Activity at the local seaports, including the docking terminal of the Sicily catamaran, as well as work on cargo ships, was severely affected all throughout the day, as fears of the novel Coronavirus spreading to Malta intensifies.
Port authorities told The Malta Independent this morning that each passenger had to be tested individually using a hand-held thermal camera, by medical officers, and only on being given the all-clear could anyone coming from cruise ships, cargo ships and even the catamaran was released.
The system, however, appears to be face teething problems, as not enough medical officers were available on site. Speaking to this newsroom, one traveller was told to go back home since it was unknown when the ship, scheduled for this morning, was to leave.
It has since been reported that cargo handlers have stopped operating at the seaports, due to concerns for their health. They noted that there were no medical doctors, and contact was being made with foreigners.
This newsroom can confirm that passengers were allowed to disembark, whilst waiting to be screened.
Sixth death confirmed in Italy
This comes in the wake of the sixth confirmed death from the virus in Italy. The number of people contracting the disease continues to rise, as officials call for calm. While international reports mentioned a seventh victim, the amount was then later revides back down to six.
Speaking on Rai Uno, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged people “not to give in to panic and follow the advice of health authorities”. “We should not be afraid because of the rising numbers because we are carrying out thousands of checks,” he said.
Several Facebook groups have been set up in relation to the Coronavirus in Malta. The situation seems to be divided between those understandably concerned about the outbreak in Italy spreading to Malta, and those who seem less worried about the matter.
Many have noted that no checks are yet being carried out at the local airport, whilst others are questioning if the virus has made an appearance in Malta. Some even commented that the Pope’s visit should be cancelled.
Thermal screening facilities were being set up at the airport this morning.
In a statement on Sunday, the Maltese health authorities said they were implementing all the necessary preparedness and response actions required for the outbreak of COVID-19, the office of the Deputy Prime Minister said.
“In view of the expected spread to affect other countries apart from China, including European countries, the authorities had initiated the screening of all passengers coming from affected countries. In view of the situation in Italy, screening is being enhanced by introducing thermal screening at points of entry. During this coming week, thermal screening cameras will be installed at the Malta International Airport, whereby all inbound passengers will be screened. This will also be implemented in the cruise liner and catamaran terminals. Thermal screening is a mode of screening for a large number of people passing through points of entry. Any persons who will be identified as having a fever will be assessed further.”
International impact: top economies could slide into recession
International news outlets have reported that stock markets were falling all around the world, due to the increase in the number of cases. It was also reported that there are signs that some of the world’s top economies could slide into recession as the outbreak compounds pre-existing weaknesses.
The local health authorities appeal for cooperation from the general public for screening of people for early identification of cases and reminds the public to contact the helpline on 21324086 or their doctor if they have travelled to affected areas and have any respiratory symptoms within 14 days from their return and not to go directly to health centres or hospital.
The health authorities also appeal for cooperation in public health measures being taken in the investigation of suspected cases, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine.