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AFP
January 19, 2021

Gibraltar reels as Covid deaths quadruple in fortnight

AFP
January 19, 2021

MADRID: Gibraltar was reeling on Monday after 13 people died at the weekend, with soaring Covid-19 infections driving the death toll up fourfold in under a fortnight.

On Sunday, the tiny British enclave at the southern tip of Spain, said nine people had died over a 24-hour period in the highest daily figure yet, raising the total number of deaths to 43. Another four people died on Saturday.

Gibraltar only registered its first death from Covid-19 in mid-November and by January 6, the toll had risen to 10. Most of those who died over the weekend in their 80s and 90s, a government statement said.

The deaths came two weeks after Gibraltar imposed a second lockdown to slow the soaring rate of infections, with its 34,000 residents only able to leave home for essential shopping, to work, exercise or for medical reasons.

Initially slated for two weeks, the lockdown was extended on Friday and is likely to remain in place until the end of the month. The number of cases has also more than tripled, with the territory counting 3,670 cases, Sunday’s figures showed, up from just over 1,000 at the start of December.

“The death toll is growing at an intolerable rate,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo. “It is just devastating at a human level.” Officials are concerned the soaring infections may be linked to the new coronavirus variant which was first detected in the UK in November although so far, Gibraltar has only confirmed one such case.

Gibraltar relies on British laboratories for genetic sequencing to confirm cases of the new variant. “We don’t have the information at the moment on the genetic makeup of the strain.. (but it) is behaving as if it were one of those more infectious strains,” Picardo said on January 8.

Writing on Twitter on Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya sent a message of “solidarity with all Gibraltarians who are fighting #covid19” saying she hoped it would “soon be behind us”.

Despite its proximity to hard-hit Spain, which has counted 2.2 million cases and over 53,000 deaths, Gibraltar has not closed its border which is crossed daily by 15,000 workers, although movement is restricted to essential work or medical reasons.

Gibraltar began rolling out its vaccination programme on January 9 using the Pfizer vaccine and by Sunday, had administered 5,847 doses—covering around 17 percent of the population.