1,200 people are currently in quarantine, with 143 of those being healthcare workers, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said on Friday.
Five people are currently at Mater Dei Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit, while a further three are in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU). Out of the latter, two are receiving oxygen while one person is on a ventilator.
Asked for further details by The Malta Independent regarding the patients in ITU, Gauci said that the patients on oxygen are a 71-year-old woman who had no underlying medical conditions, and a 53-year-old woman who also had no underlying medical conditions; while the person on the ventilator is a 63-year-old man who has mild underlying medical conditions including diabetes and hypertension.
All three patients are suffering from bilateral pneumonia, Gauci said. “All have been admitted so that we can closely support them.”
Gauci said that a total of 45 people are being kept in various hospitals across the country.
Eight people are being held at Mount Carmel Hospital after an outbreak there, while four staff also tested positive from that hospital. 77 health care workers are in quarantine as a result of this outbreak, she said.
From the five people being treated in the Infectious Disease Unit, one patient is an elderly man who Gauci described as “not so well.” A further 16 people are at Boffa Hospital while 13 are in St. Thomas Hospital. These cases are in hospital mainly as there are vulnerable people living with them at home.
Currently the R-factor is above one.
Regarding the 1,200 people who are currently in mandatory quarantine, she said that people who come into contact with a positive case must follow a mandatory quarantine period of 14-days within which they will get tested for the virus.
Out of those, 143 are health care workers who have had to go into quarantine. 77 of them are from Mount Carmel Hospital, 56 from Mater Dei Hospital, seven from Karin Grech Hospital, two from the Gozo General Hospital, and one who works in the Primary Health system.
Gauci said that 49,618 inspections had been carried out to make sure that establishments are following social distancing rules and guidelines. This number includes 21,651 inspections on retail outlets.
When asked how many fines have been issued, out of 742 inspections relating to mask-wearing, 105 fines had been handed out. “We continue in our appeal to the public to wear masks. Just as some individuals go back home if they forget their glasses, we need to do the same when we forget to pack our masks.”
Vulnerable to remain vigilant
Turning to vulnerable people she said that their protection is essential and said that a number of protocols remain in place for their own protection, along with new measures such as the reduction of visiting hours at Mater Dei Hospital.
Gauci highlighted that whilst the number of cases are highest amongst younger age groups, there has been a slight increase in the number of cases among the elderly in recent weeks. “The numbers are still low, but the elderly and vulnerable must protect themselves more, as the virus might cause serious complications.”
Gauci emphasised mask wearing yet again, reminding that people are liable to a fine if they are caught without a mask in public places such as shops and on public transport.
She said that social distancing, hand hygeine, and mask-wearing remain essential for discouraging transmission of the virus. She appealed for anyone with symptoms to call 111 and remain inside until the result of their test is issued. Even if a test results as a negative and symptoms remain, the person should remain at home until the symptoms disappear.
Gauci said that there were a number of expanded clusters over the past week. The Hotel Takeover party cluster, which has 20 positive cases, has not increased with the incubation period of the virus for people who attended that party now over. The Santa Venera feast cluster increased from 33 to 34 cases, and Gauci said that this cluster is expected to soon close as well, in terms of the virus incubation period.
The Paceville cluster has expanded the most – going from 33 to 58 cases in the last week. 29 further cases were related to family clusters, while there were some other smaller clusters found in the last week including ones related to sports, a factory, and a nursing home.
The number of active cases, she said, has to be followed along two binaries; the first is that from a health perspective, that they are isolated and that inspections take place to ensure that they are adhering to the mandatory quarantine, and the second is that their health is monitored to ensure that they do not need new or further treatment. Those at home, the vast majority, are continually checked on by doctors and health workers, she said.
New testing centres now open
Speaking about testing, she said that Malta had never seen testing like now and that this must continue to be stepped up in order to keep finding cases.
She noted that two new testing hubs – one at St. Thomas Hospital in Qormi, and another at St. James Clinic in Burmarrad – opened in the last week.
She said that the waiting time for testing has been reduced significantly, with those who call 111 with symptoms being given an appointment within 24 hours. Urgent cases are also being tested straight away.
When asked when passengers visiting Malta will be tested, Gauci said that plans are being finalised and the situation is being monitored. “We are looking at the situation abroad, and we must take into consideration the number of tests happening abroad. If you have a country which is testing very little, then of course the number of cases they pick up will be very small.” She said that testing for people arriving at Malta’s airport is being considered.
Issue of schools and children
Asked about the reopening of schools, and what measures will be introduced, Gauci said that they had a ‘good experience’ in the summer school programme, SkolaSajf and the spread was low with only a few children infected.
When asked regarding a Public Health emergency, Gauci said that Malta has the capacity to handle the virus. “We have a legal public health act and a number of measures which we are working on. Enforcement is also being improved. It is important that we all cooperate.”
Gauci also addressed social media misinformation, “Please follow our numbers. We have been transparent from the start and we provide information daily.”