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No change in policy for lateral flow tests, Govt says

Pic by Johnny Bugeja

Lateral flow tests will not be made available for at-home testing in Gibraltar, with the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, insisting supervised testing “remains the best strategy”.  

Covid-19 testing will continue to be made available only via the GHA or private clinics in Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Government said, based on the Director of Public Health’s advice.  

The announcements follows mounting calls for lateral flow tests to be made readily available to the public, mush as is the case in other countries including the UK and Spain. 

The development on Friday came as Gibraltar saw an increase of 141 new Covid-19 cases, with the number of active cases in the community now at 1092. 

Also on Friday, a further reduction in visits to ERS facilities was announced in light of the  growing case numbers, with only one visitor allowed to visit between 1pm and 2pm in ERS facilities.  

The Gibraltar Government said its decision to not allow for at-home testing will be reviewed as appropriate.  

But in a statement it said Gibraltar’s successful control of the virus to date has been a result of an existing strategy of supervised testing.  

“Ensuring that tests are done by trained medical professionals provide quality assurance of the test and the results,” the Gibraltar Government said.  

“Furthermore, keeping testing under the remit of the GHA ensures that the Director of Public Health is able to maintain epidemiological control over Gibraltar’s case incidence and transmission rates.” 

“Supervised testing, alongside the ongoing booster vaccination programme, are currently preventing our case numbers from increasing exponentially.”  

“Gibraltar is also demonstrating a great deal of community responsibility in reporting for testing, and this is evident in the very high volumes of calls to 111 and high attendance rates at the Midtown facility.”  

“Maintaining this approach, in addition to the tried and tested methods of reducing transmission like reducing social mixing, wearing masks and increased hand washing, are the best ways to keep the virus under control in Gibraltar.” 

The Government said that in Gibraltar, unlike in larger countries with larger populations and more remote areas, Covid-19 tests at the Midtown facility are “accessible to all”.  

“The GHA is currently working to increase Gibraltar’s capacity to conduct supervised lateral flow testing in order to meet rising demand,” it said in a statement.  

“There is, therefore, currently no justifiable benefit to public lateral flow testing that outweighs the risk to public health of such a strategy.” 

ERS VISITS 

Visits to ERS premises has been reduced in order to safeguard residents against a backdrop of a rise in Covid-19 cases in the community, the Gibraltar Government said on Friday, as one person in the ERS is currently infected for Covid-19.  

The decision was taken by the Director of Public Health and the management team for the ERS and GHA. 

One visitor per day will be allowed to visit each resident at ERS premises for one hour only, from 1pm to 2pm, the Government spokesman said.  

“This is a decision that has not been taken lightly and will be reviewed on a weekly basis and benchmarked against the Covid-19 caseload in the community,” the statement added.  

“Additionally, ERS takes this opportunity to reassure the public that the rigorous swabbing and screening program continues to operate for both staff members and visitors entering ERS buildings and we continue to do our utmost best to maintain a safe environment for the residents in our care.” 

“Finally, ERS would like to thank all our residents and their families for their understanding and cooperation in this matter.” 

Minister for Health and Care, Samantha Sacramento, said: “Reducing valued visitation to residents of ERS is not a decision that any of us take lightly and it is entirely regrettable that we are in a position to have to do so.”  

“Nevertheless, the safety and wellbeing of all of our residents is always the top priority.”  

“This new measure allows residents to continue to receive visitors, whilst reducing the level of risk involved.”  

“My sincere thanks go to all ERS staff for their tireless dedication and to the families of our residents for their continued understanding.” 

COVID STATS  

Gibraltar on Friday recorded 141 new Covid-19 cases, with 98 new cases in the community, including 96 residents and two visitors.  

At present there are 1,051 residents and 41 visitors who are positive with virus, with 23 new cases arising from being a close contact.  

There are two patients in the Covid ward in St Bernard’s Hospital, one individual in the Covid ICU ward and one resident in ERS with the virus.  

Some 224 people are awaiting test results from swabs taken over the past 24 hours, and the Government this week urged people not to Contact Tracing Bureau for their results as it grapples with the increase in infection rates.  

There are at present 1,425 people in self-isolation and 73 people have made a full recovery over the past 24 hours.  

Some 43 cross-frontier workers also tested positive for Covid-19 in Gibraltar on Friday, but will be recovering from the virus across the border.  

The Campo, too, has seen an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases with 641 new cases registered over the past two days when Three Kings celebrations were held, with 334 new cases in Algeciras alone.  

In La Linea, there were 119 more people infected with Covid-19, 46 new cases in San Roque, and 34 in Los Barrios.  

Over the past 15 days, there has been an increase in 5,016 Covid-19 cases across the Campo.  

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