Gibraltar reels as coronavirus deaths quadruple in fortnight

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

Gibraltar reels as coronavirus deaths quadruple in fortnight
Photo: AFP

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 8th.   

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 9th using the Pfizer vaccine and by Sunday, had administered 5,847 doses — covering around 17 percent of the population.

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Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 


People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.