Gibraltar eases into normality as it nears full vaccination

The Southern Spanish territory hopes to offer a jab to all of its population over the age of 16 within the next two weeks.

Gibraltar eases into normality as it nears full vaccination
Bars and restaurants in Gibraltar are now open un til 2am, the curfew has been eliminated and mask-wearing mandates are soon to be eased to cover only indoor spaces and public transport. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Dubbed “Operation Freedom”, Gibraltar’s vaccination campaign is among the fastest in Europe.

Gibraltar’s health authorities have administered at least 57,646 doses to its citizens, which means about 85.5% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.

The small British overseas territory will have offered a jab to every resident over 16 within the next two weeks – and two doses by mid-Apri, health minister Samantha Sacramento told Politico.

This differs from the UK, where only over-18s can get the jab.

The vaccination campaign has also been extended to more than 10,000 workers in Spain who regularly cross the border into Gibraltar.

READ ALSO: Gibraltar to vaccinate its Spanish cross-border workers

Bars and restaurants are now open until 2am, the curfew has been eliminated and mask-wearing mandates are soon to be eased to cover only indoor spaces and public transport.

The number of Covid-19 cases has fallen to 15, and there are zero Covid-19 patients in hospital.

The territory’s fast vaccine campaign was thanks to a small population and the uninterrupted supply of vaccines, mostly those manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, that have been sent from the UK since early January.

The regular shipments stand in stark contrast to the situation in the rest of Europe, where the vaccine rollout has remained slow compared to those in the UK and the US.

Gibraltar is serving as a real-time case study of what having a fully vaccinated population will look like.

Mass events will resume in the coming weeks at 30% capacity, but attendees will be limited to those who have received two doses of the vaccine, and will have to show a negative Covid test.

READ ALSO: Spain to have vaccine passport system ready by June, tourism minister

In a territory with a small but densely packed population, with frequent movement of people over the border, the coronavirus was particularly dangerous. Covid-19 infected 4,000 of its 33,000 residents, killing 93.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”