LOCALS may enjoy going to the beach this year after all as the Government revealed its plan to further ease restrictions to a new normal.
The ‘Unlock the Rock’ document will be available for the public to view from May 12, with the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo unveiling plans for the near future earlier today.
The unlocking will be done in seven phases, and it is thought that if everything goes smoothly, the rock will be ‘unlocked’ by August 1 in the last phase dubbed, ‘new normal’.
Gibraltar is currently undergoing the first phase of the Unlock the Rock strategy, with the second phase set to take place from May 18.
The second phase will see museums, exhibitions and galleries opening while sticking to social distancing rules and public health advice.
This phase will also see an easing of restrictions on personal movement for both over and under 70s.
The Chief Minister emphasised that people over a BMI of 30, over the age of 70 or who have weaker immune systems to continue staying at home despite the easing of restrictions on personal movement.
“This will take effect from the 21st of this month if things are progressing well, and we see no increases in infection rates,” explained the Chief Minister.
“From that date, we expect that we will move away from the law restricting free movement, but with two key caveats.”
“Firstly, our advice will continue to be that it is safer to stay at home. We expect to be able to change our legal posture, but not our advice.”
“Secondly, we will continue to have rules about large gatherings so the law will still restrict the constitutional freedom of association.”
Education, parliament, more construction sites and gyms will also see a return in Phase 2, with the latter ‘subject to strict controls’.
Many health services will restart screening for patients on the GHA’s waiting list after a long 60 day hiatus.
The third phase is set to take place from June 1 and will see religious services taking place ‘under very strict distancing controls’.
The Government’s own contact tracing app will start to kick into force in this phase using people’s mobile phones to alert them if they get into contact with someone with COVID-19.
This is also the phase where people will be able to eat at restaurants, which will be limited to a 50% occupancy, but only if they have a permit from the Department of Public Health.
Line Wall Road will partially be closed and Chatham Counterguard will be closed off as part of previous announcements to reduce the amount of traffic on roads to help with air quality.
Public transport will be coming around the bend with bus routes seeing new arrangements for passengers and drivers.
Theatre performances will be taking place behind closed doors, but will be viewed by the public through social media and broadcasting.
This fourth phase is set to start from June 16 when people will finally be able to go to bars and cafeterias.
These establishments will need to get a permit from the Department of Public Health, much like the opening restaurants in phase three.
The Chief Minister mentioned that he expected the bathing season to open by mid-June depending on the progress of the virus.
“I want to be clear that our ambition will be to see a normal bathing season with normal beach going,” Picardo began.
“We do not want to see any restrictions whatsoever on our ability to attend beaches, but this will require common sense from the public.”
“You will have to pitch your tents further away from each other than we are used to.”
“We will not be able to crowd around the shore and the best spots as we each like to do.”
He warned that if there was a spike in active COVID-19 cases, the Government would reserve the right to ‘impose restrictions’ on the bathing season.
“We are considering making Europa pool in the bathing pavilion at GASA exclusively available to our elderly citizens so that they can bathe without mixing with younger members of the community,” said the Chief Minister.
Phases five and six will serve as phases for reviewing those restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms that continue to remain closed.
“We’ll see a further loosening of those restrictions over those few phases,” Picardo added.
“If necessary, we will review any beach-going restrictions that may have been in place.”
“Assuming everything has gone well, which is a big assumption, then we will move to ‘Rock Unlocked’ or phase ‘new normal’ as we head into the autumn.”
“That is the moment when we must be most alert of how things progress.”
It is around then when weddings and funerals will be able to have an attendance which is closer to normal.
Active COVID-19 cases have risen now to four, one of which being an asymptomatic elderly carer
This has led to the entire floor of residents where they worked being swabbed for COVID-19, all of which turned out negative.
“Further tests will be carried out at the end of the week on all residents again, just out of an abundance of caution,” added Picardo.
More than 4,000 people have been tested in the community for the coronavirus.
It amounts to 13% of the population, with only 147 confirmed cases since the pandemic emerged on the Rock.