A 92-year-old Gozitan woman has become the first person to die of the Coronavirus in Malta, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne announced this evening.
This is a sad day, Fearne, said during an urgent press conference. The woman, he said, had a number of conditions, but had tested positive for Covid-19.
Fearne said the woman died at the Gozo General Hospital. She suffered from a heart and kidney condition, among others, and doctors were aware that the virus would further complicate her condition. The woman was a resident at Residenza Sant’ Anna which is adjoined with Gozo General Hospital.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that, unfortunately, this will not be the only Covid-19 death in Malta. He insisted that all efforts are being made to protect the most vulnerable people in society. People like this woman, he said, are much more at risk.
The government had two options, Fearne said: either to do nothing and only focus on the economy or to put health as the main priority. The decisions taken, such as suspending air travel and closing down shops and restaurants, were taken to safeguard public health.
The woman’s passing, he said, proves that the decisions taken were the right ones. He appealed to all to stand united and work hand in hand to to slow down the spread of the virus. The coming days are usually a time for family gatherings, he said, but this year they should be avoided.
Health professionals are giving their all so that when cases increase, deaths will not be a result of an overwhelmed health system, Fearne continued.
“Help us help you,” he appealed.
Health superintendent Charmaine Gauci said she was saddened by the news, even if it did not come as a complete surprise. There are situations where elderly people with chronic conditions will be at greater risk and the consequences can be fatal, she said.
Asked how the woman could have contracted the virus, health chief Charmaine Gauci said people who live in homes could possibly contract the virus from staff members or visitors.
The virus can also be present on people who are not showing symptoms, she noted.
Gauci urged people to follow all recommendations in order to avoid spreading the virus and protect the most vulnerable.
Fearne said that around 10 days ago there was an agreement between Steward Health Care and the Gozo Ministry so that a building could be used as a home for the elderly. The plan remains the same and the patients from Dar Sant’ Anna will be moved over the coming days.
Replying to another question, Fearne said people with chronic conditions should not let their situation deteriorate and they should go to their doctors or the hospital, if required. He insisted, however, that the authorities are geared up to provide the necessary medical treatment to everyone.
Once more, he urged people to resist the temptation and avoid going out. People should keep contact with loved ones using electronic means, but families should avoid congregating.
Malta has so far registered 299 Covid-19 cases. The first case was registered on 7 March.
Earlier this week, Rosalie Freestone-Bayes, 77, died of Coronavirus in the UK. She is the sister of former Nationalist MP Frank Portelli.