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Gibraltar pulls together and rises to occasion

There was uncertainty and worry echoed by many at the prospect that Gibraltar was entering an emergency public health crisis.

“Keep safe and take care,” were words repeated many a time from shop keepers to shoppers, tourists to locals, police to the media.

As an eery silence befell Gibraltar’s streets, the community watched, many from behind closed doors, how Gibraltar was systematically locking down, sometimes enforced by new measures imposed by the Gibraltar Government, other times by self-imposed decisions.

The advice for everyone but in particular for the elderly and vulnerable is to stay inside wherever possible and limit social contact under all circumstances.

“It was our decision as an organisation,” commented Gibraltar FA General Secretary Ivan Robba, as he explained the last of the measures taken by his association, the closure of the offices and shop at Irish Town.

Gibraltar was responding proactively to the measures being put in place by the Government to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Sports had effectively come to a halt by Saturday evening. Association after association rolled out the announcements suspending their leagues, matches and training without the need of much argument.

With children and adults alike without sporting activities to see them through, some associations started to work towards helping in the coming weeks, providing online support and ideas for activities.

From Netball’s initiative to provide online drawing contests and word searches to hockey’s 'how to practice at home’ tutorials, everyone had turned to assisting people through the next few weeks.

In just 24 hours, Gibraltar’s panorama had changed from a bustling community to one of silence.

On Saturday the park had been filled with families. Similarly the Leisure centre. But as the Government started to roll out the closure of sites, such scenes were not repeated on Sunday.

An empty Commonwealth parked greeted any passerby and places of worship had closed their doors too, taking to the internet to ensure the faithful were able to follow services.

“It’s been like this all morning,” commented a lone security man guarding an empty park. Similarly a GSLA Leisure Centre security guard, as she closed the doors behind her, explained how the centre had been packed on Saturday.

“We had to close,” she said. “If you think about it, people came out yesterday but they shouldn’t have.”

Whilst Main Street still had a few souls wondering around at the weekend, the upper town was a desolate place. No children ran around this weekend. There was little of the stopping and chatting. A usually noisy neighbourhood such as Moorish Castle fell silent. Birds could be heard singing.

Across the bay there was no smoke from the chimney stacks of the refinery.

Those who wandered out kept their distance from others and spoke a distance apart from each other, even when stopping to greet each other.

“No handshakes.” Those words replaced the normal embraces.

Behind closed doors families planned for the next weeks. One family had already locked themselves down in Spain. A decision made on Wednesday and acted upon on the same day.

Yet as details of the Spanish lockdown emerged, they took to WhatsApp to speak to friends and wondered if to return to Gibraltar.

Even though without neighbour, the anxious moments they were living had set upon them a fear of being too far away from Gibraltar if things worsened.

Others chatted via their social media networks, making their own decisions on whether they would remove their children from schools.

And while schools remain open for now, some parents were keeping their children at home.

“It’s no longer a decision for anyone but myself, I will take the responsibility,” commented one parent. Another, who also confirmed he was removing their child from school, said: “I don’t agree that they should go to school, I am sorry I am just not sending them.”

“We haven’t got any elderly with us and we can stay with them.”

Others took to social media to seek advice on what to do.

“It’s unreal I never believed I would ever see this in my life,” a young father of two, still in his mid 20s said as he confessed his worries. He could not leave his work because his job placed him in the frontline, working to ensure the equipment at the hospital was maintained and working.

“It’s like a world war,” commented another, as he took to his WhatsApp friends group.

Yet Gibraltar rose to find a new spirit, a community uniting once again in adversity.

“Gibraltar you are BRILLIANT. You never cease to impress and dazzle me,” wrote Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on Facebook just hours after appearing on television on Sunday.

“When the clouds circle, your light breaks through.”

“After my interview tonight on GBC's Newswatch even more of you have wanted to volunteer to help.”

Groups had appeared across social media offering assistance. Young people offered to do the shopping for the elderly.

Despite the uncertainty, Gibraltar started to rise, looking to help as around them everything closed up.

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