The Opposition have shown that they have no scruples in making use of any issue in order to criticise the Government, no matter how vulnerable the persons involved or how sensitive the situation in question. It is deeply regrettable that they choose to jump on each and every bandwagon without the slightest regard for the bigger picture. It is certainly a numbers game for the Opposition as they desperately seek to scrape every single vote together no matter the consequences of their actions or the distasteful quality of their methods.
This two-faced approach confirms that they are simply trying to be all things to all men. In the first place advocating vaccinations and supporting the vaccination programme and then, in the next breath, actively undermining it.
The Government have already explained that ERS residents and St Bernard’s in-patients, by their very nature, constitute the most vulnerable cohort in our community. The decision not to allow unvaccinated visitors is based on clinical and public health considerations alone.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is not compulsory in Gibraltar and this is the way it will remain. The Government therefore respects the right of individuals not to be vaccinated if they so wish. However, it is equally important to protect the rights of persons in elderly or medical care not be exposed to this deadly disease. It is important to recall that COVID-19 has already taken 94 members of our community before their time, our family and friends. The Government, the GHA and our elderly residential services have a duty to reduce any risks to their users as much as is reasonably possible.
The President of the Junta de Andalucia explained yesterday that his Government was considering making available a mobile QR code to persons who had been vaccinated with both doses, in order to enable them to cross provincial boundaries within Andalucia or to attend public events like the theatre in the future. The EU vaccine Chief announced recently that the Union expects to be ready to launch a vaccine passport in June and Israel, which already has a vaccine passport, makes it available as an app or as a paper certificate to persons who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19. This has to be shown in order to access hotels, gyms or theatres and is the basis for travel deals which have been struck with Greece and Cyprus. It is obvious that the world we are moving forward into will sadly be very different to what we knew before the pandemic.
The Government completely sympathises with those persons who have not been vaccinated and who wish to visit relatives in ERS or in the hospital. The GHA and ERS have a duty to protect those in their care from infection. However, the question of visits by unvaccinated persons will remain under review in this context. It is relevant to point out that special arrangements have already been made for visits by unvaccinated relatives to patients in end of life situations and by those who have had COVID-19 in the six month period before the visit takes place. It is also important to make a distinction between those who cannot be vaccinated, for medical reasons, and those who simply do not wish to. In a number of cases of the former, a different vaccine has been offered.
In the meantime, the Opposition should know better than to use the vulnerable to further their own political ambition.