Coronavirus: Gibraltar cancels Christmas events after 'exponential' rise in COVID cases linked to waning immunity

Gibraltar has cancelled Christmas events after a "dramatic" rise in COVID cases linked to waning immunity of the COVID vaccine.

The tiny British territory, which has a population of just under 34,000, has seen cases escalate over the last month. 

In March, Gibraltar was lauded as the "most vaccinated place on earth" after the entire population had received the jab, but their early success could be their undoing. 

Health officials in the British territory announced 124 new COVID cases over the weekend and an average of 56 over the past seven days.

This comes after Gibraltar was seeing an average of under 10 COVID cases a day in September. 

The number of active cases sits at 474 - roughly 1.3 per cent of the population - as of November 17. 

The recent spike is the biggest surge the tiny population has seen since January 2021.

Gibraltar has administered at least 94,469 doses of COVID vaccines so far and assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 140.2 percent of the country’s population.

The Lancet medical journal released figures that showed the Pfizer vaccine effectiveness in preventing hospitalisation and death remained high at 90 percent for at least six months, even against Delta. 

The data suggests that the drop is due to waning efficacy, rather than more contagious variants, researchers said.

With Gibraltar vaccinating its entire population months ago, the Government is facing the issue of waning immunity. 

This has seen restrictions reintroduced with mandatory mask laws for indoor spaces and public transport, and health officials are urging locals to cancel Christmas plans. 

"The drastic increase in the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 in recent days is a stark reminder that the virus is still very prevalent in our community and that it is the responsibility of us all to take every reasonable precaution to protect ourselves and our loved ones," Health Minister Samantha Sacramento said.

"The government intends to cancel a number of its functions including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings.

"We strongly advise against any large informal social events, parties or receptions being held over at least the next four weeks."

Gibraltar has had a total of 6509 coronavirus cases and 98 deaths since the start of the pandemic. 

According to official data, there are currently five people in hospital, with one in intensive care, while a total of 440 close contacts remain in isolation.