Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Local News

Gibraltar and Spain 'work together' to fight virus that 'knows no borders'

The press conference on Wednesday afternoon

Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, called Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on Wednesday in a show of solidarity as Spain and Gibraltar implement their respective contingency measures to fight the spread of Covid-19.

In their first conversation since she took office last January, Mr Picardo and Mrs Gonzalez agreed that coronavirus “knows no borders” and that a coordinated response would be beneficial to communities on either side of the frontier.

Mrs Gonzalez tweeted about the conversation and said Spain and Gibraltar were “working together to protect our citizens”.

The backdrop to the call was an incident on Tuesday night in which an easyJet flight carrying Gibraltarian students amongst its passengers was diverted to Malaga because of high winds in Gibraltar, leaving passengers stranded because the airline had not organised coaches due to the Covid-19 restrictions in Spain.

easyJet has ceased services into Spain and scaled back its operations there, leaving the Spanish authorities unable to allow the Gibraltar-bound passengers off the plane because they had no onward transport to Gibraltar.

The Spanish state of emergency that came into force at the weekend prevented the authorities from allowing the passengers to wait or make their own way to the Rock.

Mr Picardo was in contact with senior officials at the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior and even spoke with the plane’s captain as the aircraft prepared to take off from Malaga to return to Bristol.

Once the airline confirmed it would make swift arrangements for onward transport, the passengers were allowed off the plane.

Mr Picardo said the Spanish officials had been “wholesome in their support” and the problem had arisen because of operational issues relating to the airline.

On Wednesday Mr Picardo thanked the Spanish minister for the actions of her officials on Tuesday night and also discussed arrangements to avoid a repetition should the situation arise again and Gibraltar-bound planes end up in Malaga due to poor weather.

They also discussed wider issues related to Covid-19 contingencies, including the need to ensure frontier fluidity despite the restrictions in place on either side.

"We had the opportunity of reflecting on the actions being taken to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in Europe, and I used the call also to thank the minister for the work done by her officials and officials of the Ministry of the Interior last night in relation to the easyJet flight in question,” he said.

"The minister has been very clear to me that she is looking to work to ensure that we continue to have the fluidity of persons and goods necessary that we need to have and she's been positive and supportive throughout in her communication."

"I thanked her also for reaching out to me at this difficult and sensitive time."

"We've been clear together that the enemy here is the virus which knows no borders and which we're going to approach in that way."

Mrs Gonzalez’ tweet drew a lot of reaction from many in Gibraltar, including from one of Gibraltar’s top athletes Chris Walker, whose daughter was on the flight.