Deputy Chief Minister: “Stay At Home”

The Deputy Chief Minister stressed the importance of following public health advice and staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic at this afternoon’s press conference.

Dr Joseph Garcia said: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to act on the advice that we give you. Indeed, the new message given in the UK is now “Stay home, Stay Alive”. I could not put it clearer than that."

As at 8:30am this morning, Gibraltar had 22 active cases of COVID-19, an increase of nine from yesterday.

Dr Garcia outlined the public health strategy which was to “manage that increase [in cases] in a way which allows our health service to cope” and explained that in order to counter this “threat to human life itself”, the Government had taken “drastic and draconian action.”

He added that people should not go out unless they really have to and that those over the age of 70 should not go out at all.

Dr Garcia continued:

Thousands of people who are over 70 are being contacted directly by telephone.

The aim of the telephone audit is to establish how they are and what they need.

On average some 800 calls a day are being made.

The call centre has been moved from Convent Place to Bayside School.

This is now the focal point for all non-medical COVID-19 related queries.

It is being manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

All activity is logged.

So far 679 calls have been received.

The calls cover a variety of different subjects.

This includes food shopping, repatriation, business, employment issues and collection of prescriptions.

The Government is very grateful to the Civil Contingencies Coordinator and to his team.

We are trying to make things easier.

We know, though, that this kind of life is difficult.

MOUNTING RESTRICTIONS

On 4 March we urged you to avoid large gatherings.

The next day, we cancelled events or postponed them.

We made it a legal duty for travellers from red zones to report themselves.

A week later, we told the vulnerable to keep movement to a minimum.

We warned those over 70 to stay at home.

We urged them to refrain from childcare responsibilities.

Social distancing became the order of the day.

The restrictions on movement have mounted as the pandemic has progressed.

On 14 March we closed down bars, restaurants and cafes.

And only two days later, on Monday 16 March we legislated to keep those over 70 at home.

What was once advice then became compulsory.

That was 10 days ago.

This week a general lockdown has been imposed.

Being confined at home is difficult.

But please understand why.

It is important to reduce the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 infects everyone.

But data shows it generally attacks the elderly more strongly than other groups in society.

So we need to shield those over 70, and we need to protect those most at risk.

PUBLIC INFORMATION

The Government, the GHA and Public Health Gibraltar are being as open and as transparent as possible.

We find ourselves in a global health crisis.

In the middle of a pandemic which knowns no parallel since the so-called Spanish-flu of 1918.

And the indications are that things will get worse before they get better.

We need to be ready for that.

It is our duty as your Government to be honest with you.

That is exactly what we have done and what we will continue to do.

Even when what we have to tell you is not good news.

I want to emphasise the comments made by the Acting Medical Director yesterday in relation to social media.

The world is full of self-appointed experts.

Social media in particular.

There are many who use this tool responsibly.

There are others, sadly, who only generate confusion and concern.

I would urge you once more to listen only to the official advice of the Government, the GHA and Public Health Gibraltar.

Listen to that advice.

And act on that advice.

Do not bother with anything else.

CONTACT WITH UK

The Government continues to work closely with the United Kingdom as this crisis unfolds.

There is now a daily update between the Chief Minister, the Interim Governor, the Commander British Forces, Minister Sacramento, the Civil Contingencies Coordinator and I.

And as you know, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke to the Chief Minister yesterday.

Mr Raab told us that the Prime Minister had contacted him directly.

Mr Johnson asked him to reassure Gibraltar of the ongoing support of the United Kingdom in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, the Minister for the Overseas Territories Baroness Sugg underlined the commitment from the UK further in answer to a question in the House of Lords.

She confirmed that the UK and Gibraltar are working closely to ensure that we receive the help that is necessary.

And she added that this includes:

procuring medical equipment;

support for Gibraltar immediately through Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACA); and

standing by Gibraltar in the long run as we deal with the impact of the pandemic.

We will continue to work closely with the United Kingdom as we move forward.

We are all in this together.

FLIGHTS

Our contact by air with the UK continues at present.

However, capacity has been reduced.

This is driven by a drop in demand.

There were 28 flights scheduled this week.

 22 of the 28 have been cancelled.

There is one BA flight from Heathrow planned for today and one for tomorrow.

The Government was notified yesterday that Easyjet have added a rescue flight on Sunday leaving London Gatwick at 7.30am and departing Gibraltar at 14.10.

BA have indicated that during April they will provide a flight a day, except on Wednesdays.

It is important to note that this could change at any moment.

Passengers should always check the situation with their airlines beforehand.

You will have heard that the United Kingdom yesterday urged British Citizens abroad to return home.

Some of our people were caught up by this crisis away from Gibraltar.

Returning home is not easy.

There may be no flight connections.

There are restrictions on movement.

Some countries are in lockdown.

We are aware of Gibraltarians in Morocco, Australia, Thailand, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras and in the United States.

The advice given is to contact the relevant Embassy of the United Kingdom.

Additionally, we are doing what we can to assist from here.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

These are difficult times.

But difficult times are countered by a positive spirit.

The spirit that we see all over Gibraltar.

Displayed daily

by residents from our balconies, our windows and our patios;

by the hundreds of people who have put their names down to assist as volunteers;

by all those who have made generous cash donations;

by the GHA and Public Health Gibraltar;

by all our emergency services;

by the civil service, the wider public service, our authorities, agencies and companies;

And by all of you, the people of Gibraltar

who have once again risen to the challenge with the determination and the resilience that we have shown for centuries.

A word of thanks also to the Royal Gibraltar Police, and to HM Customs and the Gibraltar Defence Police who are now assisting them.

If you have to venture outdoors, follow their instructions.

Today, in a show of support for members of our essential services and our healthcare professionals,

the Moorish Castle will be illuminated in blue, starting at 8pm.

We encourage everyone to show their solidarity from their windows and balconies.

BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Let me say that the business community too have been generous.

Many of them have donated anonymously.

I am pleased to report that one of our on-line gaming firms, Mansion, have made a substantial donation.

The GHA is actively working with this in order to acquire further equipment.

I should add that the application forms for businesses in relation to the BEAT COVID measures have now been published.

The guidelines are now available too.

These can be found online in the BEAT COVID section of the Gibraltar Government website.

CONCLUSION

Twenty three days ago, on 3 March, we confirmed our first case of COVID-19 in Gibraltar.

The UK had confirmed its first case in York on 31 January and Spain its first case in the Canary Islands on the same day.

This now seems a distant memory.

Hundreds of thousands of people all over the planet have contracted the virus.

Thousands have died.

But even more have recovered.

So there is always hope.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

And so, we must battle against the virus as we have fought countless other battles in the past.

We must remain resolute and determined.

And we must follow official advice.

Our own actions can make a difference.

Our actions can save lives.

ADVICE

Before passing on to Minister Sacramento, let me repeat our public health advice once again.

1. Listen and act on the advice of our public health experts.

2. When you sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue and then bin it.

3. Wash your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds.

4. Do not visit anyone over 70.

5. If you are over 70 or vulnerable please stay at home.

6. If you need medical advice call 111.

7. If you have any other question call 200 41818.

8. Stay home, Stay Alive.