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27th December 2020, 19:03

New COVID restrictions see a 10pm curfew introduced, with non-essential businesses to close

The Chief Minister has announced new measures to combat the spike in Covid cases which include the closure of all non-essential retail outlets, hair and beauty salons and a curfew from 10pm to 6am. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Fabian Picardo did not discard a full lock-down if the R number, which rates the spread of the virus, does not decrease. He said front-line services were under severe pressure.

The new measures will remain in place for at least two weeks, in the hope that they’ll serve as a firebreak during the festive period.

There was little festive cheer at today’s press conference which began with the daily statistics. Today has seen 68 new active cases, bringing the total up to 482 and there are 10 hospitalisations, one in the CCU. There are currently over one thousand 700 people in self isolation. And the latter, the Chief Minister warned, is taking its toll on the delivery of health and public services with many of those isolating, in frontline services. Fabian Picardo warned the virus is behaving differently and is believed to be twice as infectious as it was before. Gibraltar’s R rate is worryingly at 1.79

All non-essential retail establishments will be required by law to close as from tomorrow. As will hairdressers and beauty salons. Deliveries and collections may continue as well as online and telephone trading. The period for returns and refunds has been extended till the 14th of February. Beat style payments will be introduced for the period of closure.

Essential shops such as bakeries, grocers and supermarkets will now need to close at 9pm to allow people to return home in time for the 10pm curfew. Pharmacies, petrol stations, opticians , dentists, estate agencies and car dealerships remain open, subject to strict public health rules.

Gatherings have been reduced to 12.

The Chief Minister appealed to public responsibility and asked households not to mix. In the case of those who would be alone, the advice is a maximum of two households.

Restrictions will be tightened for those visiting the elderly in Government purpose built flats. These will be restricted to two persons and they will need a Covid negative test valid for 24 hours.

Restrictions already in place continue. Working from home is encouraged and the over 70s should act as they would in lockdown.

Those needing to work, delivering food, walking a dog or requiring medical attention are exempt from the 10pm to 6am curfew. There will be no curfew on New Years Eve but the Chief Minister stressed the importance of everyone working together and the consequences of not doing so and acting irresponsibly. He reacted to reports of people going to Spain to do what they couldn’t do on the Rock.

The new measures will be in place until at least January the 10th with a statement on changes due on or before the 7th.

The Chief Minister described the next few weeks until the vaccine arrives and is administered as a race, saying it would be abject surrender to give up so close to the finishing line.