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Govt reports 'dramatic' jump in Covid-19 cases, which rise by 72

Photo by Eyleen Gomez.

The Gibraltar Government reported a sharp jump in Covid-19 cases on Thursday, warning that that Contact Tracing Bureau’s phones were “clogged” by the high volume of calls.

There were 72 new cases recorded in Gibraltar in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of new infections since January.

Thursday’s spike was the third significant consecutive daily increase, with 48 cases recorded on Wednesday and 37 on Tuesday.

It meant there were 334 active cases of the virus in Gibraltar, all but four of them residents.

A further 404 people were in self-isolation.

Despite the sharp rise, the number of hospitalisations remained low, with just four people in the Covid-19 ward in St Bernard’s Hospital and none in the critical care unit.

But the steady flow of new cases through October and early November prompted the government to issue a reminder of the need for caution in the community.

It also issued specific guidance to families with relatives in the Elderly Residential Services, urging them to exercise maximum caution on outings from the home and requiring them to sign waivers acknowledging they understand the risks.

No.6 Convent Place also made clear that the increase in cases was placing a heavy strain on the Contact Tracing Bureau, which plays a key, critical role in monitoring and containing the spread of the virus.

“As a result of this increase in active cases, the Contact Tracing Bureau is experiencing a high volume of incoming calls,” No.6 said.

“This slows down their work and clogs the system.”

“Members of the public are reminded that all positive cases will be contacted by the Contact Tracing Bureau.”

“If you receive a text message confirming that you have tested positive, please go home immediately, self-isolate and inform your close contacts.”

“Please wait for a phone call by the CTB and be ready to assist them by having your contact information readily available.”

“For the majority of people, the vaccine is preventing severe disease.”

“Gibraltar’s vaccination programme is ongoing, and the GHA is in the process of administering booster vaccines and also continues to offer the initial vaccine dose for 12-15 year olds.”

The Government strongly encourages everyone who is eligible for a vaccination or a booster to take up the offer when they are called up.”

“Public Health advice is that mask wearing in enclosed public places and keeping a reasonable distance from other where possible continue to be extremely important in reducing transmission.”

“If you develop symptoms, however mild, please call 111 immediately to arrange a test."

This week the Gibraltar Government received another 4680 does of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from the UK, delivered to the Rock on board an RAF flight.

The additional doses will allow the GHA to continue with the rollout of the booster jabs.

“In light of the dramatic increase in the active cases of Covid-19 in the community, it is important to continue building immunity against Covid-19 and everyone who is eligible is strongly encouraged to take up the offer of a booster vaccination when offered it,” the government said.

Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Health, added: “The Government of Gibraltar is grateful to have received this further consignment of Pfizer vaccines from the UK.”

“These additional doses will allow a wider group of our community to benefit from the protection of the booster.”

“Those able to take up the offer of the booster are encouraged to do so and help our community strengthen immunity against the virus, especially as we see an increase in positive cases as we enter the winter months and festive period.”

ERS

In another development, the GHA and Elderly Residential Services have reviewed their guidance for outings for ERS residents.

Families will be asked to sign waiver forms confirming that they understand the consequences involved in exposure from outings, especially during this winter surge and the festive season.

The decision was taken on the advice of the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter.

“This is in light of the increasing prevalence of Covid-19 in the community and rising numbers of hospital admissions,” the government said.

“It is essential that families act responsibly in order to safeguard the wellbeing of residents whilst on outings from ERS premises.”

“No risks should be taken as this affects not only the individual, but can also impact the health and wellbeing of other vulnerable residents within the care home.”

“It is extremely important that families risk assess where the outings are taking place and maintain all precautionary measures to minimise unnecessary contact with others.”

The advice from the GHA, ERS and Director of Public Health is to wear masks, maintain social distancing and avoid crowded places and areas of high risk, as well ensuring good ventilation when indoors.

“Although our elderly are vaccinated and protected, we still need to be extremely vigilant and avoid activities that may be considered high risk, for example attending birthday parties and enclosed overcrowded spaces such as inside restaurants during peak times with insufficient ventilation,” the government said.

Families of ERS residents were urged to use of outdoor venues whenever possible.

“If high risk activities take place, residents will be asked to isolate for 10 days upon their return to the home,” the government added.

Visiting times and the surveillance of visitors by lateral flow testing will remain unchanged, in order to maintain a safety net for residents and visitors.

Families are reassured that ERS staff are all vaccinated and tested daily, as well as being PCR tested twice weekly.

This also involves the increase of testing as and when required, as well as staff isolation if necessary.

ERS thanked relatives for their support when striving to help protect their loved ones and for supporting its staff in maintaining a safe environment for residents.

Registration for a booster vaccination can be done online at: https://www.gha.gi/pfizerbooster/

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