Minister for Education Gilbert Licudi
Good afternoon and welcome to the Government's daily briefing on Covid 19.
I am joined today by my colleague Vijay Daryanani, the Minister for Business, Tourism and Transport.
Today is our 60th daily briefing the first one having taken place on 17 March.
Since that time, all ministers have appeared before you as well as the Director of Public Health, Dr Bhatti, representatives of the GHA and elderly residential services, in particular the acting medical director Dr Rawal, the Commissioner of Police and the Civil Contingencies coordinator.
Our aim throughout has been to be totally transparent and to keep you fully informed of Government's plans as well as with the Covid situation from a public health, GHA, policing and civil contingencies perspective.
Crucially, this hasn't just been about telling you what you can and cannot do but also about giving you advice about what you should do, about how Covid has changed our lives and about how our behaviour has needed to change during the current crisis but also how we interact with each other in the future.
We have imposed a lockdown and interfered with your rights and liberties.
We have not done that lightly.
It has all been for the protection of our citizens, to prevent the GHA being overwhelmed and, ultimately, to save lives.
We have managed to keep the infection rates in Gibraltar very low and have not had a single death.
That is the way we must keep it.
As we move towards the different phases of unlocking and the relaxation of measures, we must continue to be on our guard.
We must constantly remember that the virus is still out there, waiting to pounce if we give it the opportunity of doing so.
Let us not give this deadly virus that opportunity.
Let us continue to act as responsibly as we have done until now but albeit in a new and different kind of normality.
Today, I will give you some further details of our plans to reopen schools.
I will, however, first give you today's Covid figures.
Total swabs taken: 5156
Results received: 4990
Results pending: 166
These results include the frontline targeted and systematic sampling programme - a crucial element of our strategy going forward.
In the last 24 hours, there were 31 attendances to A&E.
Of these, 3 had Covid symptoms and all 3 were swabbed.
There were no admissions to the Covid CCU and two admissions to John Ward.
Of these two, one has already had a negative swab result and the other is pending.
These figures show that we continue to be in a good position.
We have only 2 active cases.
Both are at home and are well.
We continue to have 147 confirmed cases.
We had 146 confirmed cases on 10 May so we have had an increase of just one confirmed case in a week.
All of this is very good news indeed.
But as my colleagues have repeatedly said, so long as there is any positive case out there we must continue to take measures to protect ourselves.
On 12 May, we published the Government's route map for easing restrictions.
That route map includes the Education roadmap for a partial and limited reopening of schools for the remainder of this term.
The Education roadmap sets out two steps, one on 26 May and the other on 16 June.
We have said on a number of occasions and I would like to repeat that the Education roadmap, as, indeed, the Government's route map as a whole, is a fluid document which is liable to change if the circumstances relating to the spread of infection of the virus which causes Covid-19 change and the conditions for unlocking set out in the Government's route map are no longer satisfied.
As we move to the implementation of the Education roadmap and the partial and limited reopening of schools, our primary consideration is the safety and well-being of children and staff.
The Government's route map sets out six phases for unlocking. 26 May (Education Step 1) falls between phases 2 and 3 with 16 June (Education Step 2) being the start of phase 4.
Gibraltar has succeeded in reducing the rate of infection of the Covid-19 virus.
The reproductive (R) rate is now close to 0.
There are, as I have said, only 2 active confirmed cases of the virus.
Condition 1 for unlocking as set out in the Government's route map is that the total number of confirmed cases is rising at a pace of 7 or less new cases per day.
Gibraltar has seen an overall rise in 6 new confirmed cases in the past 21 days.
There is now in place an ongoing systematic mass testing programme.
The public health laboratory at the University of Gibraltar - which I visited this week - will shortly be capable of processing 300 tests per day.
That is approximately 1% of the population each day.
To put that into context, if the UK swabbed 1% of its population each day, that would be 650,000 tests.
Our mass testing programme is accompanied by aggressive contact tracing and isolation whenever a new positive case is confirmed.
Overall, around 16% of the population have been tested.
2,149 frontline staff have been tested as part of the targeted and systematic sampling programme.
This includes the testing of 385 teachers, all of whom have tested negative with just 1 result pending.
We currently do not have a single active confirmed case in staff engaged by the Department of Education.
Of the 147 confirmed cases, only 8 have involved persons aged 19 or under.
There is currently not a single active case in that category.
These figures can, of course, change.
However, the current risk assessment and advice by the Director of Public Health is that the risk of infection in giving effect to the Education roadmap is very low.
The Director of Public Health therefore advises that the Education roadmap can be implemented safely.
There will, of course, be a number of prudent mitigating measures also given effect including staggered entry and dismissal from schools, staggered breaks, small group sizes and regular hand hygiene routines.
Most schools in Gibraltar closed on 24 March 2020.
Since then, we have maintained childcare supervision facilities at Notre Dame, St Anne's and Westside.
In addition, St Martin's has been open.
We have also operated home learning platforms for primary and secondary students with children from St Martin's also having access to home learning.
All schools will now reopen on 26 May.
Year 2 children are expected to attend their Lower Primary schools and Year 6 children are expected to attend their Upper Primary schools.
The rationale for the selection of year groups is outlined in the Education roadmap.
Years 2 and 6 will be moving to a new school in September and important transition work is always completed with these pupils during this term.
It is critical to do some of this work with these children in order to prepare them for the transition to their new school; hence our decision to bring these 2 year groups back to school first.
With regard to the secondary sector, we have been monitoring announcements in the UK relating to their intended pathway for secondary schools.
In particular, we have been monitoring any decisions made in regard to the year groups who find themselves in the middle of examination courses.
It will be important for us to make sure any decision we make does not place our students in a position which disadvantages them in relation to their UK peers.
In the road map, we did not specify which year group will start first at secondary but, in line with our approach in all other mainstream schools, we committed to there being one year group attending Bayside, Westside and the College.
After careful consideration, we have decided that Year 10 students will be returning to school on the 26th May.
Their return will be managed carefully, as indeed will the return of Year 2 and Year 6 pupils, with each year group being divided in half and being given specific time slots within which to attend.
Parents of children in Year 2, Year 6 and Year 10 will be advised of the specific times relevant to each individual in due course via the schools' own platforms.
We also feel that it is important to give all Year 12 students some contact with their teachers before the summer break.
Year 12, will, therefore return to school before the end of this term.
The Department of Education is working hard with the teachers' Union in order to finalise plans for Year 12.
We will share the details of these plans as soon as possible.
As from Tuesday 26th May, any child who needs to access the childcare supervision service will be able to do so at their usual school, in other words the school that they are enrolled in.
It is important for all parents who will be requiring access to the childcare supervision service to note that they must fill in the Department of Education's form by Thursday of the week before.
This form can be filled in via the Department of Education's website at www.education.gov.gi.
It is critical for the team at the Department of Education to have accurate numbers of the children who will be accessing the childcare facilities the following week so that they can ensure that the necessary social distancing and staffing measures can be put in place in a safe manner.
If parents do not submit a form by the deadline, we will not be able to guarantee supervision for your child.
Parents of Year 2 and Year 6 children should note that, should they need to, their children can be registered for the childcare supervision facility in addition to their 2 hour partial return to school.
These parents should also fill in a form to ensure that their needs are catered for.
Home learning will continue for children of year groups not returning to school and for those in year groups returning to school who are unable to attend for medical reasons.
In the next few days we will be publishing a document providing guidance on the reopening of schools.
The guidance, which will be available on the education website, will include details on the inspection of premises, on steps being taken to minimize the risks of the Covid virus spreading, it will provide guidelines for teachers, staff and parents and will answer key questions which you may have.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the work done by my team at Education, led by Jackie Mason and Keri Scott, the administrative staff and the teachers and staff in all the schools who all stepped up to the mark in a remarkable way in order to continue to provide an education service to all children in testing conditions as well as providing facilities for those children of workers who were not able to stay at home and whose children needed to be supervised.
I also want to pay a special tribute to all those who have been involved in the production in the schools with 3D printers and other resources of over 4,000 visors, 1,000 ear savers, 500 door hooks and hundreds of scrub bags and scrub hats.
That is an incredible achievement.
All of these items were delivered to the GHA for use at St Bernard's, Mount Alvernia, Ocean Views, Hillside and the Rooke Covid testing site.
Thank you to all of you who made this possible.
Today is the penultimate Covid daily briefing.
The last one will be tomorrow with the Chief Minister and he will give details of progress to the new unlocking phase and on future press conferences.
This is of course my last appearance at these daily briefings and I would like to take the opportunity of thanking all the staff at the various departments and authorities that I have ministerial responsibility for including Education, Employment, Port and Maritime Services, the Fire and Rescue Services and the Utilities not just for keeping things going but for their dedication and incredibly hard work during these difficult times
A few weeks ago I spoke of the rainbow of hope which was painted as a mural by the children of St Joseph's on the last day before the school closed.
I spoke of that being a message of hope, and indeed expectation, of a reopening of St Joseph's and, of course, of every school.
That is going to happen on 26 May.
I also said it was a message of hope in a future where we will all have learnt lessons from this - lessons about how we can do things differently, how we can be more efficient and how we all have a part to play in the collective well-being.
That is, indeed, the big lesson that we all have to take from this.
Let us now move forward as we strive not just to rebuild our lives but to regenerate and reinvigorate our Gibraltar for ourselves and for future generations.
Minister for Transport Vijay Daryanani
Good Afternoon Gibraltar and hope you're enjoying a restful weekend.
As you will all be aware, your Government has announced the most exciting and ambitious plans ever for a radical change in traffic in Gibraltar.
This is not only about traffic - this is about our future, the future of our children and grandchildren, about how we live our daily lives and the quality of air that we breathe.
You will have heard how air quality has improved dramatically over the last two months, we must capitalize on the situation.
There has to come a time when we have to say enough is enough - that time has now come and we have to all work together to make a success out of this new normal. The faster we act, the greater the benefits.
People tell us that there are too many cars on our roads, that there is too much pollution and that we are breathing all sorts of toxic fumes into our lungs. We need to do something about this. We need to be more alert today so that we can be alive tomorrow.
Your Government has taken the bold decision to restrict entry into Line Wall Road, Chatham Counterguard and Europort Avenue. This is not about traffic, this is about our quality of life. We must aspire to a better Gibraltar, a cleaner Gibraltar.
Taxis, buses and other public service vehicles, deliveries and people who have cars registered in addresses in the area and are only accessible through Line Wall Road will be allowed.
Our elderly, who live alone in the area, have nothing to worry about. My ministry will issue them with the adequate permit so that their family members or carers can visit them as always.
As from tomorrow, cars registered in the area will start receiving permits. Government is looking at other options for the future on how to permit cars from entering the zone. One is the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system where registered cars will travel as normal and those not allowed to enter will be flagged up and then fined. This is only one example.
Chatham Counterguard which has become an entertainment hub will also be closed for traffic. This will allow the restaurants to use the area for more tables as we move into this new way of doing things, observing social distancing guidelines. This is only the start, as the Government has some other ambitious plans for this area which will be based on our child friendly city policy - Watch this space!
Europort Avenue is another area which will see this exciting new change. We will only allow school and residential traffic on this thoroughfare.
Another measure that will be introduced on the 1st June will be parking fees at Midtown Car Park. Gone will be the days of free parking in the center of town, unfortunately we cannot allow this if what we want to achieve is a green Gibraltar with less cars.
Your Government is also looking at a Park and Ride Facility at Devil's Tower Road Car park. We will be offering attractive prices so that tourists and visitors can park here and then walk into town just like in any other city. Adequate and clear signage will be provided so that service is noticeably visible to newcomers to Gibraltar.
I have been asked by many people if the restricted use of Line Wall Road could possibly lead to congestion in other areas. Like every new scheme there will be challenges but I think the whole package will lead to less cars being used. People will realize that it is better not to drive, it is more convenient not to drive and above all, it is healthier not to drive.
We are also looking at how to increase the use of electric vehicles and make it advantageous if you own one. We will allow owners of these to continue using Line Wall Road as normal, irrespective of where they live in Gibraltar.
The Government is also considering the banning of delivery vehicles that run on fossil fuels on Main Street. It is simply unacceptable that the first thing that people going to work or our children going to school should breathe is these toxic fumes.
Before Covid came along, I held positive conversations with the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses about this. These will restart soon, we cannot lose the momentum, we need to invest in our environment and we need to invest in a healthier Gibraltar. There are many things about the lockdown that people will want to leave behind but cleaner air isn't one of them.
I have also engaged with food delivery businesses and informed them of the Government's vision of wanting them to convert their motorcycle fleets to either electric or to consider using delivery bicycles. I will help them do this by providing financial guidance so that their business remains profitable.
Last week I also met with my opposite number on Transport, Elliott Phillips and the leader of Together Gibraltar, Marlene Hassan Nahon. Together Gibraltar had a similar scheme on Line Wall Road in their election manifesto of 2019. We are happy to work with them and with the GSD on how to move forward on this issue. I have them more details on our thinking about Line Wall Road which I will share with you today.
On Friday I met with the Transport Advisory Committee, this committee includes a cross-section of our community, a very productive discussion was held. There were different views expressed on how the plan could be implemented, but there were no objections, in principle, to the plan itself.
I have received over 400 enquiries in 48hrs by email and phone from members of the public. Some have been concerns but most have been ideas put to me for consideration. I would like to thank those who have participated in this exercise.
From the outset, the Government has stressed that we will carry out a comprehensive consultation exercise and that this is a pilot project.
Therefore Line Wall Road will close on Monday 1st June as we proposed, except for defined categories of users. However it will open for the rest of the week and then close again at the weekend. It will operate on the basis of having restricted access on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays initially during June. This will allow us to monitor traffic patterns and carry out a live consultation with our residents on a daily basis. We will make changes as and when required.
We understand there is concern in the community but we want our people to embrace this new idea, and therefore, we will carry this out in a phased approach. That is to say that from Tuesday to Friday nothing will change at the moment.
Is it going to be difficult? Of course it's going to be difficult. But as I have said before, if we don't do this now, future generations will judge us harshly for not taking the right action at the right time. I believe that as your Minister for Transport I think this is something we must do now.
We are also working with our public health officials to be able to commence our bus service and an announcement will be made in the near future. We are also working on an increased bus service which will include added services for our school children.
The Government will not be introducing a road tax. This is something of the past and had it's failures. We are looking at a pollution charge. If we decide to introduce this, the revenue raised will not pay for general government projects. We are looking at using these funds for specific traffic and transport related green programs. We want to give you a child friendly city that you will be proud of.
I would like to mention my friends on Main Street, in the hospitality sector and in business generally. I know you are all worried and I know that you are going through a hard time, but let me reassure you that your government is working round the clock to make sure that the economy starts functioning as soon as possible at the levels we have been used to over the last few years.
In so far as Task Force Future is concerned, my colleagues Albert Isola, Gilbert and I have been working with our respective teams. Within my Tourism responsibilities I have held meetings with numerous commercial entities all over the world, some well known names, to try and attract them to Gibraltar. This work will not stop. This Government will rebuild our economy and aim to make it stronger than ever before. You have my word.
As you know, we have now started unlocking the rock. But please, this does not mean that things are back to normal, far from it. We cannot let our guard down, we need to continue maintaining social distance, we should stay at home for as long as possible and only go out if absolutely necessary. We must also keep on washing our hands regularly. You have done an excellent job in keeping our numbers down, let's not stop now. I know it's frustrating, the summer is around the corner and normally, at this time we are looking forward to our program of festivities. We will enjoy National Day again, our children will enjoy the fair again and all of us will enjoy an even better Music Festival again. Thank you very much.
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