More Ways of Skinning the Coronavirus Cat?

Leo Olivero

There is no intention in this report of criticising the handling so far, of the COVID-19 health crises. But as a newspaper and reporter, we also have an obligation to report news and information to the public. With the sole objective to ‘create debate not panic, but generate discussion by informing’ and if need me, present a diverse view or set of circumstances. If for nothing else, to keep those making all the decisions on their toes and alert… that they are being constantly monitored!

There are many versions of the proverb “there are more ways to skin a cat” as the title of this report suggests. There could also be other ways, to consider tackling the COVID-19 epidemic. We have seen how different nations are tackling the virus. Yet, because of our size and the built-up geography of the Rock we cannot follow those measures taken in larger countries, but we can downsize if required?

However, I feel there are measures, like ‘Nationwide Testing’ and related fact, figures and connected information, that could have been introduced where tests are concerned. Which would have improved the quality of the important fact and figures presented to the public!

A Major Incident and Virus in Our Midst

With the Chief Minister declaring the COVID-19 ‘a major incident’ based on the severity of the current situation world-wide. Mr Picardo, also made clear that ‘the declaration merely formalised many of the command structures which have been so effective throughout the last few weeks. During which contact with the Convent (seat of the Gibraltar Governor) and the Ministry of Defence have been maintained.

A major incident, will permit the Civil Contingencies Act to offer additional powers to authorities to introduce as many additional measures as the crisis’s situation moves into further and important stages!

At time of preparing this report, which will have changed by the time you read this: there had been a total 521 tested, 227 results are pending with 294 received Confirmed cases 65 - Recovered cases 14 - Active cases 51

A Cautious Approach to an Apparent Unstoppable Situation

The national COVID-19 containment approach from a Gibraltar perspective has been a cautious one and there’s nothing wrong in that.

It’s obvious, especially by what we have been told so far, that countless people, in fact, confirmed many times that the whole of Gibraltar will be infected with the virus. Already, a growing number are showing signs of clinical symptoms, that also come with the warnings of unknown number of deaths also expected. One government minister, has already described Gibraltar’s COVID-19 curve more like a spike. Although I do not think we are there yet by some weeks.

Frankly, it’s been somewhat frustrating to hear the COVID-19 repeatedly, although indirectly, described as “unstoppable” and with the authorities, only announcing strategies to merely slow or mitigate the epidemic…it seems?

Without in anyway, detracting from essential efforts to urgently bolster our health care services and protect the vulnerable, there must be limits, to what can be achieved by merely delaying and mitigating rather than do something else to suppress the epidemic, as already summarised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling in the UK.

You could describe the containment approach taken in Gibraltar, remains too tentative or cautious and also ask “does it pay enough attention to emerging evidence that many people will be infected without obvious clinical symptoms, and that something else can possible be done if different testing programmes were introduced? 

Several reports, generally and over recent days have confirmed how cryptically or hidden for the sake of a better word, infectious carriers, can quietly spread COVID-19 through a community!