THE virus is still out there and a new wave of infections could paralyse Gibraltar once again if people do not respect the new normal.

This was the message from Health Minister Paul Balban, as he looked forward to the return of free movement likely to be announced on May 18.

Active COVID-19 cases dropped to just two today with 145 recovered out of a total of 147 confirmed cases.

“We are geographically closest to Spain and will also be most affected by the UK due to our strong links and proximity,” said Balban.

“Spain yesterday reported a fear of a second wave which has been seen in many other cities.

“Releasing the lockdown was always going to be far more difficult than locking down itself.”

He said that while many people would be eager to return to the way we used to behave before the pandemic, our only friend was time.

“We must buy as much time as possible to ensure that somewhere we can find ways of ridding ourselves of COVID 19, be it by way of a vaccine or some type of treatment close in the future,” he continued.

“Our aggressive contact tracing program will ensure that if we have any new infections we may be able to keep them at bay and restricted to those with the infection.”

He also remarked on the positives from the crisis, like less pollution, more people exercising and healthier eating.

As the lockdown was released, so clinical services like screening for cancer would be starting up again too on May 22.

Although urgent cancer appointments continued throughout the pandemic, mammography, cervical, colon cancer and aortic aneurysm screenings would all start again.

In Stages Three and Four of the lockdown release, on June 12 and July 3 respectively, screening will return to normal.

Surgery could still be limited for a while yet, as those people who are recovering could be most at risk from COVID-19.

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SURGERY: On hold for the moment, according to the health minister

Warning signs

Family members will have to wait to be able to visit elderly relatives at their residences until the second week of June dressed in PPE.

During this time, only one person will be allowed alone, with two people allowed the following month.

Minister for Civil Contingencies Samantha Sacramento appealed for common sense as Gibraltar entered Phase Two.

She highlighted the hard work that has occurred behind the scenes, including the 1155-strong volunteer response team, IT teams and the public information call centre.

“Going forward, social distancing will be one of the crucial things that we have to maintain if we are going to stop the spread of the infection,” said Sacramento.

“We have banners up and Main Street reminding anybody who’s walking down Main Street to ensure that they maintain social distance.

“There’s also posters that we’ve prepared on boards that are placed strategically throughout Main Street.”

Both ministers were hopeful this could be the end of the crisis even if it feels it could just be the end of the beginning.

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