As Gibraltar emerges from one of its deadliest spikes in Covid-19 cases and two months of lockdown, its government’s vaccination programme has received praise. The vaccine roll-out plan, affectionally known as ‘Operation Freedom’, has been applauded for its speed and efficiency.
To date, Coronavirus has infected some 4,000 of the 33,000 residents in Gibraltar. The worst months – January and February of this year– resulted in the majority of the 93 pandemic related deaths reported thus far.
However, by the end of March, Gibraltar Health Minister Samantha Sacramento reported that the territory is on target to inoculate all of its population over the age of 16, as well as its imported workforce – a total of over 40,000 people.
Sacramento has held the political responsibility in overseeing strategic, operational and logistical procedures of ‘Operation Freedom’.
So far, the territory has administered vaccines to over 15,000 residents, and an additional 11,000 are awaiting their second jab. Those in their 20s are currently being called up for their first dose of the vaccination.
Non-Gibraltarians who travel to the territory to work in healthcare or frontline positions are already vaccinated, and the remaining cross-border workers are being contacted by authorities for inoculation.
Gibraltar has re-opened schools, pushed back the nighttime curfew from 10pm to midnight, and also lifted mandatory face mask wearing in low-density, non-commercial areas.
The revival of mass events will be tested on 30 March when Gibraltar’s football team take on the Netherlands in a World Cup Qualifier. The match will allow for 50% stadium capacity and attending fans are required to prove immunity.
As a territory with links to both the UK and Spain, new virus variants, as well as slow rates of inoculation elsewhere, are cause for concern in the re-opening of Gibraltar to the rest of the world. Health Minister Sacramento warned that ‘It’s Operation Freedom, but with caution’.
On the success of Gibraltar’s vaccine roll out, the minister said, ‘Being vaccinated is absolutely no carte blanche to then behave without any restrictions. But then, we also have to go back to being a little bit more human, being able to breathe fresh air.’
She also confirmed that the health department is working on a contingency plan which includes topping up vaccinations with a booster dose.
Sacramento, on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021, nodded to the Gibraltarians who have made her inoculation plan possible.
She said: ‘Globally, we are hearing success stories of women at the lead of Covid-19 responses producing the best results. Gibraltar is one of them. Our vaccine programme is receiving praise, both locally and internationally for its overall efficiency, which is a direct result of the hours of diligent strategic planning and the meticulousness of its operational and clinical delivery.’ She addded that, ‘women have been at the helm at every level, and it is important that we recognise that’.
Thank you to the women of Operation Freedom ✌️for all that you have done for Gibraltar. This photo represents the strategic planning committee who led the fantastic teams at our 3 COVID vaccination centers. Thank you all 🙌 pic.twitter.com/LSmCTFyYvO
— Samantha Sacramento (@SamanthaSacra) March 8, 2021
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