Approach to unlocking and re-locking
Gibraltar has succeeded in reducing the rate of community infection of the COVID-19 virus, meaning that the virus is infecting fewer people every day (technically expressed as a reproductive rate below 1 – R0<1). As of the second week of May 2020, the R0 in Gibraltar is estimated to be close to 0. Any relaxation of the lockdown regulations creates a likelihood of increased community infection. For that reason, the pace of relaxation of the lockdown will have to be gradual. ><1). The R0 in Gibraltar is now close to 0; but any relaxation of the lockdown regulations creates a likelihood of increased community infection; thus the pace of relaxation of the lockdown will have to be gradual.
Maintaining lockdown creates risk of serious harm to public health generally, giving rise to recognised risks to life and wellbeing from other eventualities such as lack of exercise, issues of mental health, a lack of hospital treatments and screenings and an absence of vitamin D from lack of exposure to daylight.
The approach of Public Health Gibraltar and HM Government of Gibraltar is to prioritise public safety and security by seeking to continue to suppress the spread of the virus as much as possible; this means that restrictions will be removed gradually, prudently and asymmetrically.
To ensure continued success in the suppression of the virus, whilst allowing a limited return of freedom of movement and association, it will be necessary to quickly identify those who are symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers of the infection. This will require widespread testing in the community. In some circumstances, this may have to occur at, or near to, entry points to Gibraltar or even beyond Gibraltar’s borders.
The relaxation will be approached in a six-phase process ending with a final phase which is ROCK UNLOCKED.
The Phases, the first of which began on 2 May, are based on principles designed to marry public safety and security with fundamental freedoms. A staged approach will therefore be applied, success of each stage dependent on social co-operation.
The cooperation of members of the public (including the non-resident working population and resident population) to accept random testing and to promptly volunteer information about the onset of symptoms without concern for economic loss or peer criticism. Cooperation will also be required for effective contact tracing (supported by technology, if possible, and in keeping with Data Protection rules and guidance) and for self-isolation.
Furthermore, the Government is committed to ensuring that the whole local community and most of the registered cross-border workforce shall be tested for Coronavirus antibodies using the EU approved Abbott test (a blood test which provides confirmation in minutes of whether or not the person tested has already contracted Coronavirus). Data gleaned from the antibody testing programme will allow for a clearer understanding of the progress of COVID-19 in the community; this will guide further actions to be taken.
The Director of Public Health stresses that there is no proven path for release from lockdown; detailing four conditions that had to be met in order for Gibraltar to consider beginning the unlocking process. These conditions are principally designed to ensure that the Gibraltar Health Authority is able to deal with a potential surge of COVID-19 cases and include:
- Total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is rising at a pace of 7 or less new cases per day
- The number of confirmed COVID-19 admissions to hospital is 4 or less per day
- The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients requiring treatment with ventilators at any one time is 3 or less
- All confirmed and active COVID-19 cases and cases affecting the over 70 year olds represent no more than a maximum of 25% of the total current number of confirmed and active cases.