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Govt clears way for sale of lateral flow tests

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Pharmacies in Gibraltar will be able to sell lateral flow tests over the counter as from Thursday, the Gibraltar Government has announced.

The long-awaited decision is part of the government’s wider strategy to exit the restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic and ease the community back to normality after two years of upheaval.

It seeks to provide people with more options for self-testing, something that Opposition parties and many in the community had long been calling for.

While tests are widely available in other countries, Gibraltar has so far preferred to offer controlled free testing in order to keep better control of quality and results data.

No.6 Convent Place said it will now allow the importation and sale of lateral flow tests approved by the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter.

“We have previously had a model of tightly controlled testing for three main reasons,” Dr Carter said.

“Firstly, to enable us to ensure the quality of the tests being used, secondly ensuring correct technique and thirdly so that we could link the results from the laboratory into the Contact Tracing Bureau.”

“We are now moving through the next phase of the pandemic and able to ease our restrictions because we are in a good position in terms of being a highly vaccinated population and having access to antiviral therapy to help to protect those who are still at risk of the most serious consequences of infection.”

“We have eased face mask wearing and now it is time for us to ease back testing.”

“We are ensuring that the quality of tests being used are of a high quality.”

“I would encourage people to read information leaflets or watch online tutorials on how to perform the test.”

“We still require people to notify us if they test positive.”

In announcing the decision, the government urged people to share details of their lateral flow test results, whether negative or positive, using an online form set up by Public Health.

This will enable the Health Protection Team to continue to identify outbreaks in vulnerable settings and implement control measures if necessary to prevent further spread.

The online form can be accessed via the following link: https://forms.gle/AthotBMWwMuMgawu5

Anyone who is unable to use the online QR code should contact the Health Protection Team on 22258707 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday to report their result.

In the event of a positive test result, individuals should also contact 111 without delay and 111 will then arrange for a confirmatory test to be conducted at the earliest opportunity. 111 advice is to be followed at all times.

The Contact Tracing Bureau will cease operations on Thursday but the public health function will continue.

But Dr Carter stressed the importance of people contacting Public Health to register the results of any lateral flow tests they take.

“We are not contact tracing as we were, rather we are reviewing positive cases so that we can identify individuals in whom antiviral therapy will help prevent the serious consequences of the disease and to enable us to identify outbreaks in vulnerable settings to implement control measures to prevent further spread,” she said.

“We have changed our approach from a blanket approach for all of the population and are now focusing our resources and efforts on continuing to protect those who are still at risk of the severe consequences of infection.”

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