With its hospital free of COVID-19 patients and only one new coronavirus infection reported in a full week, the tiny British overseas territory of Gibraltar is allowing itself some prudent celebration.
The territory of 33,000, located in the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, is ending a night-time curfew imposed three months ago to contain a surge of infections. Masks will also no longer be mandatory in all outdoor areas starting at midnight Saturday, the government announced.
“We are at last leaving behind us our deadliest winter and entering our most hopeful spring,” Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement.
But there are also some reasons to worry, such as the recent surge of new infections spreading across much of Europe, including in neighboring Spain. The southern Spanish region of Andalucia, which provides most of Gibraltar's workforce, recorded more than 1,000 new daily infections Thursday for the second day in a row.
“The global pandemic isn’t entirely behind us and we must all move forward carefully to safeguard this incredible progress in the weeks and months ahead,” Picardo said.
Gibraltar's midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew ends Thursday, allowing bars and restaurants to stay open until 2 a.m. But some restrictions on social gatherings will remain for the moment, the government said. Meanwhile, authorities are also developing an app-based vaccination certificate that officials want to be linked with similar initiatives across Europe to safely resume international travel.
Gibraltar was hardest hit by the pandemic around Christmas, in a wave that caused most of its total tally of 4,271 cases and 94 deaths. The surge only receded in mid-February amid a strict lockdown and a successful vaccination campaign that relied on a steady supply of jabs from the U.K.
Over 24,000 people have been vaccinated in Gibraltar, 70% of its population, and the territory is also vaccinating over 10,000 workers from Spain who cross the border each day.
Gibraltar's St. Bernard's Hospital discharged its last recovering COVID-19 patient on Sunday and only one confirmed new infection was reported in the past week, on Tuesday. There are 15 active cases in the territory.