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Govt plans ‘drive-through’ virus tests and sets up medical staff bank

Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Government yesterday announced plans for a temporary “drive-through” facility to test people for coronavirus, although it confirmed too that no new cases have been detected.

The temporary drive-through facility at the Rooke will be operational “within a few days”, with plans to have the samples processed in Gibraltar by the end of the month.

So far 45 people have been tested for Covid-19, with one person returning a positive result. The patient has since recovered and been cleared of the virus.

Another four people are still awaiting test results, which can take days as samples are currently sent to a laboratory in London.
In a statement the government said it also anticipates that blood tests may be taken in the same way at the drive-through facility.

"Only patients who have been invited due to their potential exposure will be given the test," the government said.

"People will not be asked to leave their car but will be swabbed as they wait, having first provided the necessary validation of their appointment.”

“The sample will then be processed in the usual way.”

There are currently 43 people in self-isolation, with more than 100 having self-isolated since the precautionary measures began.

“The GHA is working hard to process tests locally by the end of March, but at the moment swabs are sent to London,” the statement said.

“GHA staff will be wearing aprons, gloves and masks/face shields.”

“By being tested in their own cars, people will be protected from contamination that might arise from visiting St Bernard's Hospital.”

“Similar services have just been developed in the UK, South Korea and Germany, but this way to test people is also an innovation in Gibraltar.”

This forms part of the coronavirus preparations of the Government, the GHA and Public Health Gibraltar for a "worst case scenario”.

MEDICAL STAFF POOL

The Gibraltar Health Authority and the Care Agency have invited medical professionals, including those who have retired, to join a ‘bank service’ for short notice work, as part of coronavirus contingency planning.

The service will see the GHA and Care Agency call on bank staff when needed, with temporary work offered. Applicants “must be flexible” to work at “very short notice”.

“This is intended to attract retired personnel or experienced professionals residing locally,” the Gibraltar Government told the Chronicle.

The plans follow regular meetings and precautionary contingency measures in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Gibraltar.

The GHA has invited expressions of interest from doctors, dentists, nurses, ambulance workers, social workers, and care workers, with successful candidate then placed on a Bank Service List.

MASK SHORTAGES
In a separate development, local dental clinics have also been dealing with issues due to the global outbreak of coronavirus, as suppliers have sold out of medical face masks.

The suppliers for three local dental clinics have all sold out of masks, with the clinics now either waiting for more stock, or turning to other suppliers.

One dental clinic said they would be “stuck” if their supplier were to fail to send more masks by next month.

Luckily due to a promotional offer they had ordered more than usual number of masks before coronavirus struck, and admitted if not they might be “struggling”.

The clinic has ordered more from their supplier, who although currently sold out has promised to ship the masks once in stock.

Dentist Elisabeth Strahlberg told the Chronicle the clinic had a good supply of masks, but since the outbreak began their stockists have been sold out of masks for some time.

Another dentist had already stocked up due to Brexit, but has had trouble sourcing more masks and hand sanitiser.

The dental practice said they were “trying to be ahead of the problem” and exercising extra caution.

They added the price of hand sanitiser had greatly increased, and they were sourcing more masks rom further afield, such as Germany and searching for suppliers in Europe.

Their usual supplier in the UK had also run out.

The GHA has urged members of the public to refrain from buying masks as they do not protect users from the Covid-19 virus.

STUDENTS
The Department of Education has written to all Gibraltar students studying at University abroad with advice and reassurance regarding COVID-19.

The advice includes information for university students relating to what to do if they are diagnosed with the virus, what to do if they are travelling in a country that is at-risk, consideration when booking travel arrangements, and advice regarding examinations.

“Gibraltar’s university students are an important part of our community and I want each of them, and their families, to be reassured that there are mechanisms in place to support them whenever they may need it,” said the Minister for Education, Gilbert Licudi.

The government recommends students to pay close attention to the advice provided by their respective universities, and by public health professionals both in the UK and Gibraltar.

“Please get in touch with the Department of Education as soon as possible if you require assistance or support, so that we can help you,” the government said in a statement.

The government advises students to please look to official sources for advice, particularly www.wuhan.gi.

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