A spike in Covid cases has forced the "most vaccinated place on earth" to reintroduce restrictions before Christmas, with fears it could spiral out of control.
Despite being one of the first countries to vaccinate its entire eligible population, Gibraltar — a British Overseas Territory on Spain's south coast – has seen a re-emergence of the virus, averaging 66 cases a day compared to under 10 in September.
There are currently 474 active cases — about 1.3 per cent of the population — which is the biggest spike in cases since January 2021.
Gibraltar's vaccination rate sits at 118 per cent, due to the Covid jabs administrated to people that live in Spain who cross the border to work or visit the territory every day.
New Covid restrictions introduced
There have been 6721 infections and 98 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the self-governing territory since the pandemic began, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The recent spike has forced health authorities to reintroduce mandatory mask laws for indoor spaces and public transport. The government also said there would be no official parties, receptions and similar gatherings over Christmas due to a rise in infections.
“Given the exponential rise in the number of cases, the government, for example, intends to cancel a number of its own functions including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings," the government said in a statement.
“The public, at this stage, are ultimately called upon to exercise their own judgment in this respect bearing in mind the current advice given.
"The government strongly advises against any large informal social events, parties or receptions being held over at least the next four weeks while the vaccine booster program is rolled out."
Warnings of fourth wave in Europe
Gibraltar has administered 94,937 Covid jabs so far, including 39,815 second doses. A further 14,241 booster jabs have also been administered, making the vaccination rate 139.5 per cent.
Health Minister Samantha Sacramento assured residents the government had secured enough booster doses and is currently rolling out third jabs for those over 40 and the immunocompromised.
The warning comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned there's a "storm of infection" coming, urging people to get their booster shots as Covid cases surge across Europe.
"We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will sweep up on our shores but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent," Mr Johnson said in a press conference on Monday (local time).
“Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures, while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better.
“This shows us once again that if we want to control the epidemic here in the UK, and if we want to avoid new restrictions on our daily lives, we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.”
Austria has thrust some two million unvaccinated people back into lockdown, following a 134 per cent jump in cases over the past two weeks.
Anyone over the age of 12 who isn’t vaccinated now face new restrictions which only allow them to leave their homes for limited reasons such as travelling for work or essential shopping.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, with only 65 per cent of the population fully protected.
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