Gibraltar is now one of the few countries or territories in the world where visitors don’t have to quarantine on their return to the UK. This is, in great part, due to the government’s widely praised response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has (to date) limited the number of confirmed cases to 805, and no COVID-19 related deaths.
The situation in Gibraltar has encouraged airline companies operating out of Gibraltar International Airport to maintain regular services with the UK, even during the second lockdown.
Wizz Air announced at the end of October that it would be launching a new route from London Luton Airport to Gibraltar Airport starting on 11 December, and now British Airways has confirmed it will be operating twice-weekly flights from 13 November.
In a press statement confirming its agreement with British Airways, the Gibraltar Government said the airline company would be operating a service from London Heathrow to Gibraltar on Tuesdays and Fridays until 1 December.
“I’m happy to confirm that British Airways has agreed to continue a lifeline service to Gibraltar during the current lockdown in the United Kingdom,” said minister for business, tourism, transport and the port Vijay Daryanani. “These are indeed challenging times and the government is pleased that the services will support the business community as whole, allow those that need to travel for essential purposes to do so and ensure that our postal services continue.”
Contact Tracing App
In a separate news release, the government said Gibraltar would be forming part of an agreement relating to the interoperability of contact tracing applications with the UK, Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar. The main aim of the memorandum of understanding between countries is “to help disrupt the further spread of coronavirus within the jurisdictions”.
According to the government, “All of the signatory jurisdictions that form part of the MOU have developed an app using the Google-Apple API. This allows interoperability between the apps to seamlessly deliver exposure notifications in circumstances where the user of an app in one jurisdiction has been in close proximity to the user of an app in another jurisdiction and one of the users has received a positive COVID-19 test result.”
Minister for digital and financial services Albert Isola said, “This agreement brings many benefits to Gibraltar in the fight against COVID-19, not least the ability for us to better monitor and control the effects of travel between Gibraltar and the UK. It allows the different versions of the contact tracing apps developed to fight COVID-19 to speak to each other, thereby eliminating the need to develop or install different versions of the app.
“An important next step in the strategy is to develop a memorandum of understanding with mainland Europe, to extend the important benefits of interoperability to all nations as people strive to return to a normal way of living, where free travel forms part of business, personal and tourism trips.”
Maintaining Travel Corridor with the UK
In the meantime, during his latest press conference updating Gibraltarians, chief minister Fabian Picardo warned against complacency – and isolated transgressions reported to authorities in recent weeks – while announcing new protocols and restrictions to maintain Gibraltar’s health situation under control and consolidate its open “travel corridor” with the UK.
“We must ensure that we do everything possible not to jeopardise that corridor by any suggestion that Gibraltar is in any way failing to address the increase in numbers of persons infected in Gibraltar.
“Additionally… we saw the Spanish Government once again declare a state of emergency. In Spain, the regional governments will have the power to determine many of the measures that will apply during the periods of the state of emergency that may last up to six months.
“We must also ensure that we do everything possible to ensure that passage across the frontier is not restricted as a result of any suggestion that Gibraltar is in any way failing to address the increase in numbers of persons infected in Gibraltar.
“And we must equally ensure that we are putting in place measures to protect ourselves against the unchecked arrival of the infection from the United Kingdom or Spain. And we must do so in a way that does not amount to a restriction of movement into Gibraltar.”
At the end of October, Picardo spoke to the president of the Junta de Andalucía (regional government), Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla. Later, he reported, “I had a long, positive and cordial conversation with the president… The control of the COVID-19 infection is a common endeavour that we all share… We discussed the frontier crossing and I received assurances about essential traffic and workers being able to continue to enter and exit Andalucía as I also confirmed our random testing facility for cross-frontier workers. We will no doubt continue in close contact as the situation develops, and as we hope to see all jurisdictions get the numbers of persons infected brought under control.”