‘Whilst recognising the efforts the Government of Gibraltar is making to manage and control the unexpected rise of the coronavirus pandemic, ERG has nonetheless raised serious concerns regarding the vulnerability of certain sectors of our population,’ a statement from the group announced today.

‘We have written directly to the Chief Minister and the Minister for Health bringing to the table issues for resolution from the Administration,’ Felix Alvarez, ERG Chair, explained. ‘Persons living with HIV have approached us with concerns on two counts; firstly, as to whether the chain of supply of antiretroviral (ARV) medications in the present global situation is assured for individuals in Gibraltar, or whether, realistically, any bottlenecks are foreseeable; in which case what measures is GoG taking? Secondly, we ask whether there is any consideration being given to longer prescription periods being issued so as to avoid the need to attend the Primary Care Centre for repeat prescriptions, maintaining thus a regulatory social distance. ARVs, ofcourse, are of essential importance to the health of people living with compromised immunity.

‘Our next area of concern,’ Mr. Alvarez continued, ‘is the elderly and housebound, many of whom depend on domiciliary care. In this, the fine work done by the District Nursing service may need to be reinforced with extra resources at a time of social distancing and self-isolation for considerable periods of time. What measures, if any, are GoG contemplating in this respect? Of special worry is that of full-time caregivers living with elderly patients, which presents a particularly precarious situation should the caregiver become ill and need to self-isolate within the very same home. Again, what advance advice or consideration is Government giving to such a scenario?

‘Lastly, the issue of frontier workers and the issuing of sickness certificates. While this matter is applicable across the board to all frontier workers, ERG’s heightened concern is with regard to the situation of those workers who come into Gibraltar daily to provide care services to our elderly, housebound and/or disabled. If the objective is for all such face-to-face contact workers to maximise prevention of contagion to the vulnerable, and given our understanding that only Gibraltar-based medical sickness certificates are currently valid, ERG raises this point in order to avoid disincentivising such workers from a) avoiding reporting ill when symptoms arise, b) self-isolating out of prudence, and c) also avoid coming into Gibraltar with the risk of cross-infection in the process. Permitting the issuance of sickness certificates from Spanish doctors would encourage acceptable behaviour and maintenance of protocols from workers whose rigour in this respect matters so vitally to the vulnerable.

‘ERG looks forward to receiving advice and notification on these issues from the Administration in order that the vulnerable do not fall through the cracks in a situation which, we fully acknowledge, is both still moving and to some extent continues to still present challenges,’ the communique ended.