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Hospital increases alert level to ‘black’ as Covid admissions rise despite slower infection rate

Pic: Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Health Authority has increased its operational status to ‘black’ as Covid-19 cases in the Critical Care Unit climbed to 13 and the number of active cases in the Elderly Residential Services rose to over 100.

An internal memo issued by acting Medical Director Dr Krishna Rawal told staff the demand on hospital services had reached “unsustainable levels”.

The memo, seen by the Chronicle, said this was due to the “uncontrolled transmission” of Covid-19 in the local community which had caused high numbers of hospital admissions.

The operational status was increased to ‘black’ and the organisational threat level rose to ‘critical’.

The memo explained this posture meant the hospital was operating in excess capacity and all but critical clinical activity has been suspended.

The hospital has mechanisms in place to expand CCU capacity if necessary but the latest development comes after a bittersweet weekend for Gibraltar.

Positive news of the vaccine rollout and the fall in active cases has been tempered by the growing number of Covid cases continuing to need critical care, and by four deaths over the weekend.

As the number of new infections eased from recent highs, Gibraltar is seeing the effects of a three-week-long rolling increase in cases that reached its peak on January 8, two days before the vaccines arrived on the Rock.

From the peak of 1209 active cases a few days ago, Gibraltar now has 998 active cases, with 130 people recovering on Monday and 70 new cases detected.

But although most people recover without the need for medical care, the spread of the virus has severely affected others, particularly vulnerable patients and the elderly.

On Monday the Gibraltar Government said there are now 25 patients in the Covid ward at St Bernard’s Hospital and 109 in the Elderly Residential Services.

The daily statistics showed 1,980 are in self-isolation and, overall, 3,240 cases have been confirmed since the pandemic began.

Less than a fortnight into 2021, the year has so far seen 1,200 confirmed cases, about 37% of all cases.

To put that into perspective, from March to December 18 some 1,184 had been detected.

The year has also seen nine Covid-19 deaths in 10 days, more than half of the total of deaths.

Of the 64 new resident cases in Gibraltar on Monday, 23 were close contacts of existing active cases.

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