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Govt working to procure antibody tests to shed light on community immunity

The Gibraltar Government is working to procure an antibody test with which to assess how many people in the community recovered from Covid-19 without realising they had been infected with the virus.

The tests, which have yet to be sourced, are different to the random testing that the GHA announced this weekend and which aims to establish how many people might actively have the virus at present in the community.

The antibody test will shed light on people who have had the virus, rather than those how currently have it, indicating too the potential extent of immunisation in the community.

“That will be very important for us to be able to ascertain how many people have gone through the infection,” said Paul Balban, the Minister for Health, at the 4pm press conference,

“Most of the population will contract Covid-19 and not show any symptoms.”

“That means it will be impossible for us, without such tests, to know exactly who’s been through it and who hasn’t.”

But he cautioned against rushing to procure tests that were unreliable, as has happened in a number of European countries including Spain.

False data was as dangerous than no data, he said.

“It is extremely important that we procure the right tests for this purpose, and this is something we are actively procuring at this moment,” he said.

Mr Balban was speaking as the latest statistics showed that the number of confirmed cases had risen by nine between Saturday and Sunday to 65.

Of those, 14 had recovered and 51 remained active, including two in the Covid critical care unit and another two in the Covid ward at St Bernard’s Hospital. Another two are on the ward with symptoms and have been swabbed but are pending results.

All hospitalised patients including the two on the critical care ward are doing well, Mr Balban said, adding that neither of the two ICU patients had required ventilation.

Mr Balban too that the active cases included several frontline workers, although he did not reveal the exact figure.

“There are a number of healthcare workers affected,” he said.

“It’s important that people go through the infection to be able to come back to work.”

“It’s a very, very natural process for not only our healthcare workers but our population at large to be falling to infection.”

“What will happen is that they will be ready to come back afterwards.”

Throughout the press conference, both Mr Balban and the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, underscored the government’s public health advice and the lockdown rules, which are aimed at protecting life by slowing the rate of transmission and thus the pressure on the GHA.

“Gibraltar is in lockdown,” Dr Garcia said.

“You must not go out unless you really have to.”

“There are a number of exceptions but these must not be abused.”

“They are only for exceptional circumstances.”

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