Lockdown extended for seven days, but partial easing of restrictions likely from Feb 1
Gibraltar’s lockdown was extended for another seven days on Friday, although the Gibraltar Government signalled it expected to start easing restrictions as from January 31.
Speaking at a press conference in No.6 Convent Place, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar had recorded 14 deaths in the space of five days, and that the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 included young and old.
A death in the community yesterday was also likely to be related to Covid-19, although that had not yet been confirmed.
“This disease is undoubtedly taking a tragic toll in our Community,” he said.
“For that reason we must ensure that we supress the curve of new infections as quickly and as effectively as possible.”
But as he warned against complacency, he explained too that the spread of the virus had slowed and the reproduction number, which is used to measure rate of reproduction, had fallen to R0.6 and R0.7.
Anything below R1 means the spread of the virus is declining and officials are hoping it will be a R0.5 by the time they start partially lifting lockdown measures.
There were 24 new virus infections on Friday, and the number of active cases stood at 605.
“That is frankly excellent progress,” Mr Picardo said.
“We should not expect to see zero new infections before we start to unlock.”
“With an R below 1, we are moving in exactly the right direction.”
“But we need R to be below 0.5 for two cases of Covid to lead to 1, that is to say, to see a consistent reduction.”
“Unfortunately, it is not yet clear that we are seeing those results with the consistency necessary to be able to confidently lift our lockdown.”
“Indeed, we must be careful not to unlock prematurely and give rise to a bigger spike in the future.”
The decision to extend the lockdown for another week was taken by the Covid Platinum team and approved by the Cabinet.
However the Chief Minister said that in the absence of another spike in numbers, restrictions would soon be lifted and that as from February 1:
- Non-essential shops will be allowed to open but with restrictions to ensure safety of staff and patrons;
- Hairdressers will also be allowed to open, with restrictions including compulsory masks;
- Gyms, subject to permits being granted for safe operation, should also be able to open on a restricted basis;
- A curfew will remain in place from 10pm to 6am.
Catering establishments will not be able to open on February 1 and will be unlikely to do so until March 1.
The government expects schools to reopen on February 1 and has commenced the process of vaccinating teachers, all of whom will have received their first jab by Monday.
“Our school buildings will be ready to reopen by the 1st February,” Mr Picardo said.
“I can give parents the comfort that we are now planning firmly to open on that date, subject only to a major increase in the infection rate, which we do not now expect.”
Mr Picardo, who received his first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Friday, said the inoculation program was well under way again after the arrival of a second batch of vaccines this week.
He told reporters that the government expected everyone in the older risk groups to have received their second doses of the vaccine by the end of February, even as the jab was also offered to a wider cross-section of the community in the coming days and weeks.
The prospect of restrictions being eased as from February 1 was tempered by the recent tragic news following nearly 60 deaths in a short period of time.
“In Gibraltar, no one is a statistic,” Mr Picardo said.
“Every life is precious to us all.”
Of the 14 deaths in the past five days, seven were at the Elderly Residential Services, where an outbreak of Covid-19 has claimed many lives since the start of the year.
But there was better news too. While there are still 92 people fighting the virus in ERS, there have been 31 full recoveries too.
“Happily, the vast majority of those infected at ERS have recovered or will recover,” the Chief Minister said.
“That is not to say however, that we will not yet see more deaths in those facilities.”
There are currently 11 patients in the critical care unit at St Bernard’s Hospital, nine of the ventilated.
The youngest person in the CCU is in their 50s, the oldest in the 70s.
There are 41 people in the Covid wards too, the youngest in their 30s.
“That is important for people to note,” Mr Picardo said.
“There are all ages in our hospital, not just elderly people.”
“Please do realise that. We are all at risk. Please do not forget that.”
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