Slight increase in Gibraltar’s Covid cases as UK reports new variant

Gibraltar has seen a slight increase in Covid cases, with the new ‘Eris’ variant found in the UK expected to have spread locally.

Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, told the Chronicle there is nothing concerning about the increase as ripples and waves of infection are expected.

The new Eris variant has been found in the UK and is descended from the Omicron variant, which Dr Carter said is “good news”.

This means the Eris variant is similar to Omicron, meaning people who have previously been infected would have more natural immunity.

“It's like a grandson variant of that, so the virus has changed slightly, but not in terms of a whole new subtype. So that's reassuring at the moment,” Dr Carter said.

She added it is currently not known whether Eris has spread to Gibraltar as genomic sequencing is less frequent than at the height of the pandemic.

“I would expect we do have it because of strong air links to UK, but it’s not confirmed,” she said.

Dr Carter said the Eris variant is not causing the same severity of illness as in the early days of Covid.

Hospitalisations have slightly increased in the UK, but she said that this was not unexpected, especially with the bad weather keeping people indoors meaning more chance of spread.

In Gibraltar, Dr Carter said, the good weather has meant people have mixed more outside in areas with good ventilation.

Her advice for anyone with symptoms is to take a test.

“Especially if you come into contact potentially with elderly relatives or people who might have long-term conditions, and if you do test positive, think very carefully,” Dr Carter said.

“Although the legal requirement isn't there anymore in terms of self-isolation, think carefully about if you do go out and mix with relatives.”

“If you test positive and have a long-term condition, you can always phone 111 for advice.”

The GHA will provide those with long-term conditions antiviral medication to help reduce the severity of the symptoms.

“If, for example, you're having chemotherapy or renal dialysis and you do test positive, make sure you contact 111,” Dr Carter said.


The GHA is currently planning its next seasonal flu and Covid autumn booster campaign, which will begin sometime near the end of September or early October.

The campaign will be targeted to specific groups including over-50s, those with vulnerable health conditions or in significant contact with people with vulnerable health conditions, those in Elderly Residential Services, and social care workers.

Vaccine stocks have not yet arrived and Dr Carter is in discussion with the UK to understand what strains will be covered in the booster jab.

She added that work by scientists in the UK to develop vaccines in case of new pandemics in the Porton Down laboratory shows the great work and surveillance carried out to identify future threats.

UK Government scientists have drawn up a threat list of animal viruses that are capable of infecting humans, and are developing vaccines.

A new subvariant of the COVID Omicron strain, nicknamed Eris, is growing steadily globally - but the World Health Organisation says there have been no reported changes in the severity of the disease caused.

This analysis is shared by the Gibraltar Health Authority, which has confirmed that COVID cases have risen slightly here recently.

So what does this mean for COVID on the Rock - what precautions should people take, and how concerned should they be?

The Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter spoke to Shelina Assomull.

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