IB IBRALTAR (AP) – Cinderella, Harry Potter and the Hedgehogs, smiling parents without masks, are being picked up from schools that reopened after a two-month hiatus during the World Book Day costume show. The football team has been resuming training in the stadium for weeks in closed conditions. Coffee shops and taverns finally lifted their blinds, wanting to greet the locals, expecting the return of tourists.
The end of wintering is felt in Ibraltar. The narrow British-speaking foreign territory stretching from Spain to the mouth of the Mediterranean is emerging from a devastating wave of the virus. COVID-19 killed 93 people, almost all of them in January-February of this year, infecting more than 4,000 of its 33,000 inhabitants.
But the compact, high-density geography that has been blamed, along with new viral versions, for the wave of infections has also been the success of the ibraltar vaccine campaign, which makes it easier to spread by word of mouth.
The recent easing of restrictions, which Ibraltar authorities have called “Action Freedom”, is also largely due to the steady delivery of strikes from the UK.
At the end of March, ibraltar is going to fully vaccinate all residents over 16 և of its huge imported workforce. Health Minister Samantha Sacramento told the Associated Press. That’s more than 40,000 people. Only 3.5% have so far rejected the vaccine.
But Gibraltar’s struggle to restore normalcy is just beginning. It still faces many of the challenges of reopening in a globalized world with new versions of viruses with unequal access to vaccines. Sacramento is working on emergency plans, including boosting vaccines.
“Vaccination is not a carte blanche at all, so we can proceed without any restrictions. “But then we also have to go back to being a little more humane, to be able to breathe fresh air,” said the minister in the office above the local hospital.
“It is Operation Freedom, but with caution,” he added.
Finding that balance can be difficult for both Spain and the UK. As part of the UK, ibraltar received five batches of the vaccine from London, mainly Pfizer-BioNTech. Several shots of AstraZeneca are also reserved for those who may be vulnerable to severe allergic reactions.
The extension of limited flights to the United Kingdom of Ibraltar, which also provides high-speed vaccinations, could theoretically be achieved by imposing quarantine tests upon arrival. But a version of the virus that was first discovered in Britain has caused concern.
In Spain, the restrictions eased the year-end coronavirus wave that strained state hospitals. Like most of the European Union, Spain is struggling with the slow spread of vaccines, which it hopes will immunize 33 million people, or 70% of its population.
Most Ibraltars want to travel. At just 6.7 square kilometers, slightly larger than the Vatican և Monaco, much of which is dominated by the forced presence of its famous rock, ib ibraltar, can sometimes feel claustrophobic.
“I have been on Rock Widow for several months without setting foot in Spain. It’s a big part of our lives, crossing the border, visiting new cities every weekend. That’s what I look forward to most, “said Christian Segovia, a 24-year-old delivery engineer.
More than 15,000 people have been fully vaccinated, an additional 11,000 are awaiting their second dose, and people over the age of 20 are now being called in for their first shots. Non-Gibraltarians who come to work in health care or on other front lines have already been vaccinated, and the authorities are now trying to vaccinate all other cross-border workers.
Vanessa Olivero travels daily on foot to the airport landing strip, which separates the Separa Gibraltar from La Línea de la Concepción in Spain. About 15,000 workers traveled the same route before the epidemic, but now the numbers are lower as tourism remains closed.
A 40-year-old woman selling cigarettes and alcohol in one of Ibraltar’s many duty-free shops says she can’t wait to get the shots because standing in front of customers puts her at risk. She suffers from asthma and has two daughters and older relatives to care for.
“Just tell me where, when, I’ll show my two hands,” Olivero joked. “I want all this to be over, to return to normal, to be able to hug, kiss, drink with friends.”
Ibraltar has issued vaccination cards to people receiving a second time. It is developing a vaccine data-testing program that the authorities want to link to other platforms to resume international travel. Critics say such passports discriminate against those who are unable to get vaccines, especially in poorer countries.
Ino Jimenez, president of the Ibraltar Public Food Association, has some doubts, but welcomes the app if it helps bring foreign tourists back. His restaurant, a popular breakfast and lunch spot, follows health guidelines to recall those who are “still checking the water to see if it is safe to go out.”
“We are a very close, very communicative community. “And nothing like having a cup of coffee around the table talking,” said Jimenez, who lobbies the government to quickly vaccinate nearly 2,000 restaurant and pub staff, most of them Hispanics.
The waiters wear two masks, the tables are reserved for a maximum of six, and there is no sale of alcoholic beverages.
Following the reopening of schools, pushing back the night curfew from 10pm to midnight and eliminating the mandatory wearing of masks in low-density non-commercial areas, the next big thing The Rock is looking forward to is the Ibraltar football match in the Netherlands on March 30th. The World Cup qualifiers will be an attempt to resume mass events, which will allow the stadium to have a capacity of 50% և require fans to establish immunity.
While they wait, the people of Gibraltar are enjoying their new normalcy. At Chatham Counterguard, the 18th-century defensive bastion has now been transformed into a pub’s restaurant, with dozens of Collegians Gibraltar Hockey Team members celebrating their first training session since November.
“That’s the norm … having the opportunity to have a beer with your own people,” said Adrian Hernandez, 51. “God, did I miss this?”
AP reporters Renata Britton երն Bernat Armangyun contributed.
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