‘You wouldn’t it experience anywhere else’: Brit’s take on visit to fully jabbed Gibraltar

Gibraltar residents discuss coronavirus vaccine rollout success

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The traffic light system has seen nations be added and removed from the green list in rapid succession. However, one destination which has held its own since May 17 is Gibraltar.

Typically, the British overseas territory attracts around 12 million tourists each year.

When compared with its neighbour nation Spain, which welcomed around 18 million British tourists alone in 2019, the figure seems mere.

However, the tiny nation’s place on the green list has pushed holiday-starved Britons to explore beyond their comfort zone.

Such was the case for Emma, a London-based recruiter, who made the decision to visit the island nation after her holiday plans to Ibiza were scuppered.

While the trip was a last-minute move for the recruiter and her friends, the result was a holiday that felt very much like “the before times”.

She explained: “We were supposed to go to Ibiza. But what happened was, obviously Boris didn’t put Ibiza on the green list.

“We were watching the news and thought: ‘This doesn’t look good.’

“And we could hear the rumours popping up on Twitter. So we just thought: ‘Should we do it?’

“We switched everything before the actual announcement came out, but within 24 hours of that announcement, there wasn’t a single hotel room left in Gibraltar.”

While Britons may have flocked to Gibraltar following its placement on the green list, Emma admits it not somewhere she would have typically visited.

“I don’t think I would have ever gone to Gibraltar if we could have gone to Ibiza, for example, but because we couldn’t, it ended up actually being a really fun, weird holiday,” she said.

“Gibraltar is one of these places. It’s who you go with and what you make of it.

“And we ended up having a really, really good time.”

As a result of the traffic light system, and Gibraltar’s place on the green list, Emma says there was a very mixed crowd of tourists.

“It was just a very random vibe because it was essentially anyone who could get there,” she said.

Given its small population size, home to just 33,700 citizens as of 2019, the nation sped through its vaccine roll-out.

By March of 2021, the majority of adults in the nation had been double-jabbed.

As a result, restrictions that have become commonplace in the UK, are somewhat of a distant memory on the island according to Emma.

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“We went clubbing one night while there was a Rugby Seven tournament on there,” explained Emma.

“We walked into the club and it was literally just teams of Rugby Seven guys from the tournament who were there throwing back shots.

“It’s just one of those situations you would ever really end up in anywhere else.”

Although face masks are still mandatory in indoor public spaces in Gibraltar, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Emma says it felt as though there was a relaxed approach to this rule.

She added that “the clubs seemed to be running at full capacity” and people didn’t “have masks”.

All businesses including non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, hairdressers and salons reopened in Gibraltar as of April 1, 2021.

In the UK, restaurants and bars did not welcome back patrons until May 17.

During their visit, Emma and her friends were also able to go to their first concert in months.

“They had big music and concert in the main square, which wasn’t socially distanced because they’re obviously all vaccinated,” she said.

Aside from the “normal” feeling atmosphere, Emma added that she felt Gibraltar was a “beautiful” destination for those heading on an extended trip.

“Gibraltar was really nice. It’s essentially like the UK in the sun,” she said.

“It’s beautiful because you can go up the rock one day for the monkeys.

“We also went for a big walk one day and saw the World War II caves.”

Emma also recommends going to the beach on days when the sun is shining.

Another perk for the group of friends was the food and drink offering. “There’s no VAT on the booze, so it’s very, very, very cheap.

“We were getting pints for £2.70 which was nice and the food’s really good.”

Gibraltar remains on the UK’s green list and shows no sign of moving for now.

According to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), Gibraltar has recorded 229 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the previous 14 days.

By comparison, the UK has recorded 503,406 in the same time.

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