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Gibraltar set for phase six of lockdown release as infection rate remains low

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Gibraltar is poised to enter phase six of its unlocking plan tomorrow with just one active case of Covid-19, even as the Gibraltar Government stressed the need to comply with public health guidelines and warned against “a free for all.”

That was the message from the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on Monday as he set out the latest information surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.

And as regions in Spain, including Andalucia, made mask use compulsory in all public places, the Gibraltar Government said it had not ruled out such a step but would be guided by its scientific advisors.

There is currently only one active case of the virus in Gibraltar - an asymptomatic visitor to the Rock who is in isolation.

There are currently no cases among cross-frontier workers either.

The total number of swabs taken to test for Covid-19 now amounts to 16,239.

This, Mr Picardo said, makes Gibraltar the first in the world for testing per million of population.

“It has been a huge effort for us to achieve this level of testing, but we have done it with the help and cooperation of our citizens and our healthcare professionals,” Mr Picardo said.

He explained that it has been this “aggressive” random sampling regime that has helped Gibraltar get to a position where it can report just one case of Covid-19.

Alongside testing, low numbers of prevalence of the virus in the community means Gibraltar can continue to proceed de-escalation.

The Government will therefore proceed to the final stage - phase six - of its Unlock the Rock strategy on Wednesday.

This will see a review all aspects of the implementation of the plan as well as the posture for the return of full-time education in September.

Gibraltar, Mr Picardo said, is in good shape to move towards “Rock Unlocked” on August 1.

“This is good news,” he said.

“But I want to make it clear that we are not unlocking to a free-for-all.”

“We are unlocking to a new normal.”

“There will still be rules to comply with in relation to social distancing, self-isolation where appropriate and hand and respiratory hygiene.”

Indeed, the progression through the phases of the Unlock the Rock roadmap has meant a heightened awareness of public health guidelines and contact tracing protocols.

In this regard, some 8,925 people have now downloaded the contact tracing app.

Although the public health advice on the use of masks has not changed here, Mr Picardo said the Government continues to follow the science surrounding the issue.

The compulsory use of masks has come under the spotlight recently as the World Health Organisation updated its guidance on their usage based on a review of evolving evidence.

The UK Government has also strengthened its stance on the use of masks, which are also now compulsory even in open spaces across the region of Andalucia.

“If the advice that the Government were to receive was that we should implement the compulsory use of face masks in all common areas, we would immediately move to that,” Mr Picardo told reporters yesterday.

“If the World Health Organisation moves in that direction, I have no doubt that the advice we receive from Public Health Gibraltar may change and we will then obviously change the approach that we take.”

Mr Picardo underscored that all steps taken throughout this process have been on the advice of public health officials.

“We don’t want to bring any laymen considerations into this process,” he said, adding: “It’s worked very well for us.”

Having followed this process based on science instead of politics, Mr Picardo said Gibraltar was able to report just one active case of the virus on the Rock.

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