HM Government of Gibraltar have said it continues to plan and prepare for any possible outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19. This is done in line with the best estimates and projections of our Public Health professionals for when we might expect to see a rise in the number of cases locally.
The Government, healthcare providers and public services are doing everything possible to ensure that Gibraltar is able to continue as normally as possible and that services continue to be provided to those members of our community who need it the most.
A Core Group of policymakers, which sits above the COVID-19 Coordinating Group, has been set up and will now meet daily to review policy and take decisions as the global and local situations develop.
A clear Command Structure has been established to ensure that the decisions made by the Core Group and the COVID-19 Coordinating Group are implemented seamlessly across all services. This structure divides the necessary services into clear groups, each with clear responsibilities and established protocols to follow. The 6 main groups are response teams, logistics, health, public information, media and financial matters. Each main group is responsible for relevant operational sub-groups and teams.
All events at the Europa Retreat Centre have been cancelled so that this may be used as an isolation facility if it is required. In addition to the drive-through testing facility to be established at Rooke within the next few days, works are currently underway at the Europa Point Sports Complex in order for it to be used as a field hospital, if necessary. If it is needed, this will reduce the risk of infection spread at St Bernard’s hospital and provide extra resilience for the GHA.
A Public Information Office will be set up to operate as a call centre, staffed by public servants, to provide general information and advice on coronavirus COVID-19. This will alleviate pressure on the 111 service and keep the 111 phone lines open for those who need to report travel to at-risk areas and/or coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms.
The Government has arranged for coronavirus COVID-19 local situation updates, which are currently disseminated through the local media, to be distributed to every Gibtelecom mobile number via WhatsApp.
Within the GHA, plans are being implemented to ensure that isolated wards for COVID-19 patients are available if they are needed. This includes measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the hospital. To this purpose, all elective surgery in the hospital has been cancelled and patients can expect an increase in time on the waiting list for elective surgery for the time being. The GHA emphasises that whilst this may be frustrating, it is a necessary measure that frees up staff and resources for those who need it the most.
Emergency surgery will continue, whilst urgent surgery, for example in cancer cases, will be considered on a case-by-case basis after an individual risk assessment that keeps the patient’s best interests and safety as the utmost priority.
Additionally, clinics have been reduced to the absolutely necessary, whilst service provision is being maintained by telephone wherever possible. In order to reduce the risk of germs spreading in waiting areas, staff will triage patients before they enter a waiting area. Any individual who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has travelled to an at-risk area will be asked to go home.
The Deputy Chief Minister who chaired today’s meeting of the Core Group, which included the Minister for Public Health Professor John Cortes and the Minister for Civil Contingency Samantha Sacramento, said: ‘I am confident that Gibraltar is taking all possible measures in order to prevent the spread of infection locally and to increase the resilience of our healthcare providers and other public services. I am completely satisfied by Gibraltar’s response to its first confirmed case of COVID-19 and am delighted that the patient was able to recover completely at home, with the support of many of our hardworking professionals. The next step is to ensure that this can be repeated seamlessly IF further cases are confirmed. I am entirely confident that it will be.’
The Chief Minister was scheduled to chair a second meeting of the group later today.