As vaccination rates rise, and as we begin to move a more normal life, it is important we learn whether and how we can begin to hold larger group events. These will include sports as well as cultural events. Taking advice from the Director of Public Health, Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has designated a pilot event where we will allow spectators under strictly controlled conditions that are COVID-safe. HMGoG is determined not to lose all the hard work that the recent lockdown has achieved, but it is also important that we gain confidence that we can hold big events in preparation for a more normal summer we can all enjoy.
Therefore, the international football match between Gibraltar and the Netherlands is one of the first pilot events. It is a large outdoor area and therefore the risk is lower. UEFA’s permission is needed, and the implementation of infection control measures will help ensure that spectators can watch this match safely. This will include social distancing requirements and other aspects of the rules of hygiene being properly provided for. If there is a subsequent rise in cases, it will help inform future decisions, and if there is none, we can help support more events. It is anticipated that cases will have dropped to background levels and stay there. We will also be in contact with the organisers of the heavy weight boxing match about potential controlled access to their event in a covid secure way.
As the first such events, there needs to be a high level of oversight. The Director of Public Health will ensure that the protocols in place minimise the risk of transmission, and that will include ensuring, as much as practical, that spectators are COVID-free. Dr Bhatti said, “this is our first major step in enjoying ourselves in larger groups. It is important that this goes well. As the match is a pilot event, we are not committing to anything long-term. I want people to enjoy themselves safely. This means a test carried out on the day as well as evidence of immunity such as past COVID infection or vaccine card. Due to UEFA restrictions, we are unclear about the eventual number of spectators. I want to encourage younger members of our community to take up the vaccine offer, as inevitably insurance companies and airlines will be implementing so-called “vaccine passports”. Of course, it is entirely a personal decision whether to take the vaccine, but I am encouraging my family to do so, as we want to return to normality. Millions of people have been successfully vaccinated world-wide, and I don’t want our people left behind.”
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: “We are working to return our community to normality. That work has to be methodical and careful. We will work with the organisers of the upcoming sporting events to see how we can develop relevant protocols that might work to ensure we can see live audiences return.”