It was only a matter of time…

Tuesday 3rd March - Jonathan Sacramento

Covid 19 is now present in Gibraltar. At the time of writing there is only one confirmed case. The individual is in self-isolation and the GHA is following up on anyone who has been in contact with him. At this stage, this is the right protocol to follow to contain the spread. When the virus is more widespread, contact-screening will become unsustainable and to a certain extent pointless, but while the number of confirmed cases is limited it’s a practical measure and in keeping with international protocols.3

On Monday’s Newswatch interview, we heard the Director of Public Health say that the virus will inevitably become widespread in Gibraltar. This may seem alarming, but it is important to remember that, as a medical professional, his advice is following on from that of the World Health Organisation and the evidence of the virus’s behaviour around the world.

The inevitable spread of the virus will put the preparedness of our health and emergency services to the test, but they are not the only institutions who need to be ready. Private businesses and organisations will be have to brace themselves for medium-term work absenteeism, and the strain on the services they provide.

We know, anecdotally for example, that the demand for hand sanitisers far exceeds demand, and people are stocking up whenever they can get their hands on a few bottles. Pharmacies tell us that, whenever they bring in a supply, it sells out very quickly.

The advice to individuals has been repeated ad-nauseum. Wash your hands, thoroughly and regularly. Use hand sanitiser which contains at least 70% alcohol (if you can get hold of a bottle). Keep the elderly and infirm away from prolonged and excessive social contact. If you have cold or flu symptoms, contact the GHA, but DON’T go to the Primary Care Centre or hospital straight away. Don’t bother with facemasks. They don’t work, unless you actually have symptoms already, in which case it can help stop you spreading the virus to others.

And above all, as the Director of Public health himself said, panic is the enemy.