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Outbreak at Children’s Health Centre highlights virus risk and importance of lockdown measures, Balban says

The Covid outbreak at the Children’s Health Centre shows that while measures to slow the rate of infection have worked, the virus is still circulating within the community.

That was the message from Health Minister Paul Balban yesterday as he underscored that Gibraltar’s success in the fight against the virus was correlated to the level of adherence to lock-down measures and restrictions.

This comes one day after the Gibraltar Government confirmed the facility had experienced a Covid-19 outbreak after six members of staff tested positive for the virus.

A seventh member of staff who was suspected to have the virus has tested negative, it was con-firmed at the press conference.

However the Government later corrected the figures after the Chronicle pointed out that, while the outbreak had been detected over the past three days, there had only been five new positive test results since April 10.

Asked to clarify, a Government spokesman said the number of confirmed cases in the Children’s Health Centre was in fact five and that a sixth healthcare worker suspected of having the virus later tested negative.

In any event, the cluster of infected workers in the facility prompted an immediate response from the GHA, alongside wide concern in the community.

Following confirmation of the outbreak, the facility was immediately closed for a deep clean and full decontamination before re-opening on Thursday morning.

Mr Balban said it was likely there had been a sustained transmission over a period of several weeks during which clinics had been running.

“In order to control the outbreak, those in direct contact with those affected have been asked to self isolate,” he added.

Some 18 other members of staff have also been swabbed and tested in-house.

News of the outbreak prompted an intervention from Together Gibraltar, which highlighted a number of questions which it said the Government should answer about how the outbreak had occurred and what steps had been in place to limit such an occurrence.

Mr Balban, who insisted frontline staff at the centre wore protective equipment when dealing with patients, said the Government was taking the community’s concerns “very seriously”.

“The case at the Children’s Health Centre is proof that although we have done very well as a community in following the advice given to us Covid-19 is still circulating within Gibraltar and can cause us a great deal of harm if we do not keep these efforts up,” he said.

This comes as the total number of confirmed cases increased by just one from 131 on Wednesday to 132 on Thursday.

Mr Balban said Gibraltar had experienced only a “small wave” of cases so far and the Government expected a surge at some point.

“The advice we’ve been given is there will be a surge, whether this will be one big surge as has been seen in other countries or whether we’ll be able to successfully create a series of smaller surges, is something we’ll need to see what happens,’ he said.

There is currently a total of 378 free beds, between St Bernard’s Hospital and the Nightingale Facility. This includes 12 free beds in the Covid Critical Care Unit, seven free beds within the non-Covid Critical Care Unite and 28 free beds on the Covid Ward.

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