The central advice to the elderly and to those persons with underlying health conditions in Gibraltar is that they should keep movement to a minimum, that they should avoid large gatherings and leave their homes only if absolutely necessary.
It is important to understand that this is for their own protection because this category of people has been identified as the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
This advice applies not only to the elderly (generally over the age of 70), but also to persons with a weakened immune system, such as those suffering from cancer, or on special medication, in particular those with long term conditions like heart disease, poorly controlled diabetes, poorly managed blood pressure and chronic lung disease.
It is also important to exercise common sense in the event that this category of persons has no option but to leave their home. This includes following the hygiene advice that has already been given, avoiding public transport and avoiding shopping in supermarkets or other establishments during peak hours. In other words, shopping for food early in the morning or later on in the evening is more sensible because there are fewer people around.
The objective of the advice announced today is to delay and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on Gibraltar, in such a way that will allow our medical and public services to cope with the projected demand.
The measures outlined below are designed to increase social spaces and distancing especially for the most elderly and the most vulnerable.
1. AVOID LEAVING HOME
Senior citizens (over 70s) should stay at home and limit social contact as much as possible. This includes with their own family members. It is important that they refrain from carrying out any childcare responsibilities, however difficult this may be for them.
2. LIMIT ACCESS TO RESIDENTIAL SETTINGS
Given the high density of vulnerable elderly, the number of visits should be reduced to an absolute minimum. Families are encouraged to make contact and keep in touch by other means, including telephone, Facetime and WhatsApp. This applies to all vulnerable persons regardless of where they live.
Institutions like Elderly Residential Services have already taken measures and these are under constant review.
The Housing Department will now issue new advice to its tenants in elderly residential accommodation, these being Charles Bruzon House, Albert Risso House and Bishop Canilla House. The measures include restricting visitors only to those that are absolutely essential, additional deep cleaning of the common areas and the closure until further notice of the common rooms. This will be subject to review.
3. LIMIT ACTIVITIES FOR SENIOR CITIZENS (over 70s)
Some over 70s engage in healthy and active social life within Gibraltar. The number of social activities will need to be limited as this will decrease the number of opportunities for infection.
4. LIMIT MEANS OF TRAVEL FOR THE ELDERLY
The current advice is that the elderly and persons falling in the vulnerable category should avoid public transport.
5. LIMIT COLLECTIVE WORSHIP
On the advice of Public Health Gibraltar, the Government has maintained on-going engagement with religious institutions in order to agree a number of action points which aim to reduce religious gatherings in the same way as cultural, social and sporting gatherings have also been reduced.
6. AVOID UNNECESSARY MOVEMENT
In general, this category of persons should keep their movement to a minimum and only if absolutely necessary. Persons experiencing any cold-like symptoms are encouraged to stay at home and follow advice.
This response is pro-active and non-pharmaceutical and is based on the phase at which the virus has been identified as a result of modelling taken from other countries. It is important to prepare and to take all the necessary precautions which are based on expert advice.
The Government, Public Health Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Health Authority urge the public to heed all the advice that has been given so far which is for our own protection and for the wider good of Gibraltar as a whole.
It is inevitable that further, more drastic, measures will be necessary in due course as the situation progresses both locally and internationally.
All decisions regarding all events is under constant review as the virus advances through Europe.