Chief Minister’s Statement - Final COVID-19 Daily Briefing
Good afternoon and welcome to this afternoon’s FINAL daily press conference from No6 Convent Place.
There is a lot I need to tell you, so excuse me for launching straight into the reporting of today’s figures.
As at 0900 hours on the 18th May we had carried out 5187 tests for COVID-19 in Gibraltar.
That represents over 16% of the resident population.
We are now only awaiting 9 outstanding results.
The number of confirmed cases remains 147.
There have been no new cases identified.
The number of active cases is therefore now still only 2.
Both are well.
Today, there are no new COVID cases and there are no COVID cases in our hospitals.
That means no COVID in John Ward and no COVID in the ICU.
As from tomorrow we will publish updated figures at midday each day on our social media and we will share those figures with the established media ahead of that embargoed to midday.
Also as from tomorrow, the Gibtelecom Text that every subscriber to Gibtelecom’s services receives in Gibraltar will carry a new line which will set out the number of persons self-isolating at home as a result of symptoms of COVID-19.
Today, that figure is 39.
The text will no longer be sent on weekends or bank holidays. But we will be ensuring that everyone who is self-isolating is tested as soon as possible as part of the test, trace and isolate procedure.
When it comes to self-isolating we are also conscious of the number of people who are self-isolating not because they have the virus or are awaiting a test.
We are aware of those self-isolating because they are greatly immunosuppressed.
We will therefore shortly be updating our advice on shielding given the very low numbers of COVID-19 positive individuals in our community.
So, Gibraltar ends PHASE 1 of the UNLOCK THE ROCK strategy with no new cases of COVID and with no deaths since the major incident was declared.
A remarkable achievement for which I thank all the men and women in our front line agencies, the Public Health Gibraltar Staff, the GHA and our law enforcement agencies.
It is against that backdrop that the Cabinet met this morning.
In consideration of these figures that were put before us, the Cabinet agreed unanimously to move forward into PHASE 2 of the process of unlocking.
I want to tell you more about what that means for the next fourteen days.
First of all, as from 00.00hrs on Friday morning, the Cabinet has agreed that the regulations which provide restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons of all ages will NOT be renewed.
The lockdown regulations expire at midnight this coming Thursday, that means that as from Friday the 22nd May they will no longer operate.
Until then, all the restrictions continue to apply.
Thereafter, it will continue to be our advice that you should STAY AT HOME, but it will not be the law that you must stay at home.
We are moving from rules restricting mobility that are compulsory to rules of social distancing which are advisory.
We are working to see how additional aspects of the unlocking can be undertaken safely during this period and in line with the current lockdown regulations.
We will today publish an amendment to the Regulations that relate to businesses to enable gyms and personal trainers to resume business.
But – for now at least - the operation of gyms must be done in a different way, and in accordance to public health advice and its permissions, to ensure safety.
For the time being, gymnasiums and trainers may only operate indoors if they are in possession of a permit from the Director of Public Health.
The Director of Public Health will also today publish guidelines for gymnasiums and personal trainers to assist them in such applications and applicants will be required to submit an outline of what protocols will be put in place in order to comply with the guidelines.
Applications will be considered and permits will only be granted where the Director of Public Health is satisfied that the risk of infection has been minimized.
A virtual meeting with the Director of Public Health so that he may explain these guidelines to those gymnasiums wishing to attend has been arranged by the Office of Civil Contingencies to take place at 6.30pm today.
In addition, gymnasiums and trainers will be required to keep a daily list of all the people who have attended their premises, for the safety of their members.
The purpose of this is, so that in the event of someone who has attended the gym tests positive for COVID-19, the information of who may have come into contact with them at the gym can be easily obtained.
The information will of course be subject to very strict data protection safeguards and can only be shared for contact tracing purposes in the event of a positive case at a gym, when gyms will only be required to keep the daily information for this purpose for a maximum of 10 days.
Equally, for data protection purposes, the establishment will only be informed that someone who has attended has tested positive and the identity of the individual will not be revealed.
Public transport will now also start to return slowly.
As it does, we will be updating advice on routes and frequency.
We are looking to finalise public health advice on this.
At the moment we believe we will be requiring the compulsory use of face coverings or masks on public transport.
We will initially be providing the masks from the time that these are required.
Again, this may change as the prevalence of the virus in our community changes.
Public transport will be a hugely important part of how we reduce pollution going forward as we progress the closure of Line Wall Road and the introduction of more parking fees to persuade people to stay out of their cars.
We will only be a better city at the end of this process as a result.
Trust us on this.
Just as you trusted us on lockdown.
Trust us to deliver a friendlier, greener Gibraltar.
I want to move now to an operation which took place today at our Port.
Gibraltar took part in the repatriation of crew members from two vessels this morning, the Sovereign and the Jewel of the seas.
In a well-coordinated plan involving the Gibraltar Port Authority, the Gibraltar Airport, Incargo Shipping services and various transport companies, over 320 passengers were transferred to the Air Terminal, observing all the directions given by the Director for Public Health.
Two chartered British Airways flights, which flew in yesterday, were intending to carry these passengers to London Heathrow where they would then catch another chartered flight to Barbados.
One of the flights with 164 crewmen departed on time, but unfortunately the other flight which had 154 crewmen on board has had a technical issue which has resulted in it requiring a wheel to be changed.
This has meant that the second set of passengers will not reach London Heathrow in time to catch the flight to Barbados.
Crewmembers at the Air Terminal have returned to the two vessels which have remained in port waiting until the flights have departed as is required under the COVID protocol issued by the Gibraltar Port Authority.
It is expected that the aircraft will be ready to take the 154 crewmen to London tomorrow morning.
The two vessels will remain alongside until the crewmen are taken to the airport and the aircraft departs.
This is important economic activity for our future work as we emerge from the public health emergency.
In that respect, this Friday I will host a further meeting of CELAC.
In that meeting we will be looking at many of the issues facing businesses as we go into the next phases of unlocking.
We will also look at what happens if we identify new clusters and we need to stamp on them.
What happens when people identify as having symptoms?
What happens to their work on that day?
What happens to employees whilst they are being tested?
And what happens to holiday pay this year when some employees may have spent a quarter of the year at home already paid and in some cases arguably paid more than they are even paid at work, given that BEAT payments did not suffer deductions of Social Insurance or PAYE in April.
Those are key issues.
As well as the issues that Ministers leading our Restart and Recover and our Future task forces are bringing up for discussion.
I also want to thank the many in local business who are sending us ideas for this CELAC discussion.
These discussions will be reflected in a document that will be Part 2 of our Unlock the Rock series.
That document will be published on or about the 1st of July to set out, in good time, our view on how things will progress beyond the 1st August.
Thank you now to all the journalists who have played a part in these press conferences.
GBC for their live coverage and the back catalogue that we have enjoyed on both sides of the press conferences each day.
Chronicle and Panorama for their deliveries of their newspapers to the elderly in our community.
To YGTV for continuing to ensure that we are up to date online.
And to the Olive Press for reporting our message beyond Gibraltar.
And to all of them for their questions at this sensitive time in our democracy.
You really have been the fourth estate.
Thank you also to the depleted staff of our Press Office for being here on shift every day to make these conferences a reality.
Thank you also to all those of you at home.
Thank you for watching.
We promised you eight weeks ago that you would get all the information you needed from us.
And you have.
But thank you all, particularly, for following our advice.
Together we have delivered the results we have seen today.
Let’s do what we need to do to keep the figures down by observing the rules of hygiene and of social distancing.
Let’s win every round against this virus together.
You know we can.
So thank you very much indeed for having watched until now and this is a final opportunity for journalists to ask questions in this daily press conference.