A passenger who arrived to Malta on a flight from Bergamo and were tested for the Coronavirus were given the all-clear, the health authorities said while informing the Maltese on the situation regarding virus.
While it was earlier reported that two passengers were being tested, health officials told this newsroom that only one person from the flight had the case definition to be tested, and tested negative.
The media has been summoned to attend a briefing on the situation. The health authorities said that the people dying from the virus abroad usually have other problems which causes the virus to replicate more, and that a lot of deceased around the world from the virus are elderly. “It is not scary, it is just new.” They said that the precautionary measures being taken at the airport were also being added to the ports.
“We are also strengthening our helplines. We have one for GPs which is dedicated to getting information from them with any cases they might face. But there is also 21324086 which is available to the general public 24/7,” the officials said.
They encouraged the public to call or inform their GP if they think they might be infected before going to a health centre in order to reduce any chances of it spreading.
Head of the Department of Infection Control at Mater Dei Hospital Michael Borg said that whoever is saying that training is not being provided to health personnel, is not telling the truth. This is in clear reference to a statement made by Paul Pace, president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN), who said that nurses have not being given any form of preparation or drilling in case a patient tests positive for the Coronavirus.
Borg said that in the same way the public are worrying some nurses might be as well, but the reality is that there are 350 staff in the Intensive Therapy Unit, Infectious Disease Ward and Emergency Department who have had one-to-one training and are undergoing competency assessments. This includes not only the putting on but also the removal of protective wear as the latter has proven to be a loophole in other epidemics like Ebola. He said that Paul Pace was present when they had discussions about this.
Furthermore, he said that “we invested in hundreds of thousands of air purifiers with which we have tripled the capabilities of Mater Dei to handle with Coronavirus.” However, he pointed out that anyone who might be affected but does not need to be hospitalised will not be submitted into Mater Dei but quarantined and cared for in a separate area outside of it.
Turning to the issue of masks, Borg said that masks are not needed unless one is at the hospital, and said that the most important thing is that people wash their hands.
Asked why these measures are only being introduced on Wednesday not before, they said that cameras required to scan for the virus are on high demand across the moment. “We took the most immediate action we could. Yesterday, two cameras arrived and we installed them at the airport and today more cameras have arrived and we are in the process of installing them so they are ready by Wednesday.”
In addition to this, they stated that when a ship comes into our ports and someone is ill, the captain of the ship has the obligation to send in a maritime declaration of health that indicates this, as it is their international responsibility.
Asked about measures being taken in schools, the officials explained that two booklets about the importance of taking the right measures for prevention have been circulated. They also mentioned that luckily, the young are the least susceptible to getting infected but measures still need to be taken.
They also denied certain claims being made that a plane was sent to Italy to retrieve individuals back to Malta.
Borg emphasised that there is an incredible amount of false information on social media which is causing a false alarms and fear – “there is no need to be afraid, we simply need to be vigilant.”
Gauci also addressed the media saying that it plays a crucial role in public academic intelligence and appealed that before writing anything on the subject they should contact the ministry for information so as to avoid panic, protect their reputation and maintain the public’s trust.
As cases of Coronavirus reached northern Italy a few days ago and the first case was reported in Sicily today, the level of panic among the population has risen steadily.
No cases have so far been reported in Malta, but fears that the disease could soon hit us have sparked a rush to supermarkets. Gauci and Barbara commented on this by saying that our situation is not as it is abroad where whole villages are being quarantined – “let’s be careful so that we do not create something ourselves. If people go and raid all supermarkets, others will be left with no food.”