SRGEurope have their HQ based in Gibraltar alongside offices in the UK and we are incredibly proud of what Gibraltar has achieved in respect of Covid over the last few months. We would like to share that story with all of you and look forward to a bright and successful future here on The Rock.
The start of Covid 19
Let’s take you back to the beginning. As Covid struck us all down early in 2020, Gibraltar like many other nations went in to lockdown with restrictions imposed and the wearing of face masks at all times. Business was severely affected, restaurants, shops and all public institutions all closed to the public. The frontier was closed with Spain with travel between the two countries only allowed for essential key workers. The hospital was at capacity with a second temporary hospital being built in case it was needed.
Throughout this time, the Government launched free Covid-19 testing facilities around the Rock. Swabbing stations were set up for anyone over 16 years old to be tested there and then, without an appointment. A drive-in Covid-19 testing facility was launched with one station in town and one right next door to the airport. A contact-tracing program was also set up with the introduction of its app, Beat Covid Gibraltar.
The Government of Gibraltar stepped in to assist local businesses and employees alike with reductions in tax and a scheme named BEAT similar to the furlough of employees in the UK.
The winter of 2020 was one of the most difficult winters in Gibraltarian history, the community lost 84 people in the space of just 60 days. The population here is not much more than 35,000, so although the number may seem low on a worldwide scale, for such a small territory it was devastating as is any death.
Gibraltar first nation in the world to vaccinate its population
At this devastating time, news came through of the approval and rollout of vaccines. Gibraltar was lucky enough to benefit from receiving regular supplies from the British Government, which were heroically flown in by the RAF at regular intervals.
This was the start of Operation Freedom, the name given to Gibraltar’s vaccination programme. Only a matter of hours after receiving the first shipment of vaccines, Gibraltar started to give the vaccine to its most vulnerable elderly residents of care homes. They have not stopped vaccinating since. The Government of Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Health Authority have worked tirelessly to ensure as many vaccinations have been given as quickly as possible across the British territory.
A few months on and Gibraltar has closed in on its target:
Gibraltar has become the "first nation in the world" to vaccinate its entire population for coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
A bright future
Hints of a post-Covid era have started to sprout across the territory; bars and restaurants are now open until 2am, the curfew has been eliminated and mask wearing is to be eased to cover enclosed public spaces and public transport. The number of cases in the territory has dwindled to 14 all of whom are visitors, and the hospital has just one Covid-19 patient.
The vaccine drive has also stretched into neighbouring Spain, where doses have been offered to the more than 10,000 workers who cross into Gibraltar regularly.
Events have also returned to the Rock as Gibraltar hosted what has thought to be the first fully vaccinated major sporting fixture in the world recently. Five hundred spectators, each tested for Covid-19 prior to the event, were able to witness British heavyweight fighter Dillian Whyte claim victory over Russia's Alexander Povetkin at Gibraltar's Europa Sports Complex.
The fight, called the Rumble on the Rock, was originally meant to take place at the Matchroom HQ, a venue in south-eastern England, but was switched to Gibraltar thanks to its Covid-19 safe environment.
Football fans were also allowed to witness sporting matches starting with Gibraltar's World Cup qualifier clash against the Netherlands. Victoria Stadium welcomed 600 attendees who had previously received two doses of the vaccine and tested negative for the virus on the day of the match. The game was used as a pilot case study by Gibraltar's government to assess future events in its continued efforts to steer the territory back to normality.
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo has said, “We’re looking forward to what you see today. A spring of hope and a spring that hopefully is lighting the way to a summer, which is as close to normal as we’ve had in the past two years”.
The territory is also hoping to broach the possibility of travel corridors with the UK that could offer relief for those clamouring for a Mediterranean getaway, he said. “Gibraltar will be the one part of the European continent where a British vaccinated person will be travelling almost as if they were travelling to another part of the United Kingdom”. It has been published that Gibraltar will be included on the “Green List” in May 2021.
In total Covid 19 has killed 94 residents of Gibraltar and infected more than 4,277 over the past year, we will never forget, but today Gibraltar stands strong, is positive and looking forward to a much brighter future.