Gibraltar postpones abortion referendum over coronavirus fears

Gibraltar has postponed next week's referendum on easing its draconian abortion laws over virus concerns, saying a reduction in the number of elderly voters could harm the democratic legitimacy of the vote.

Gibraltar postpones abortion referendum over coronavirus fears
Photo: AFP

No new date has been set for holding the ballot, which was to have taken place on March 19 on an issue which has exposed sharply-opposing views within this normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain.

“The concern.. is that the advice to elderly people to stay home and avoid public places may appear to contradict the call to a vote by universal suffrage which could then lead the result of the Referendum, whatever it may turn out to be, to be called into question,” a government statement said late Thursday.

“This would potentially deprive the result of the referendum of democratic legitimacy,” it said.

Except in cases where it would save the mother's life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.   

The decision was announced after Chief Minister Fabian Picardo held talks in London with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.   

So far, only one person has tested positive for the virus in Gibraltar, although Spain is one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, with more than 3,000 infections and 84 deaths.

But Picardo said there was “no question” of either Gibraltar or Spain imposing restrictions at the frontier, which is crossed every day by some 14,000 workers from Spain, the vast majority who live in the impoverished city of La Linea which flanks the enclave.   

“Slowing the inevitable spread of the virus in Gibraltar requires us to act decisively and to adapt on a dynamic basis to the circumstances as they develop,” he said, warning there were “difficult weeks ahead”.


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Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 


People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.