Mask up! 2019 nCoV

With the UK compelling the use of masks here in Gibraltar we seem to have taken a more balanced approach. It is clear from this point our Government has handled the C19 storm well AND it has to be said that much of that had to do with the public doing our part too. Extraordinarily well at that.

I know there will be those that point to our cultural habits especially living in this climate, we are on the whole easy going. We do generally as we are mandated to do but I’m not sure culture is at the base. Gibraltarian’s understand family and the wider aspect of community. The need to create and maintain a safe environment for our nearest and dearest as well as our neighbours and friends. It is not solely because of economics people migrate here and stay. It is when you pass the “marmite point” and realise you are starting to belong; then everything becomes for the good of all.

During the lockdown everywhere was deserted but unlike other european countries we were allowed from day 1 to take exercise and shop for groceries. Spanish residents were told to shop at the nearest supermarket to limit their outdoor experience and keep them locked away. UK also had a more severe lockdown in practical terms than us but I think here the balance was good. The Government announced fully it’s lockdown strategy and pretty much in line with the UK however it was the way we as a nation followed the plan and accepted the restrictions that meant we barely blipped on the C19 radar. As I type 180 cases one ITU patient and nil deaths.

According to reports the mortality rate varies as you would expect from country to country. One indicator is the Crude Mortality Rate “CMR” which is wide ranging but often used in early stages. An average expected back in March by the WHO was 3.4% quite large. Meaning in Gibraltar we could have expected with 30K people just over 1000 deaths. With hindsight people might say the measures were too restrictive but maybe they were exactly right given our results to date? This CMR could lead to scaremongering which I would argue it did as people, especially the elderly and vulnerable became worried. A more acceptable report would wait until the outbreak has ended to give a final mortality rate, clearly common sense. But this doesn’t bring the public onside in the early stages thus perhaps preventing deaths? Other  analysis offers CMR in the range of 2% – 15% the margin being indicative of the many different circumstances relating to population numbers and concentration, access to medical equipment, treatment and personal circumstances of victims. An example would be an ageing population would have a higher CMR than a military base with mainly strong fit and healthy individuals. Climate could also play it’s part and the mentality of the population.

Our neighbours, Andalucia at one point was a beacon of light until possibly if you believe the papers, residents from Madrid bomb burst from their city dwellings into their respective summer homes and were blamed for the rise of infections in the wider countryside. Whether true or not Andalucia has 13,733 cases and 1,392 deaths as of 17 July. Cadiz Province as of 2 days ago had 1660 cases from which 172 people died, around 9.8%. The Spanish Inquisition will go on in terms of Madrid and Barcelona’s exodus for some time to come but I wonder if they will release residency statistics for those that died?

So what did we do right? According to our Chief Minister we followed the UK’s lead pretty much to the letter. What was it about our community, our way of life and maybe our way of living that life, that to date has kept us free of the grief felt by almost every other country in Europe? Masks are in abundance but not always in place. Step into a shop and all tellers are wearing them, customers too tend to lift them over their nose and mouth when entering a shop. We have awareness and caution but a dollop of common sense too. Some of us are shaking hands again but in the main it is still elbows which, while still under threat, is common sense.

Many now as the perceived threat sibsides are asking what all the fuss was about? Now that facts are appearing on the horizon the next debate is gaining momentum. Did we need such severe lockdown if we lost no one or did that in fact stop the deaths? Seems unlikely given the Nightingale hospital didn’t have a single C19 patient and ITU only ever had one! How much was actually C19 and how much was World leaders’ tinkering and using C19 to control a narrative? If we’d done nothing what would have happened?

In effect St Bernards closed down as most clinical work ceased to concentrate on C19. If this happened in most countries how many died because they couldn’t get to see a doctor? The conspiracy theories are starting to roll in.