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Picardo outlines 'measured' exit from lockdown, confirms one more Covid death

A man in his early 60s has died from Covid-19, Chief Minister Fabian said on Friday as he announced plans for a “measured” easing of lockdown restrictions over the coming days.

The latest death brings the total toll since the start of the pandemic to 84, 77 of them this year alone.

Even as he sketched out a number of restrictions that would be lifted in the coming days, Mr Picardo warned that Gibraltar must brace for “at least a handful” more deaths and that infections would likely increase again as lockdown was eased.

He said the fact that the vaccination programme was progressing at full pelt – 23,105 doses have been administered, including 7,667 second doses - would add a further layer of protection to the community but that there was no room for complacency, adding restrictions would be reimposed if need be.

The government’s strategy, he said, was about “balancing risk”, urging people to exercise personal responsibility.

“The state cannot be a nanny to each of us,” he said.

“We each have a part to play.”

Mr Picardo said the total lockdown for the over 70s would not be renewed when it expires on Sunday night.

That means that as from Monday, the over 70s will be able to move about as do younger members of the community, albeit the strong advice remains to stay at home as much as possible, especially in the seven days after the second jab. Golden Hour will continue until March 1.

As from February 20, non-essential shops will be able to open on Saturdays, while catering establishments and bars will likely reopen as from March 1. There will be a continuation of measures to support businesses.

The number of people who can meet in a group will increase from eight to 12 as from February 22, although a curfew from 10pm to 6am will remain in place, as will the requirement to wear masks in all public spaces.

Schools will reopen on February 22 too, by which time most teachers will have received their second jab at least seven days earlier, meaning they will have maximum immunity.

All bus services will commence operating normally on February 22 too, while public worship – with strict restrictions to ensure social distancing – will be allowed to recommence from February 20.

Some sports training will be allowed too, albeit also with strict restrictions.

“This exercise in unlocking is a balance of risk,” Mr Picardo said.

“We have an obligation to protect personal freedom and your civil liberties.”

“We have a concurrent duty to protect life and to avoid serious illness or injury.”

“That balance will only permit the legitimate imposition of restrictions on freedom where we believe that we need to do so to protect the GHA’s ability to provide treatment.”

“But we must be clear in our understanding that, as we unlock, we can expect the number of infections to rise.”

“We must keep an eye on that. But we must also not be surprised by the rise in infections.”

Mr Picardo urged the community to exercise restraint as it emerged from lockdown, in particular anyone who crosses into Spain where, while some restrictions remain in place, non-essential activities including catering and bars are due to reopen in the coming days.

While acknowledging that many people had “perfectly legitimate” reasons to go to Spain, he urged the community not to cross the border to do in Spain what they could not do in Gibraltar.

“Let us ensure our actions are designed to reinforce the work done in lockdown and to not to throw it away,” the Chief Minister said.

“Let us ensure that the sacrifices so many have made these past months are honoured by us all now.”

“So please do not waste the effort Gibraltar has made by running off to crowded bars and restaurants in Spain.”

“All you will achieve if you do that is that you will bring the virus back to Gibraltar.”

“You will be the vector that potentially creates a new spike in infections.”

“You could be the reason for a new lock down. It’s that simple.”

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