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No change in number of Covid-19 cases as new random testing is announced

Eyleen Gomez

The Gibraltar Health Authority will carry out random testing of up to 450 frontline workers to establish the potential spread of Covid-19 among key personnel.

The size of the sample and its focus was revealed by Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Civil Contingencies, at the weekend.

The development came as the Gibraltar Government on Sunday confirmed there were just 12 active cases of Covid-19 in Gibraltar at present, all of whom were recovering well at home.

The number of confirmed cases has remained static for four days, meaning no infections have been detected in that period.

Of the 132 confirmed cases to date, 120 are recovered.

But Dr John Cortes, the Minister for Public Health, stressed there was no room for complacency and that it was vital to follow public health advice and lockdown rules.

He said the lockdown regulations were “sympathetic” to people’s need for exercise and essential outings, but that this should not be abused and that those over 70 were required by law to remain at home.

“It is where we are and where we have to be,” he said, adding that most people were abiding by the rules.
“These are not ordinary times.”

Dr Cortes said the statistics were encouraging and revealed that a new study of Covid-19 and the Overseas Territories by Public Health England had found that up to 300 people might have died here had Gibraltar not taken the lockdown measures.

The study, which drew on the GHA’s own data, were “comparable” to similar forecasts mapped out here.

The need to adhere to the lockdown rules was also highlighted by Dr Krish Rawal, the GHA’s acting Medical Director, who said that releasing people suddenly now would undo what had been achieved so far.

“It would be like doing the revision and not doing the exam,” he said, adding that lifting the restrictions partly or wholly “will not be an easy decision”.

“Don’t lose your focus and resolve,” he urged the community.

The new round of random testing follows an earlier one conducted on people selected from the electoral register.

Speaking on Saturday, Ms Sacramento said the second round would focus “primarily” on frontline personnel including healthcare workers, police officers and those who work in the Elderly Care Services.

She did not explain the reason for focusing the tests on this group but the decision comes after a number of healthcare workers tested positive with the virus, and the detection of three cases in ERS facilities over the past week.

“We are going to undertake a different random sampling exercise now and that will be primarily targeted at people who are frontline workers, so that we can see how prevalent the instance of the virus can be among these,” she said.

She later added: “We’re aiming to have about 450."

Last week, the government said the results of the first random tests suggested that up to 800 people may have been infected with Covid-19 during the testing period, many of them without symptoms at the time.

The analysis was extracted from initial data following conclusion of the sample.

Of the 400 random swabs taken, only 10 results were returned positive.

Extrapolated to the community as a whole, that would indicate up to 800 people infected, or , or 2.5% of the population, officials said.

Ms Sacramento said the results of the second random test would add to officials’ understanding of the virus and its spread through Gibraltar.

She said the new in-house testing laboratory now allowed for a much faster turnaround in results.