Further meetings of the COVID-19 Core Group have taken place. The Cabinet also met this afternoon on the return of the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister from London. All meetings have also been attended by clinical professionals from the GHA and legal professionals from the Government Law Offices.
The Government strongly repeats its advice that those over 70 should stay at home and limit their social contact as much as possible. The social distancing measures announced yesterday aim specifically to promote and reinforce this objective. Public Health experts advise that social distancing can slow the spread of the virus by 50 to 60%. Increasing social distance is the single most effective thing that can be done to protect everybody’s loved ones. This means avoiding normal social interactions amongst friends such as kissing, hugging and hand-shaking.
The updated advice is that everyone should avoid public gatherings of over 50 people, and maintain at least an arm’s length distance from others whilst in public, for example in shops and queues. Larger social gatherings including weddings, funerals and at restaurants, bars and the cinema should also be avoided. Swimming pools operated by the GSLA will be closed from today until further notice.
The Cabinet has this afternoon made the decision to stop all cruise ship calls to Gibraltar as a further precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, all tourist sites will be closed until further notice. The Upper Rock Nature Reserve, including the Windsor Bridge and the Skywalk will remain open, whilst all other tourist sites within the Upper Rock will be closed.
This follows from the decision taken earlier in the day that all bars, restaurants and nightclubs will close nightly at 8:00pm, starting from tonight. These establishments will be allowed to remain open from their regular opening times until 8:00pm and takeaway and delivery services will be allowed to continue as normal. A further decision may be taken over the course of the coming days to close these establishments completely.
The existing advice on schools and youth clubs was reviewed again during this morning’s meeting. The advice from Public Heath professionals continues to be that schools, youth clubs and children’s extracurricular activities should continue as normal from all such establishments. These decisions are considered in extreme detail on a daily basis, following the best Public Health advice at all times. The current advice is that it is significantly safer for children to attend school and other activities, and thereby keep them as much as possible away from other public spaces and, especially, away from the elderly and the vulnerable. It is also extremely important that, at this time of necessary social disruption, education and other important services to children are maintained as far as it is safe to do so.
An additional measure is that only school pupils will be allowed to use buses during their reduced hours of operation.
Minister with responsibility for Public Health, the Hon John Cortes, said: ‘The risk from COVID-19 to the elderly and those with unstable health conditions is very real. Whilst the measures for social distancing taken by Government might seem drastic, they are taken under the expert advice of Public Health professionals as the best ways to slow the spread and protect those most at risk. Our society is being disrupted through necessary precautions that the Government strongly advises the public adhere to. We must also minimise the disruption to children’s education and other services that are provided to them at schools and clubs that they may rely on. The most important thing is to keep them away from their grandparents and other family and friends who may be vulnerable.’