THE Chief Minister reminded the public a surge of COVID-19 cases could bring the return of a full or partial lockdown on the Rock.
Fabian Picardo said the plan had been ‘designed for Gibraltar’ with active cases remaining at four on the day the document was published.
The successful lockdown has kept total cases to 148 since March, which the Chief Minister described as ‘magnificent statistics to date’.
‘Unlock the Rock’ will grant free movement to people on May 21 although the elderly and vulnerable are advised to stay at home.
A total of over 500 Gibraltar Health Authority beds will remain on standby in case more life-threatening cases are recorded.
Picardo warned that a second wave could occur in the future, which is why the seven phases would not be carried out in one go.
“It is particularly important to note the pauses that we have built into between stages,” he said.
“These are designed to enable us to see if there is new growth of cases which we might consider to be growing at an unmanageable rate.
“We are not pausing for any reason other than to prudently observe that our actions are not allowing the virus back.”
Predicting a second wave
In response to an Olive Press question on when the lockdown would be tightened again, he was clear this could happen at any stage.
“We probably dealt with a cluster rather than wave luckily but we hope to see that coming towards us and be able to act hopefully without having to lock down again,” said Picardo.
“If you’re able to identify where that cluster comes from, you may be able to identify which of the restrictions lifted gave rise to it, and seek to simply reimpose that restriction.
“That might mean going back to phases in respect of that particular restriction, but allowing all the other restrictions to continue unabated.”
Director of Health, Sohail Bhatti, said that a surge in the Campo area could be one indicator of a coming increase on the Rock.
“If the number of cases is growing on a regular basis over four or five days in Gibraltar, that’s also a warning sign,” said Bhatti.
“The problem that we face in Gibraltar is that it’s such a small community that there’s a large element of random chance when you start to look at trends
“If we got ten cases a day it is just as likely to go back to zero as it is to go to 20.”
Testing the waters
The Chief Minister confirmed that while people could meet in groups, they could not be of more than 12 people and should be at a social distance.
In addition, contact tracing could help ensure cases are isolated when it is introduced next month.
Improved fixed temperature scanners will soon be placed at the frontier to check cross-frontier workers.
Antibody tests could be ready to be introduced by September, added Bhatti which would show if the community has resistance to the virus in autumn.
The Chief Minister has also been in touch with the UK Government to give Gibraltarians the possibility of being exempt from the two-week quarantine period for arrivals in the British Isles.
His argument is that if exemptions are given to Channel Islanders, the Irish and the French, the same should be the case for travellers from Gibraltar who have far less cases.