The Prime Minister announced this afternoon that mass activities will be restricted as the country deals with the spread of Coronavirus.
Addressing the media after a Cabinet meeting, Robert Abela said that mass activities in the open air will be restricted to events for less than 2,000 persons, and said that the Cabinet will suggest that St Patrick’s Day will not be celebrated in St Julian’s on 17 March. It would be better if this activity is not held this year, he said.
In closed areas, activities will be restricted to events for less than 750 persons.
The football leagues, including the premiership, will not be affected because attendances are below 2,000 per match, Abela said.
Asked on what grounds these calculations were made, Abela insisted on his trust in the health authorities especially Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci who plays an active role in such decisions.
On a similar note, this newsroom asked if measures for sanitisation of public transport like the Gozo ferry will be carried out. The PM explained that this is something they had discussed as there could be a situation where more than 750 people aboard the same ferry. However, they were assured by the health authorities that since the ferry has open spaces the is risk of contracting the virus not something to worry about.
Five patients have been diagnosed with Coronavirus until today, the Prime Minster said.
He said that drivers of trucks carrying merchandise arriving by sea from Italy will be checked and only two persons will be allowed in with every vehicle.
Abela again urged people not to travel unless necessary.
The Prime Minister said that special arrangements are being made for people who will be returning from Italy after the travel restrictions announced.
People coming from Italy will be urged to be quarantined for 14 days, the Prime Minister said. Those who arrived from Italy in the past days will also be urged to spend the remainder of the 14 days in quarantine.
Abela said that “this virus is having an effect all over the world including Malta so, this morning we have created a task force made up of ministers and professionals that are focused on the economy and tourism of our country so that they can decide on the appropriate precautionary measures.”
He rebuked any speculation that there is about lack of protective attire for workers in health centres or their efficiency as he has been assured about it by the health authorities.
With regards to schools, he explained that we should not let panic overcome the reality of the situation which is one that is controlled and as Gauci has told him there is no need for schools to be closed down until further developments.
Asked if the government will take action for mandatory quarantine if there are situations where people do not follow the required protocol, Abela said that until now the professional advice we have is that there is only need for voluntary quarantine. However, he appealed for people to follow the medical advice given by professionals.
The PM concluded by once again stating that there is no need for panic as everything is under control and that everyone must have courage at that is what will keep us out of this predicament.
Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne also addressed Parliament about the virus situation.
He stressed that the measures being taken by the government now are the measures that the situation requires. He said that taking measures late is bad, but taking unnecessary measures early is also a bad thing.
He stressed that the government does have a detailed plan.
He addressed concerns about public transport, and said that thus far the Coronavirus cases on the island are imported, and are not the result of a community outbreak. If there is a community outbreak, he said, that they will need to look at the public transport situation. The minister highl9ighted the preparedness of the country to combat the virus, saying that the health authorities are ready and are being vigilant to remain one step ahead of the virus.
The measures being taken thus far include the screening of all passengers, swabbing of every suspected case (around 400 have been conducted with five cases of the infection found). He said that the advice of the health authorities is for those coming from infected countries to be quarantined for 15 days, and for no non-essential travel to such countries. He said that at Mater Dei Hospital, and more isolation rooms were prepared now totalling 18, the ITU size was increased, preparatory measures were made to the emergency ward and specific tests were made in the laboratory to help catch the virus early.
He said that an isolation centre of 12 beds was prepared, not in Mater Dei Hospital, and that the Sir Paul Boffa hospital is being prepared to handle 60 isolation beds. He also mentioned the opening of a new testing centre.