18th January 2021, 17:43
The Chief Minister has described Monday 18th January 2021 as the saddest day in the civilian political history of Gibraltar, with the worst loss of life of Gibraltarians in over 100 years. Fabian Picardo was speaking from Number Six following the confirmation of nine deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday, and a further two on Monday. The total number of COVID-related deaths in Gibraltar now stands at 45, with 41 of these directly caused by the virus.
Mr Picardo revealed that over 4,800 further doses of the Pfizer vaccine are set to arrive this week, but called on people to continue following hygiene and social distancing rules to help reduce infections and reduce pressure on the GHA.
"HARROWING" LOSS OF LIFE
The Chief Minister said there had been a “harrowing” loss of life just this weekend, with 21 Gibraltarians having died in the time since he addressed Parliament on Friday. 38 Gibraltarians have died in the 18 days since the start of the year.
Fabian Picardo said even in war, Gibraltar had never lost so many in such a short time. He said he believes Gibraltar will see more deaths among the frail elderly at ERS, but said everything possible will be done to save their lives. Mr Picardo said the virus is believed to have entered ERS via visitors before lockdown, and members of staff - adding the much more virulent strain has been impossible to stop at the door.
Fabian Picardo said the mortuary capacity is very low, with extraordinary pressure on cemetery staff and funeral directors. He acknowledged the extra pain for families at this time, due to the waiting time for funerals and the additional testing before these are carried out, adding the Government is doing everything it can to permit families to grieve in the most appropriate way possible. He said there would be a time for national mourning in future, with an interfaith service to be held after the pandemic.
MORE VACCINE DOSES TO ARRIVE
Mr Picardo said this was a health crisis without equal in Gibraltar’s history, with unprecedented pressure on the GHA and ERS, whose staff he praised for their extraordinary effort. However, he pointed to some causes for hope: the number of active cases, he said, is continuing to fall – and a further 4,875 vaccine doses are set to arrive on Wednesday. These will continue to be administered as first doses, with further deliveries of the vaccine expected in future within the timeframe for the second doses to be administered. Fabian Picardo said he hoped that by the end of February, the most at-risk cohort in Gibraltar would have the maximum cover provided by two vaccine doses.
Mr Picardo said the incidence of people turning down the vaccine was not statistically significant, and that the GHA was determining who should be deemed "frontline": for example, teachers. Fabian Picardo said nobody had been able to pull rank or buy their way, adding he was waiting to be called himself.
The Chief Minister also stated that nobody has died from the vaccine in Gibraltar or in the Campo, adding nobody who has tested positive for COVID has been given the vaccine. He advised people not to trust rumours on social media, but official sources, established media, and the medical sciences.
Fabian Picardo recalled that the Government had previously announced a public inquiry would be held following the pandemic, to determine lessons learned. For now, he called on people to police themselves and not others: to follow the basic rules of hygiene and social distancing, and not to go out unless essential, both in honour of those lost and as part of the effort to reduce infections and further loss of life.