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La Linea braced for tougher Covid measures as virus cases spike

By Maria Jesus Corrales and Brian Reyes

La Linea was facing the prospect of a full lockdown on Wednesday as the number of Covid-19 cases jumped.
Data for December 30 – the latest available – showed the rate of spread in the city had reached 1,023 cases per 100,000 citizens, suggested 1.26% of the population was infected with the virus.
Given the incubation period of the virus, the data does not yet cover the period of the Christmas and New Year holidays, with the number of active cases expected to rise even further in the coming days.
La Linea now accounts for about half of all Covid-19 active cases in the Campo de Gibraltar, or 47.8% of total cases in the region according to the latest data from Spanish health authorities.
Of the 1,667 cases in the Campo as of December 30, 798 were in La Linea.
And while the Campo infection rate per 100,000 citizens stood at 433, La Linea’s was more than double that at 1,023 per 100,000, a figure that has doubled in just two days.
By way of comparison, the rate of infection in the province of Cadiz was 221.8 cases per 100,000 citizens.
La Linea had until now escaped the worst of the pandemic as it swept across the rest of the country. As of December 30 though, 38.96% of all cases detected in the city since the start of the pandemic were active, compared to 16.11% in the rest of the Campo.
Juan Franco, the mayor of La Linea, said the data was “quite worrying”, adding that he expected the Junta de Andalucia to increase the public health alert ranking in the city to “extreme risk” on Friday, placing La Linea into ‘level 4’ measures.
The Junta is expected to hold a meeting on Friday to consider the situation in the region and “it’s more than likely” that it will tighten Covid-19 restrictions for La Linea.
“This will mean tougher measures to stem the rate of infection,” Mr Franco said.
“Let’s hope we can flatten the curve of infection, which is very worrying.”
In effect, increasing the city’s threat level to ‘level 4’ would mean prohibiting all non-essential activities and could include a social lockdown.
The measure would have to be decided by the Junta, although the city council has already taken steps to cancel public events against the backdrop of mounting community concern and calls for a lockdown in order to halt the spread of the virus.
Mr Franco said the parties represented in the council had agreed to transmit the city’s concern to the Junta.
Jesus Aguirre, responsible for health matters at the Junta, had last week expressed concern to the central Madrid government about hospital capacity in La Linea, in particular for acute patients in need of intensive care.
At the time, up to 25% of beds in the hospital’s critical care unit were already occupied.
Accident and Emergency services were also under immense pressure.
On Monday alone, frontline health personnel attended over 200 people more than usual, many of them who were attending the hospital’s A&E service with mild symptoms but requesting Covid tests.
Hospital helplines also registered huge numbers of calls and it was not clear how many people were in self isolation in the city.
Earlier this week, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told Canal Sur that Spain and Gibraltar were “collaborating and cooperating closely” to coordinate their response to Covid-19.
“We’ve done that with all our neighbours - Andorra, Portugal, France and also Gibraltar - from the outset, and we’ll continue doing so,” she said.
And she dismissed speculative media reports suggesting the surge in La Linea was the result of the more contagious so-called “UK strain”, a single case of which had been detected in Gibraltar in November.
She said Gibraltar, in common with Spain, had taken steps “since December” to restrict who could travel from the UK, adding that controlling the spread of Covid-19 “is not a solo effort, it’s a joint effort”.
“There has been a lot of focus on this [strain] in particular, but this is just one of hundreds of strains that have appeared in Spain over recent months, and Spain is one of the countries that has registered the most variety of strains,” Mrs Gonzalez Laya said.
And she added: “We speak daily to the authorities in Gibraltar to ensure we have all the necessary information and exercise all the necessary controls to control Covid.”
“This is a very delicate moment in the evolution of Covid in our country, not just in the Campo de Gibraltar, and it’s important to remember that each of us as citizens has to exercise extreme care so that we don’t lose control of this.”
“It’s a very serious situation and we all have to be extremely responsible.”

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