29 Apr, 2020 @ 20:21
2 mins read

Gibraltar tourism will take the biggest hit from COVID-19, says minister


COMPANIES that rely on tourists for money will suffer most from ‘the new normal’ created by the global pandemic.

The news came as the Director of Health Sohail Bhatti spoke of the ‘search and destroy’ mission to eliminate the Coronavirus in Gibraltar.

This would involve more testing and contact tracing, but would be made more difficult by people coming by land, sea and air.

The number of reported cases in Gibraltar stayed at ten with 160 results pending, mainly from the random sample of front-line workers.

Numbers of calls to the 111 service have dropped recently, with two suspected cases at St Bernard’s Hospital recently being cleared of having the virus.

Thermal scanning has been taken on at the hospital, however, with masks given to people entering the building.

Contact tracing will now be used to find out silent carriers of the virus when a new case is registered.

“When we do have a positive result, we will use our contact tracing service, to contact that individual,” said Bhatti.

“We’ll spend a good two hours, maybe a little bit longer, trying to find out who they had been in contact with over the last few days.

“Then we will want to test, not just the person that is positive or their contact, but the whole household of that person.”

Those people will then have to isolate together with everyone in their whole household.

“The price of the freedom of the many, will be a greater lockdown of the few,” added Bhatti.

All front-line workers will now be screened not only in the public sector, but also in private companies.

Customs Gibraltar
FRONT-LINE: All workers like the Customs will go through frequent testing

Backing business

Minister for Commerce, Albert Isola said the Chief Minister would announce ‘in the next few days’ how businesses can start reopening.

He said ‘the new normal’ would include social distancing with each firms having someone dealing with all COVID-19 matters.

“There will of course be less capacity in shops and in other areas which we hope to open in the in the short term,” said Isola.

“The whole model that we’ve always had in tourism is going to change and it’s going to be an absolute challenge, not just for us, but for the rest of the world.”

Loans could soon be provided for small businesses mainly funded by the Gibraltar Government with the help of banks.

Insolvency rules could also be suspended to help businesses through the tough time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rates and rents will again not have to be paid to the government during May to help keep companies like bars and cafes afloat.

He informed the public that £5.7 million had been given out to 5649 employees as part of the BEAT COVID scheme.

The rejection rate for employees is 15% and for self-employed people that rate is 20%.

The next BEAT COVID payments for May can now be applied for in the same way, replicating the information provided for April.

Around half of company director applications for wage relief were turned down because they were not up to date with tax and insurance payments.

A furlough system is now being worked on for excluded companies to help them find a way to cut their pay packets.

Guardia Civil
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