< Back News

Chief Minister’s Statement On – General ‘Lock Down’ Of The Population Of Gibraltar – 214/2020

By March 22, 2020 No Comments

My dear fellow Gibraltarians


The time has come.


We have reached another difficult moment in our work to slow down Coronavirus COVID 19.


As we have seen, the number of persons diagnosed with this cruel disease in Gibraltar creep up, we have noted the sharp increase in persons diagnosed sadly, also in Spain.


The Director of Public Health has now advised that as the virus is in the population, the best way to achieve the social distancing required is to slow the disease to move to a total social lock down.


As a result, at a Cabinet meeting attended by the Leader of the Opposition this morning, we have therefore agreed to issue new regulations for this purpose.


Regulations under the Civil Contingencies Act have therefore been signed by the Minister to provide for the lock down.


In order to give people and businesses time to adjust, the new rules will come into effect at midnight on Tuesday.


That is to say,  at zero hours on Tuesday.


The rules will have no effect tomorrow.


I ask you to use tomorrow to make adjustments and changes necessary to adapt to life under the new regulations.


The new rules are in addition to the rules for over 70s, which remain unchanged.


In fact, there is more leeway in the rules for those under 70s.


The tighter rules for the over 70s must continue to be observed, unchanged.


My dear fellow Gibraltarians, agreeing to the making of these regulations has undoubtedly been the hardest decision I have had to make in my political career so far.


I know that the same is true for all my Cabinet colleagues.


But these extraordinary times require extraordinary action.


And we have not hesitated to act when required.


We will not hesitate to do what we have to do in order to slow the spread of the virus.


I know it will be hard also for you.


Whether you own a business or you work in our economy or even if you are not presently working.


If you are running a business that is covered by the regulations, please notify your employees as soon as possible.


If you are able to, do not open tomorrow.


We are allowing an extra twenty-four hours so that you can make arrangements.


But do not think that because we are allowing an extra 24 hours, our concern is not immediate.


Offices can continue to operate.


But please try to work from home if you can and operate the relevant social distancing guidelines if you cannot.


On Tuesday, our schools will be open for your children if you have registered them for the key worker scheme.


On Tuesday, you can go to work as long as you are not in the retail trade.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies and chemists will remain open.


You can go to work in your office – but please, please observe social distancing rules.


If possible remote work if you can.


If you operate a restaurant, you will be able to continue to provide a much valued take away service.

Delivery drivers will continue to be able to deliver.


These are now also essentials provided by essential workers.


As from Tuesday, all construction sites will be closed unless they have a permit from the Chief Technical Officer to continue work during the pandemic.

Some essential works and some works that create no issues will be able to continue.


Commercial gyms will be closed as from Tuesday, but not because of the untrue and unwarranted rumour that there has been any spike notified to Government at any local gym to date.


Again, foolish, unfounded rumours continue to circulate on Facebook and people still choose to believe them.


It helps no one at this stage to have such nonsense going on.


In Gibraltar, and under our rules, you will be able to go out for a run or a walk, but you must observe the rules of social distancing.


You will be able to go out to exercise children.


And of course you will be able to go out to shop and for other essentials.


You must not be out and about other than with a person who already lives in the same property as you.


Although we have had regard to the rules of many other countries, our rules have been designed specifically for Gibraltar.


Our demographic circumstances are different to most other nations.


And our rules are designed to take those aspects of life in Gibraltar into consideration.


Where necessary, we will review the rules in coming days.


Please let us keep focused on slowing down this virus.


Let us remember that failure is not the growth of the number of detected infections.


Failure is an unnecessary increase in the number of deaths.


Failure is not slowing the virus down so that we are able to deal with the numbers of infected people manifesting at our hospital.


Tomorrow, Minister for Education, Gilbert Licudi will be taking the press conference to deal with matters arising in respect of our schools and how they operate in these extraordinary times.


If you are a health worker, thank you for what you are doing and what you are going to do.


If you are a teacher, LSA, school secretary or dinner lady, technician or care taker or otherwise a school worker, thank you for what you are doing and for what you are going to do.


If you are in law enforcement, if you are in the public sector or if you are in the private sector thank you for what you are doing and what you are going to do.


Thank you all for your help and support at this time.

And thank you also, especially, to the many volunteers, almost one thousand now, each of you ready to help in different ways.


To each and every one of my fellow Gibraltarians, I say at this time, even if you can do something under these rules, ask yourself if you should.


You are permitted to go to work, but can you work thematically instead?


You are permitted to go out for a purpose, but can you can manage in a different way?


Tomorrow, start using your common sense.


As from Tuesday, observe the rules that we have made to protect you.


Be out as little as you have to.


Get home as quick as you can.


An invisible killer lurks amongst us and you can do your bit to slow its passage through our city by observing these rules.


And if you have symptoms, call 111 and self isolate.


Because you can see what we are trying to do, to slow down the virus, to stop it from the harrowing images on your television screens of what has happened in China, Italy and Spain manifesting also in Gibraltar.


If you are out, walk on your own, parents can walk with children.


Do not congregate with others.


As from Tuesday morning, I am very sorry to say, the Royal Gibraltar Police will have power to enforce these regulations.


We realise the heavy burden that will impose on our officers.


Please help them by not knowingly contradicting rules that we are putting in place to protect you and your loved ones.


Please follow the instructions of a police officer who is acting pursuant to these regulations.


This is about enhancing social distancing.


There will be power to enforce these regulations by police officers for this purposes.


But it is not up to any of you to do that.


So please do not put up photographs of others you may think are breaching the rules because they may not be and you may cause them distress.


I am conscious of the pressure these regulations are going to put on businesses throughout our land.

All sectors will be affected sectors save for very few.


We are designing economic packages to help.

The most important help we will deploy as soon as possible, potentially even overnight, will be a measure to pause employment and allow individuals to claim unemployment benefit as a result.


I discussed that measure last night with the Spanish Minister of the Interior, Sr. Fernandez Grande-Marlaska who was very supportive of the actions we are taking in Gibraltar and of the need for the frontier to continue to flow for our workers.  


The Covid Emergency Liaison and Advisory Committee will get a chance to consider this and other measures in its second meeting this weekend, later on this evening.


Our position is clear: we will design a package to provide a shield around our businesses and our workers. 


No one will suffer.


We have been here desiging packages that have no red tape and are meaningful, all through the weekend.


Our works is being designed so that no business will find it has to go to the wall.


And we will consider all sectors businesses affected in different ways unless excluded for a specific reason.


We are, in effect, putting our economy into an induced coma.


A period of an extended bank holiday but with all affected businesses supported and all affected employees given a direct economic lifeline.


And all of this is designed to ensure that the economy can survive in the long term despite these short term difficulties.


As I told the Parliament on Friday, we have the financial firepower to act.


Finally, we are now moving into this lock down phase because we have no choice.


It hasn’t helped that some have failed to follow advice.


But I consider these regulations to be an intolerable intrusion into your liberty.


In any other circumstances these rules would be contrary to your constitutional right of freedom of movement.


For that reason we have tested the conclusions that have led us to this decision very robustly.


We have tested the advice on Public Health.


And we have asked for, and received the advice of the Attorney General that the restrictions on the freedom of movement and your liberty are proportional and Constitutional in the circumstances of this Public Health emergency.


We have had that confirmed by the Attorney General.


We have provided a time limit of 30 days for the rules to be renewed.


Additionally, we have nonetheless, provided for us to confirm every 48 hours that these rules continue to be unnecessary.


That is the least we can do given the effect these measures will have on your constitutional rights.


We will meet weekly to review the operation of the regulations and if at all possible we will undo their effect even sooner.


But for now, we have no choice but to act in this way.


It is time to be sensible.


It is time to follow the rules that most have been following voluntarily and which will now be obligatory.


It’s time to brace for the worst and hope or pray for the best.


For the second week, attendance at religious services has been dissuaded.


Services have been held behind closed doors and streamed.


And today is Mother’s Day.


Usually a day of celebration.


I warmly congratulate all mothers in our community.


Now every day, we should value each other more.


These are measures we take with a heavy heart but for very good reason.


So help us throughout this process.


Do not be selfish.


There is and there will be more than enough food on our supermarket shelves.


Stay in high spirits.


See the bright side of adversity.


See the value of things you may have taken for granted until now.


And see the effect of simple things that will help us slow the virus.


Wash your hands.


Such simple advice but such an important effect on slowing the progress of this virus.


The more you follow the Public Health advice, the sooner we can lift these measures.


For now, I ask you to familiarise yourself with these measures on lockdown.


They will be published on our web and social media pages shortly.


Follow the rules – even though they infringe the rights you take for granted.


Because these rules are designed to protect you and protect your loved ones.


But they are extraordinary measures and I must be answerable to you for taking this step.


I will therefore now take questions from the journalists assembled here at the No6 press room.