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Travel restrictions tightened as Rock confirms 24 Omicron cases

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Passengers flying into Gibraltar will have to take a lateral flow on the day of arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result, under new rules published on Friday in response to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Until now, passengers had up to 24 hours after arrival in which to get tested and there was no isolation requirement.

The change came as the Gibraltar Government confirmed that 24 cases of the Omicron variant had been detected so far in Gibraltar among the latest positive cases, though data shows Delta remains the dominant strain for now.

There were 47 new cases detected in Gibraltar on Friday, bringing the number of active cases to 305, with two people in the Covid ward at St Bernard’s Hospital and one in the critical care unit.

In other developments:

• ERS stopped outings amid concern of the spread of the Omicron variant, a decision that will be reviewed weekly. “It is with great sadness that we must implement these measures,” said Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Health. “Our biggest priority has to be safeguarding our residents during this very uncertain time. The measures will be kept under constant review until we are able to revert back to normal. This is the last thing that we wanted to do, but must do on public health advice to ensure that residents are kept safe.”

• The Gibraltar Philharmonic Society’s New Year’s Concert on January 4 was cancelled over Covid-19 concerns. “It is with much regret that Gibraltar will miss the Annual New Year’s Concert 2022, but health must of course take priority over anything else,” said Maestro Karel Mark Chichon, Artistic Director of the Gibraltar Philharmonic Society.

• The Government of Hong Kong banned non-Hong Kong residents who have been to Gibraltar in the last 21 days from entering Hong Kong. “The Gibraltar Government understands that the decision taken by the Government of Hong Kong is not an isolated incident and countries that have already identified the Omicron variant also face similar restrictions,’ said No.6 Convent Place.

Gibraltar’s new travel measures, which apply to everyone aged 12 and over, were put in place by the Gibraltar Government on the advice of the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter.

“Failure to take this test within the day of arrival will be in breach of regulations and the RGP will have the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice of £300 to any offenders,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

In order to cope with extra demands, the Covid-19 Rapid Test facility at the airport will remain open from 8am to 9pm daily.

The decision comes as Covid-19 case rates for London and eastern England rose to their highest level since early January, according to new figures.

A total of 702.8 new cases per 100,000 people were recorded in London in the week to December 12.

This is up sharply from 475.8 the previous week and is the highest rate for the capital since the week to January 10.

The rise has been driven by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, with some boroughs in London currently experiencing the steepest jump in rates of any local authorities in the UK.

Omicron has already become the dominant variant of the virus in the capital, but is now having an impact in other parts of the country.

Professor Steven Riley, director-general of data, analytics and surveillance at the HSA, said: “We are now seeing a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. We need everyone to take action to stop the spread."
“That includes getting your booster vaccine, taking a lateral flow test before meeting people, wearing a face covering in crowded enclosed spaces, ventilating rooms and staying at home if you have symptoms.”

The UK Government this week removed all countries from its Red List on Wednesday.

This is largely because the Omicron variant is now in general circulation in the United Kingdom.

Gibraltar will however continue to maintain its Red List unchanged but this will be closely kept under review as the epidemiological situation changes in Gibraltar.

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