26th March 2020, 18:48
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Gibraltar has risen by nine overnight - bringing the total to 35, with 22 active cases and 13 recoveries. This was announced at Thursday's press conference at Number Six Convent Place, chaired by the Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Garcia, and the Minister for Civil Contingencies, Samantha Sacramento. Dr Garcia called on the public to remain resolute and determined, and to follow official advice: “stay home, stay alive”.
Speaking at Thursday’s Number Six press conference, the Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Garcia, highlighted that it was 23 days ago – the 3rdof March – when Gibraltar’s first Covid-19 case was confirmed. Now, this number stands at 35 – although, he said, all 22 active cases are doing well.
The press conference focused on the logistics of Gibraltar’s response to the crisis, confirming that almost a thousand people have volunteered to help, with around 800 taken on, and a vetting process put in place. Dr Garcia said the call centre for non-medical but Covid-19-related measures has been moved from Convent Place to Bayside School, and is working 24/7 to answer people's queries on 200 41818.
The Deputy Chief Minister said Gibraltar continues to work closely with the UK, highlighting that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Baroness Sugg, had confirmed in parliamentary answers that the UK is procuring medical equipment and support for Gibraltar immediately, including through military aid to the civilian authorities.
Dr Garcia said due to a drop in demand, 22 of the 28 flights scheduled for this week have been cancelled. He added, however, that Easyjet had added a rescue flight leaving Gatwick at 7.30am on Sunday, and that BA has indicated it will provide a flight every day, except Wednesdays, during April – but also added the situation could change at any moment. He said efforts were underway to bring home Gibraltarians stranded across the world, suggesting as well that they contact the UK embassies for help, wherever they are.
The Minister for Civil Contingencies, Samantha Sacramento, said Social Services had called over 1500 citizens aged 70 and above, to find out whether they are in need of support. However, she asked those who do have support networks, such as family members who can help with shopping, not to ask for extra help, so that this can be focused where it is needed most.
Ms Sacramento said the Government was mindful that confinement may make particular groups more vulnerable, and is aiming to ensure there is not a spike in domestic abuse. She highlighted that a team has been introduced to look at mental health issues, especially for those in frontline services in danger of burnout.
Ms Sacramento said the Commissioner of Police, Ian McGrail, had noted that not enough people are staying home. She said that given Gibraltar’s population density, our curve will look more like a spike – stating this is why the Government has not waited put measures in place to slow the spread of the virus. The ministers emphasised the particular threat Covid-19 poses to the elderly.
Dr Garcia reiterated that the number of cases in Gibraltar is still predicted to rise. He repeatedly restated public health advice on social distancing and hand-washing, and reminded those who believe they may have symptoms that they can call 111. His message was stark: "stay home, stay alive".
The Deputy Chief Minister said the drastic and draconian action that has been taken by the Government is unheard of in a democratic society; but that we live in abnormal times, and that the response can only be exceptional and unprecedented, in keeping with the threat to human life itself.