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Opinion & Analysis

Simple steps

In announcing new public health measures yesterday, the Gibraltar Government aimed to avoid another lockdown while allowing as much normality as possible.

In achieving that goal, we all have a role to play.

There will be some legislative changes to tighten rules for restaurants and bars, in particular for those in the popular Chatham Counterguard area. They include earlier closing hours, a ban on live entertainment and smaller groups at tables.

The measures will add to the difficulties faced by the catering sector, which has warned that after a slow summer, many establishments are on a cliff edge as winter approaches.

But the underlying goal of the restrictions is to avoid having to shut down altogether, as happened earlier this year. There may be scope for further financial assistance to the catering sector, though that will have to be balanced against the needs of other areas of the economy.

This is about survival, and few businesses are escaping the Covid backlash.

There will be further limits on public gatherings too, with the cap reduced from 20 to 16. This is a stark restriction on a fundamental right in a modern democratic society. But given the risks, there seems no other choice at this stage. To argue otherwise is to ignore the science and the facts.

In just eight months, the world has registered nearly 40.1m cases of Covid-19 and over 1.1m deaths. Let that sink in. Gibraltar has so far escaped the worst of this insidious virus that has up-turned our lives. But there is zero room for complacency.

Between Monday and Tuesday, 31 new cases were detected on the Rock, where the number of active cases of the virus stood yesterday at 128. There are six people in hospital.

Yesterday, Gibraltar’s health services were placed on stand-by to ramp up hospital capacity at short notice. The work done by the Gibraltar Health Authority and its partner agencies earlier this year means we are well prepared to respond if need be. But let us do everything we can to avoid that.

Perhaps the most painful measure announced yesterday was the lockdown of Gibraltar’s elderly residential services, where residents and families alike have already endured months of hardship and distance that, for many, can be hard to comprehend. But try to comprehend we must.

Locking down these homes and wards is about caring not just for our own loved ones, but for those of other Gibraltarian families too. It is a collective effort, and therein lies the key.

On measures such as mask use and protecting those who are vulnerable or over 70, the Gibraltar Government stopped short of using new laws to tighten Covid-19 public health restrictions.

For now at least, the focus is on “strong advice” and a firm appeal to civic duty and personal responsibility. We should heed that message.

Science tells us that our best defences as a community are as straightforward as they are effective: Soap. Masks. Social distance.

We need solidarity and empathy to get through this. We need to think of the person next to us and follow these guidelines strictly.

It is by shielding each other with simple steps that we best protect ourselves and those we love.