Thank you for joining me this afternoon on this very sad occasion.
I want to start by expressing my heartfelt condolences to every person who has lost a loved one or a close friend to COVID-19.
His Excellency the Governor, all my Cabinet colleagues, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, and Ms Hassan Nahon, together with the Speaker of the House and his staff, have all asked me to express their own condolences on this awful loss of life.
We can also be grateful for the expressions of support and solidarity that have been sent from the United Kingdom, from Spain and from around the world.
There is great suffering across our nation.
But we are not alone.
There is great suffering around the world.
The total number of persons who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Gibraltar is now 45.
We have experienced a harrowing loss of life just this weekend alone.
I am shaken to the core by the knowledge that, since I addressed Parliament just 72 hours ago, 21 of our fellow Gibraltarians have died of complications relating to COVID-19.
Gibraltar has not experienced such loss of life in such a short time since the 1951 explosion of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ammunition ship the Bedenham.
Now, 38 Gibraltarians have died in the last18 days since the start of the year.
In the last 24 hours alone, we have lost another 2 of our fellow Gibraltarians to this awful virus.
This is now the worst loss of life of Gibraltarians in over one hundred years.
Even in war, we have never lost so many in such a short time.
Not since the so-called ‘Spanish flu’ have we seen so many succumb to one disease within days.
The total number of persons infected in Elderly Residential Services is now 128.
I believe we will see more deaths amongst the frail elderly at ERS.
But you should rest assured that everything possible will be done to save the lives of all of them, however advanced they may be in age.
The disease is believed to have initially entered the ERS both through visitors before the lockdown and members of staff who inadvertently have infected their precious residents.
The much more virulent strain has been impossible to stop at the door as effectively as we did in the first wave.
The Public Inquiry we have already announced will help us find answers and learn lessons about every aspect of how we dealt with the Pandemic in Gibraltar generally and in ERS in particular.
But what I can tell you is that every single member of the staff of ERS, at every level, have given their all for the residents of ERS.
They feel the loss of each of them as if they were losing a member of their very own families.
These deaths have impacted them very greatly.
I know that the whole Community will want me to express deep, deep gratitude to all of the men and women of ERS for their diligent care of their elderly residents.
But the battle is not just in ERS.
Members of our Community are arriving with COVID-19 in St Bernard’s Hospital from across all adult age groups.
9 persons are now in CCU.
Of these, 8 are on ventilators.
34 are in the COVID-19 wards.
Mortuary capacity is now very low.
The pressure on our GHA and ERS staff is without precedent.
The same is true throughout our frontline services.
This is now a health crisis without equal in our history.
We have lost more Gibraltarian lives in the days since the start of the year than we have to any one affliction in that time in the past 100 years.
The remarkable extra virulence of the strains amongst us now is taking an impossible toll.
This is a time of sadness.
But it is therefore also a time for unity.
We must now stick together more than ever.
Because there are many challenges ahead of us.
There will never be a challenge before us on which more lives depend.
So, for the next two weeks at least, we need to ensure that we keep to the anti-COVID-19 rules.
There are no risks that we can afford to take now.
If you have lost a loved one, our hearts are with you.
If you have lost a friend, our thoughts are with you.
Because, my dear fellow Gibraltarians, we are losing fellow Gibraltarians.
We will lose more.
That much is clear.
And we must brace ourselves to see the numbers of those lost to COVID-19 in our Community steadily increase.
For that reason, although now is a time of sadness, now is not yet a time for national mourning.
That time will come, and, together, mourn we will.
Now is a time for collective action to defeat this virus.
A time to turn our sadness into unity and determination.
When all this is over, we will hold an interfaith service, for all Gibraltar together, for all our creeds, beliefs, and none, to remember all those who we have lost.
But for now, I again call on our collective, Gibraltarian spirit.
I call on the spirit of resilience and strength which is within us.
It is that spirit that will continue to shine brightly as we face these very difficult days.
I know many of us had long hoped that the end of 2020 would usher in a new, better time in 2021.
I am very confident that the better times we all crave are coming.
They are closer now.
But they are not here yet.
Today, the total number of new infections of COVID-19 is 42.
The total number of persons recovered is 151.
The total number of active infections today is 681.
Those numbers are down and moving in the right direction.
But we are far from out of the woods yet.
The good news, of course, is that the vaccine has arrived.
We have been vaccinating well over 500 people a day.
As at midnight last night, 5,847 first doses have been administered of the Pfizer vaccine.
With the key support of the United Kingdom, more vaccine will arrive this week.
The UK continues to demonstrate that, on what matters, we can count on its support.
I can now announce that 48 hours from now, on Wednesday, we anticipate the arrival of 4,875 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
And then more will come shortly afterwards.
Those vials of hope will bring us closer to the protection of medical science.
Closer to freedom from COVID restrictions.
Closer to a return to our families, to our friends and to our cherished way of life.
So do not believe the lies that anyone has died from the vaccine in Gibraltar.
It is not true.
It is not true of any one of our elderly or our frontline workers.
It is not true of any frontline worker in the Campo de Gibraltar around us.
Please therefore be very careful with the information you disseminate and the information that you trust.
Trust only the information provided by official sources and our established media.
Do not trust what you hear in an audio message circulated virally on WhatsApp.
Lives depend on our continued trust in the medical science and our GHA.
And let us all continue to trust that the effective roll out of the vaccine will finally enable us to turn the tide.
I know that hope will not save those who have already been lost.
Hope will not bring back our loved ones.
But it is hope that will keep alive the dream of a future in which we lose no more of our people to this deadly virus.
And until we have turned the tide, we must continue united in our defensive posture against this virus.
We must follow the basic rules of hygiene and social distancing.
AND YOU MUST STAY AT HOME UNLESS IT IS ESSENTIAL AND WITHIN THE RULES TO GO OUT.
Please follow the rules now more than ever.
In honour of those we have lost.
And as part of our effort to reduce infections and reduce loss of life.
That is the challenge for each one of us in Gibraltar.
Let us live up to that challenge.
I know none of us will want to let Gibraltar down.