The steady increase in active cases of COVID-19 that Gibraltar experienced throughout October has continued into November, and has become even more exponential in the last few days. This means that it is essential that the public conduct themselves in a cautious and sensible manner bearing in mind that we are still in a global pandemic and that people are losing their lives every day all over the world.
The public are urged to avoid large gatherings, to wear a mask where prescribed by law or when they feel uncomfortable and to maintain a prudent social distance from other people.
There are 359 active cases of COVID-19 in Gibraltar today, 57 new cases today (72 yesterday), 5 hospitalisations (1 of which is in the CCU), and a total of 440 persons in isolation. This is in part a reflection of the high rate of testing of Gibraltar residents which allows us to catch many more positive cases than would happen elsewhere. However, it is also part of a trend which can be witnessed all over Europe where the number of positive cases are on an upward spiral.
It is important, in the above context, to limit mixing as much as possible. Public Health Gibraltar has identified that since 2nd October, a number of organised events have had adult positive cases associated with them. In addition to this, there have been separate community outbreaks related to different faith gatherings. This week it is also clear from the data that there has been a great increase of transmission in the workplace.
Given the exponential rise in the number of cases, the Government, for example, intends to cancel a number of its own functions including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings. The public, at this stage, are ultimately called upon to exercise their own judgement in this respect bearing in mind the current advice given. This consideration should include the number of persons, the setting whether indoor or outdoor, the degree of ventilation if indoor and whether those attending are vaccinated, elderly or vulnerable. In the same way as has happened in the past, this advice may change going forward.
The Government strongly advises against any large informal social events, parties or receptions being held over at least the next four weeks while the vaccine booster programme is rolled out. It will also become necessary at this point to make sure that the use of official premises is carefully scrutinised and where necessary events are postponed to a later date.
In order to maintain the current state of relative normality in Gibraltar it is vital that the public follow the guidance of the Director of Public Health and take every reasonable precaution to reduce transmission of the virus and keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
The current Public Health guidance is that the public should:
• Meet in open outdoor spaces where possible and to pay attention to ventilation where it is not. When people are meeting indoors, a window should be open for at least 10 minutes every hour.
• Wear a mask where it is required. This remains a great way to protect yourself, customers, clients, friends and family members.
• Maintain some physical distance when greeting. Shaking hands, kissing, hugging and close forms of endearment increase your exposure to viruses.
• Take responsibility when hosting an event or occasion to ensure all guests are safe. We are all responsible for our own health and wellbeing, but as a host, you are also taking on the obligation and responsibility to protect others.
• Clean your hands regularly to protect you and others from germs. Do so as often as you can. Use soap and water or 70% alcohol gel. Encourage guests to do the same.
• Take note of those who remain in close proximity to you. Be ready to provide this information if asked by the Contact Tracing Bureau.
• Risk assess all and any events. The main issue of concern will be the mix of those people attending. If there are significant numbers of people present, or expected to attend, who come from outside Gibraltar, it is important to consider that they may not be vaccinated or that they might be incubating/ carrying the virus. The size of the group and the density of the setting must be considered alongside other precautions.
Masks continue to be one of the most effective methods of reducing transmission.
Masks are required to be worn in Gibraltar in:
• All retail shops and supermarkets
• Medical and Health Service establishments
• Public transport (Buses and Taxis)
• Funerals in a place of worship that is enclosed or substantially enclosed
• Gibraltar International Airport Terminal
Close contacts of an active case must wear a mask when out in public, in the workplace, shopping or using public transport.
The COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign is currently underway for the over 40s, health and care workers and other vulnerable groups. Members of the public are strongly encouraged to register their interest online to receive a booster vaccine as they are rolled out: https://www.gha.gi/pfizerbooster/
Minister for Health, the Hon Samantha Sacramento, said: ‘The drastic increase in the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 in recent days is a stark reminder that the virus is still very prevalent in our community and that it is the responsibility of us all to take every reasonable precaution to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The vaccination programme for 12-15 year olds and the booster vaccination programme are now underway, and Gibraltar received 4680 moredoses this week. Everyone who is eligible for a vaccine or a booster is strongly encouraged to take up the offer when they are called.”