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New Year curfew as virus cases continue to climb

Photo by Alice Mascarenhas

Curfew restrictions will apply on New Year’s Eve from 10pm to 6am and households will be prohibited to mix as the Gibraltar Government tightened restrictions to tackle the rise in Covid-19 cases in Gibraltar.
The announcement was made by the Gibraltar Government yesterday evening following a Covid Platinum Command meeting held between Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and senior medical professionals to consider the advice by the GHA’s Consultant Medical Microbiologist, Dr Nick Cortes.
It came just two days after it said there would be no curfew on New Year but followed a relentless increase in the number of virus cases detected in Gibraltar.
There was concern about the rapidly increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases, with No.6 Convent Place describing this as an “extremely worrying trajectory with a seven-day rolling rate per 100,000 that puts Gibraltar’s growth curve near vertical.”
Gibraltar recorded 87 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, with a total of 580 active cases on the Rock, including 573 residents and seven visitors.
More than 1,800 individuals are self-isolating, meanwhile a total of 15 people are in hospital with Covid-19, including 13 in the Covid ward and another two in the Covid Critical Care Unit.
“The medical professionals welcomed the measures taken by the Government on December 27 and added that they felt that, in their professional view, the relaxation of restrictions on New Year’s Eve, whilst being done for laudable reasons, could only act as a further catalyst to cause many more transmission events and lead to more infections,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.
“They added that, coming a week after Christmas day, when the results of household mixing are already being seen in terms of cases and many in our community will be at a peak of viral load and infectivity, further household mixing of up to 12 on NYE will only serve to facilitate further transmission.”
“For that reason, the medical professionals recommend a more formal restriction of socialising and a message to state there should not be mixing of households on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.”
“In light of the advice of the medical professionals, led by Dr Cortes’ communication, and given the continuing high numbers of infections with Covid-19 being reported daily, the decision was reluctantly made by Covid Platinum Command that the curfew in place in Gibraltar should not be relaxed for New Year’s Eve. This measure has been approved by round-robin also of the Gibraltar Cabinet.”
“This announcement is being made as soon as possible to enable people to plan for the evening and night of December, 31.”
Mr Picardo said: “We are genuinely sorry to have to take this measure, but the numbers of infections are not abating.”
“The medical advice is clear and we must act led by the science.”
“We must therefore put aside all other considerations and understand that the views of our medical professionals are informed only by a desire to protect life and the resilience of our ability to continue to provide healthcare to our community as a whole and not just to be able to deal with those who contract Covid-19 and require hospitalisation.”
“Indeed, I have already addressed the whole community on the effect the huge numbers of infections and self-isolations is having on our ability to deliver public services and we must act now to curtail activity even on the night of New Year’s Eve.”
“We would not take such a step on such a significant date if it were not essential that we should do so. But act we must and act we will, in keeping with the advice we have from our serious and concerned health professionals.”
Earlier in the day, Together Gibraltar had called on the Gibraltar Government to cancel the New Year’s Eve curfew exemption this week, adding that Gibraltar is in “midst of an epidemiological emergency of the highest order.”
The party said that with the number of Covid-19 cases in our community skyrocketing, the exemptions on restrictions announced for the eve of the New Year was “irresponsible and send all the wrong messages to the community.”
“To have an idea of what our situation is now, Gibraltar has had around 1750 positives per 100k inhabitants in the last two weeks,” Together Gibraltar said in a statement.
“Just over the frontier, a rate of 250 per 100k in 14 days is considered of extreme risk,
and should spur decisive action form the relevant authorities.”
“These are EU-wide parameters.”
Together Gibraltar said Gibraltar’s rate of infection is about “seven times that of the extreme risk threshold.”
“While it is true that more PCR tests have been performed in Gibraltar, this cannot
account for such a massive difference,” Together Gibraltar said.
“Whether it is due to the new strain of the virus or to the ‘lighter restrictions’ often boasted about by our Chief Minister, the fact is we are in the midst of an epidemiological emergency of the highest order, and this is only half way into the festive season.”
“Furthermore, we are already seeing pressure beginning to mount at the hospital, still days away from the time in which the massive new influx of cases is expected to seek medical attention.”
“We ask Government to please enforce tight restrictions on New Year’s Eve, and in
the absence of this, we ask all Gibraltarians to ignore the exemptions and stay at
home with their social bubble.”
Together Gibraltar Leader, Marlene Hassan Nahon, said: “Unfortunately, this year is not a year for celebrations, but to protect one another from this dangerous virus.”
“We hate to be the only ones making calls to responsibility and caution, but we believe it is in the interest of the health of our community and will not avoid our responsibilities.”
“The vaccines are just around the corner, and they will soon allow us to celebrate and finally be with each other without fear.”

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