In Covid trends, what happens elsewhere matters
The number of Covid-19 cases in Gibraltar has been directly impacted by external factors, such as the UK and Spain lockdowns, and locally by increased mask wearing, the Director of Public Health, Dr Sohail Bhatti, told the Chronicle.
The ripples from decisions implemented to curb any spread of Covid-19 take at least a couple of weeks to be felt.
Over the past week, cases dropped to the 40s, steadily decreasing from over 100 active cases in mid-November.
But as the UK and Spain eased their restrictions, cases in Gibraltar increased on Tuesday by 22 and then by another 21 cases on Wednesday.
As the festive period draws closer and lockdowns in Western Europe have eased, cases in Gibraltar have risen to 71, the highest so far this month.
Despite Gibraltar introducing mask wearing in town and mask wearing measures in local schools, Dr Bhatti said the spread locally is affected by decisions in other neighbouring countries.
An England-wide lockdown was held from early November to early December, meaning that travel was significantly curtailed.
This resulted in fewer cases in Gibraltar as locals were not travelling and in Spain non-essential travel was banned between regions in November.
“The impact of anything takes about two to three weeks and I think there’s been a range of different factors and again those factors have been happening across the western world apart from America,” Dr Bhatti said.
“There have been lockdowns all over Western Europe. I think there’s definitely an effect.”
“Instead of one person on a flight [with Covid], now there’s one person in every three or four flights. That itself will have a suppression.”
“The fact that Andalucia was effectively on some kind of lockdown has a suppression effect.”
“The fact that we are wearing masks on a mandatory basis when we go shopping has a suppression effect.”
“The fact that our children are wearing masks now much more assiduously in schools has a suppression effect.”
“All of it supresses and the point is we have got to have more suppression than expansion.”
“It’s a very fine balance and it changes according to what people are doing so in the run up to Christmas as people are having secret Christmas parties and people are breaking the rules because [they think] it doesn’t really apply to them.”
“The point is, if the virus gets in, then it will have serious consequences.”
“Serious consequences are we will have to isolate.”
Dr Bhatti described self-isolation as creating a “fire break” in the spread of the virus.
“A fire break, by its nature, is always bigger than the fire,” Dr Bhatti said.
“It stops the fire from leaping over. So that’s why there are sometimes significant numbers of people [in self-isolation].”
He added, in busy settings such as a school, the “fire breaks have to be bigger” as the size of the spread could be larger.
The increase in cases on Tuesday and Wednesday by 43 saw the total rise from 42 to 71 active Covid-19 cases in Gibraltar.
Of the 17 new resident cases in Gibraltar at the moment, four were close contacts of existing active cases.
The number of total confirmed cases is now 1,125 with over 105,000 tests carried out.
Some 441 people are in self-isolation and there is one positive case in the Covid-19 Ward.