here.”

With shops and hairdressing salons reopening in Gibraltar last week, there was a 27% increase in cross-frontier workers, Dr Garcia said.

Even so, the number of people crossing into Gibraltar continues to be very low compared to the same period last year, when over 250,000 people crossed into Gibraltar, he added.

The figures showed that 3,901 persons crossed into Gibraltar last Monday, the first full working day where shops and self-contained constructed sites were allowed to reopen.

“The pandemic continues its slow retreat in Andalucia and in Cadiz which is the province next door,” Dr Garcia said.

Dr Garcia was clear that the “only” way Gibraltar can “kill the virus is by stopping its spread,” and outlined how the Gibraltar Government will hone in on individual cases in a bid to curb any new clusters of infection.

The newly established Contact Tracing Bureau will quiz those found positive with Covid-19 to pinpoint people they would have likely spread the virus to.

Administrative staff Nightingale Field Hospital have been redeployed to the Contact Tracing Team, and 30 staff have been trained.

Dr Garcia added that a new Public Health Covid-19 screening facility is being set up at the University of Gibraltar.

“This is part of a strategy to deliver hundreds of screening tests a day, with a lab turnaround of four hours or less,” he said.

Spain registered its lowest daily number of coronavirus deaths on Sunday since mid-March.

Mr Simon said the daily death toll of 143, down from 179 on Saturday, was the lowest since March 18.

"We continue with the downward trend reported in recent days," he told a news conference.

Under the lockdown relaxation that comes into force on Monday in many parts of Spain including the Campo, up to 10 people will be able to gather together and people will also be allowed to move freely around their province.

In regions that qualify, restaurants and shops will be allowed to open at reduced capacity and museums, gyms and hotels will open their doors for the first time in nearly two months.

There is no immediate change to restrictions at the border, however, with only those resident in Spain allowed to cross north and only those with jobs in Gibraltar allowed to travel into Gibraltar.