Chief Minister's Statement - Monday Press Conference
Below follows the Chief Minister's statement from this morning’s press conference:
Good morning and welcome to No6 Convent Place once again for a press conference on the issues related to the way this community is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This morning, we are taking the Rock to PHASE 3 of our UNLOCKING process.
This morning, the number of persons with COVID-19 in Gibraltar is 12 and there are 7 active cases in cross-frontier workers resident in Spain.
Making a total of 19 active cases detected in Gibraltar.
Overnight we had 3 people at A&E with COVID symptoms and all 3 were swabbed.
2 swabs are pending - one is already confirmed as negative.
Total swabs: 7644
Results Received: 7629
Active: 19 (12: Gib-residents/ 7: cross-frontier) Recovered: 151
The position remains that the positives come from the ASYMPTOMATIC front line from the random swabbing.
We have taken 3,378 swabs from our frontline random sampling.
They only have 6 results pending.
In fact, we expected to see numbers increasing as we expanded our surveillance strategy and that includes a higher swabbing rate testing of these frontline workers. It would be surprising if there had been no increase in cases.
The important thing to note is that these individuals either had no symptoms or were mildly symptomatic.
Public Health advice is that this is not grounds for stopping the Unlocking process at this stage.
We would need to see a sustained increase over 5 working days taking positive cases per day to between 10 and 20 and a large number of those resulting in admissions to the GHA before any review would be likely.
The important thing is that swift public action is taken with each of these cases in order to prevent onward transmission of the virus.
An extensive contact tracing effort has been underway led by the recollection of the cases that have been identified.
Remember, it is only those who have been in contact for more than 15 minutes and less than 2 metres away, who need to isolate as a result of having being in contact with somebody who has been diagnosed with the virus.
So what these numbers show is that our enhanced surveillance is doing its job by actively seeking out cases of COVID-19 in the community.
But let’s be clear, these cases should serve as a reminder that coronavirus is still very much amongst us, and that we all have individual responsibility when it comes to preventing the spread, through social distancing, hand hygiene, and by following public health advice.
Our advice still remains that if at all possible, other than for exercise or essential shopping, people should stay at home as that is the safest place to be.
Limit your social contacts and do not throw away all the hard work of the last few months on a desire to just catch up on socialising.
With these numbers of diagnosis of the virus and the absence of pressure at this stage in the GHA, the Cabinet is advised and has agreed that we can safely proceed to UNLOCK PHASE 3.
We will also proceed to stand down from the Major Incident as from midday today.
The Command structure posture which is provided for in the Civil Contingencies Act will end at that time.
It has been exhausting for all those involved at the different levels of command, from Bronze to Platinum.
I want to thank everyone who has been involved in that.
At my level, I want to particularly thank His Excellency the Governor, Nick Pyle and CBF, Tim Henry as well as Ivor Lopez who has been in Platinum with us as the Head of Civil Contingencies, the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister Sacramento.
Everyone else in the structure from Gold to Silver and Bronze has done an absolutely incredible job and I want to thank every single one of them.
This has been a stressful time and I really do appreciate the work that everyone has done. When the Civil Contingencies Act was created it was anticipated that principally we would be standing up to a major incident for a period of hours or days if there were a major accident. Here the pandemic has required us to be at major incident posture for months and that really has been difficult but the fruits of the work that has been done I think are in the numbers and the ability to move to Unlocking as we are.
So UNLOCK THE ROCK is on track.
Now more than ever, our legislation requires that anyone who tests positive, and their households, should go into quarantine for a period which is specified by the Director of Public Health. That’s important. It is the only part of the lockdown that will continue to apply, only to certain people, to enable the rest of us to progress to a more normal free movement as we would have expected to and wish to.
That of course and the restriction on gatherings which is a different part of your civil liberties.
It is important to remember that we have to unlock gradually. We have made progress in the last couple of weeks going from lockdown to being able to gather in groups of a maximum of 12 at this stage, but do remember that it is essential even in gatherings of that size that we continue to observe the rules of social distancing within those groups if you are not already from the same household.
Since last Friday, gyms have been able to operate, although subject to conditions set out in permits issued by the Director of Public Health which include the maximum number of people permitted in an establishment. Remember also that if personal trainers are training members outdoors, these sessions are subject to the rules on public gatherings and cannot exceed groups of 12, properly socially distancing from each other at all times of course.
In the Retail Sector, we already have legislation in place so that as from today, as a result of the commencement of PHASE 3, shops will be able to open for extended hours from 9am to 7pm, with all the public health measures that were introduced when they were opened on the 2nd May remaining in place. Those extended hours are more in keeping with what we might have thought of as normal hours before.
That same legislation also allows for restaurants to open today as long as they are in possession of a permit from the Director of Public Health. One of the legal requirements to enable you to attend a restaurant or a cafeteria is that you must prebook. Please book your tables before attending any restaurant. Do not wander around hoping that there will be a table available for you as this will inevitably lead to groups gathering while they wait, and that would defeat the objective of where we find ourselves as we commence PHASE 3 of the unlock process. You will also be required to provide your name and contact number when booking. There is a reason for this. It is for your own protection so that we are able to contact you in the event that someone who has tested positive attended the same establishment and was sat near you. We would encourage that everyone in your party should also volunteer their names and contact numbers too, although that is not a legal requirement, so that the contact tracing bureau might also be able to get in touch with them more quickly and more easily. Bars and the bar areas of restaurants will remain closed for now.
Public Transport has returned, although it is going to be a requirement to wear a mask inside buses.This requirement is a part of the rollout of the renewed services.
Line Wall Road, Chatham Counterguard and Europort Avenue are at the start of the new arrangements. I look forward to seeing those bed in. We are starting gently and reminding people of the arrangements today.
In Chatham Counterguard, the closure will now allow the area in front of the restaurants to be used for tables and for chairs. That gives more space and allows the social distancing also in that area.
Arrangements are being made by different congregations with the Minister for Public Health for the return of communal Religious Worship which I recognise is hugely important to many people, especially at this challenging time.
As the Minister for Public Health is also the Minister for Culture, he is also advanced in working on the return of other cultural activities.
Education has also returned formally today on a limited basis. Year 2 in Lower Primary; Year 6 in Upper Primary and in Hebrew Primary, all of them returning to school for part of the day today.
But home learning is going to continue in PHASE 3 to be available for all year groups that have not been brought back into school. It will also continue to be delivered to those attending the childcare supervision facilities. Home learning will cease for Year 2, Year 6 and the Secondary year group that is brought back to school.
But home learning platforms will be used to offer support to children who are unable to attend school.
St Martin’s remains open as it has been operating for the moment.
Some more sports will resume today. These include netball, basketball and hockey.
Finally, on the legislation that is currently in place, you will have noticed that we have made regulations to give us the ability to be able to carve out periods of time during which our beaches will be available only to people with especially vulnerable relatives or who are themselves especially vulnerable. This is important as we make provision either for the elderly or those with disabilities.
And today we are also starting our anti-body testing on a restricted basis to ‘test the tests’ so to speak, before we start the rollout of the service to the whole community.
This will not happen until we are advised by Public Health Gibraltar that we are ready to do so.
Today we are starting the anti-body testing in the GHA to see how many of our frontline GHA staff might have had the virus without even knowing.
We expect the numbers will be low.
But with this virus who knows?
We should always expect to be surprised.
So all that is positive news.
But let us be clear – the Public Health Emergency continues.
The rules against gatherings of more than 12 continue and civil liberties continue to be impacted in that sense.
The numbers of people with the virus are growing from where we were but not from cases with symptoms.
They are growing consistently from cases where individuals are asymptomatic.
Instead these cases are being regularly identified only as a result of our random testing of our frontline staff.
So for now things are working as they should BUT ONLY because people are – in the main – observing the rules.
YOU MUST OBSERVE THE RULES or we will potentially find ourselves having to go into reverse gear for the whole of the community because a selfish few might not have followed the rules.
We nonetheless, expect to also be trailing our APP in coming days and rolling it out in the middle of the month.
I have seen some messages about this APP on social media which seem to confuse it with the UK NHS APP.
This APP does not give any information to the government.
It is designed simply to allow a friend or contact of yours to advise YOU if he or she has got COVID so you can decide if you want to get in touch with us.
On Friday, we had a further lengthy meeting of CELAC.
We are working well in that committee on issues relating to business and employee protection.
We went through the issue of the £30m of loan guarantees which the Parliament approved last week.
This has been very well received by the CELAC.
We continue to work on new measures to protect businesses and employees. On these I will be consulting with the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Clinton further as we proceed.
What I can also confirm to you today is that we agreed that the measures which were reviewable monthly and which had been indicated would be available for the first quarter of the virus – the second quarter of the year – will continue for the month of June, the last month of the quarter.
The most relevant to the public is the import duty waiver, which will continue for June and makes the purchase of high value items attractive and in that way has stimulated economic activity.
The rest is contained in a table which will be published after this press conference.
I know we have had a bumper month in some business areas.
116 new vehicles have been sold since these new rules came into effect.
So many businesses that might have otherwise been idle have had bumper months.
The fact that things have gone well therefore in those sectors is a tribute to the sacrifice that many have made to date.
Let’s not spoil it.
Let’s not do stupid stuff.
Remember that we rely on your common sense in great measure to self-police these new phases.
I want to say I have been shocked and really quite grossly disappointed by the fact that young and not so young people have been leaving a trail of un-cleared mess in Gibraltar.
I have been young and I have enjoyed barbeques on the beach. I want our young people to be able to enjoy our beaches and our bathing areas. I want them to be able to enjoy barbeques. At this stage in keeping with the rules that there cannot be more than 12 of you. But do you really need not to clear up after yourselves?
This is not an issue about being young or enjoying yourselves this is an issue about being hygienic and not being a pig and leaving all your waste behind for others to clear up. This is not about having fun. Of course, we want you to have fun but think of others and don’t assume that there is always going to be somebody there to pick up after you.
If you are meeting less than 12 people then your activity is absolutely fine and in keeping up with the rules.
But you really, really should clear up after yourselves.
It is just unacceptable for you not to.
As usual in so many instances, the idiots will spoil it for the rest of us.
Government is looking at rules now to impose fees for barbeque permits to be issued , for barbeques in public places in public places to require a more stringent control, perhaps even a refundable deposit.
Should we have Cameras?
Frankly, I don’t know whether we should have cameras everywhere. I don’t think that is the sort of society in which we want to live but we have to deal with this remarkable irresponsibility.
What we are seeing at our beaches in this type of event is an example of the worst of Gibraltar. Enough is enough. We are not going to tolerate it.
So I will be discussing this matter with my colleagues in Cabinet this week.
We will take action to address this issue.
We consider that, regrettably, that will lead to enhanced controls in respect of the organisation of barbeques and other events at our beaches and public areas and bathing pavilions.
The cost associated with cleaning up after those with no civic duty, those possessed with the notion that somebody will come and clear up after them, should now be recovered from organisers.
It is perhaps an unfortunate consequence of the blessed life we lead here that some people no longer have any sense that all of the services we enjoy, the cleaning services included, are paid for by the rest of the community.
There may be no cost at the point of consumption of these public services, but there IS a cost, a cost to the taxpayer, that is to say each and every one of us. A cost to the Gibraltarian and to the residents of Gibraltar, a cost to the whole community.
Beyond the financial cost, of course is the issue of the public health matters that arise.
And I don’t mean just COVID and whether there is 12 or less of us.
I mean attracting rodents and insects to places where children will be playing the next day.
Other than that matter, I think things are going very well, I think we have to hold our nerve. I told you when we moved into PHASE 2 that we should look at the next phases of Unlock the Rock and celebrate that we were moving in the right direction not with a party but with a pledge.
A pledge to observe the rules of social distance. A pledge to ensure that we all abided by the rules of common sense and, as usual, the people of Gibraltar in the overwhelming majority are doing exactly that.
We are ON TIME
We are ON TRACK
We are ON TARGET
ROCK UNLOCKED LOOKS GOOD FOR THE 1st AUGUST FROM NOW.