Malta is reporting its first case of Coronavirus, Health Minister Chris Fearne said today.
In a press conference, Fearne said that the patient is a 12-year-old girl who was recently in Italy.
She lives in Malta but is of Italian origin. Together with her sister and parents, she was recently on a holiday in the north of Italy. They returned from Rome earlier this week.
When the family came back, they self-quarantined. “The children did not go to school and the parents did not go to work or leave the house,” he said. “Their contact with other people was minimal”.
On Thursday, the girl started to experience symptoms of the virus, Fearne said.
A swab test was conducted on Friday and the result came back positive on Saturday, the minister said.
She is in quarantine in a secluded area in Mater Dei Hospital, along with the rest of her family. She is not in critical condition, sources told The Malta Independent.
The fact that the family obeyed instructions to self-quarantine means that the situation is relatively contained, Fearne said.
No details were given on which school the girl attends or in which locality they reside, given that the family obeyed self-quarantine instructions.
A second person has tested negative for COVID-19 but is still in mandatory quarantine because she was close to someone who has the virus, the minister said.
Until this morning, Malta was one of three countries in Europe which had not registered any cases of Coronavirus. The other two are Cyprus and Bulgaria.
A shipment of 32,000 face masks is expected to reach Malta next week, Fearne added.
Fearne said that anyone who experiences symptoms should call on 111 and not leave the house or visit the doctor.
The minister said that Boffa Hospital is being prepared for the eventuality that the number of Coronavirus cases grows more than can be catered for at Mater Dei Hospital.
As a precautionary measure, the minister said Boffa hospital patients were being moved elsewhere to prepare the hospital for any eventual COVID-19 cases.
Fearne said that medical staff is being trained to deal with the situation.
Fearne said that as the situation is at present, there is no need to close any schools or take any more drastic measures. He also said that there is no need for the people to rush to supermarkets.
Asked whether there were plans to stop flights from Italy or other affected areas, the minister said that the World Health Organisation and European health authorities had not made this recommendation so far.
The risks to people who were close to the girl before she exhibited symptoms are minimal, said pathologist Chris Barbara.
Barbara said that people had to be in contact with affected people for at least 15 minutes to become infected. If you pass by an infected person it does not mean that there will be contagion, he said.
On Friday, the number of people affected with the virus rose beyond the 100,000 globally. More than 3,400 of those who tested positive have died.
People who travelled to affected countries and regions are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
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