Watch: Coronavirus briefing – 20 new cases including one death, 10 migrants at Hal Far
watch coronavirus briefing 20 new cases including one death 10 migrants at hal far - Watch: Coronavirus briefing - 20 new cases including one death, 10 migrants at Hal Far

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said 20 Coronavirus cases were registered today, bringing the total to 370.

The new cases include that of the man who died this morning after testing positive, and 10 migrants at the Hal Far Centre.

The man, an 84-year-old with several medical conditions, was admitted to Mater Dei Hospital yesterday with breathing difficulties, tested positive, and died this morning, Gauci said.

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The Hal Far open centre meanwhile has been closed since last Sunday after eight migrants tested positive some days ago. The migrants who tested positive in the last 24 hours had therefore already been in quarantine.  

Gauci explained that, together with the Red Cross, they had been checking for symptoms in other residents of the open centre but found that nobody had such symptoms. As a result, 10 migrants were tested at random – out which seven tested positive. A further three who were in quarantine after being in contact with those who tested positive for the virus earlier were also found to be positive.

She said that these migrants are in isolation and the facility remains quarantined as a whole so to protect both them and to ensure that there is no contact with the community.  She noted that there is already a facility within the open centre operated by Red Cross, and another facility is currently being prepared for use if there are more cases.  She noted that patients will continue to be monitored so that if there are any complications they are caught immediately, but expressed hope that because the majority of the residents are young and fit, there won’t be any such complications. 

A record total of 1,288 tests were carried out in the last 24 hours – far exceeding the 1,000 a day target that Health Minister Chris Fearne had indicated – bringing the total number of tests carried out in Malta to 16,016.

Two of the cases registered in the last 24 hours are from Gozo. They are a 31-year-old woman who is a cleaner at the Gozo Hospital, and a 40-year-old carer who also works at the hospital.  The former developed symptoms on 6 April, while the latter was asymptomatic. 

Another two persons in connection with the health sector also tested positive. One is a 42-year-old man who is a carer at the Karen Grech Hospital and a 32-year-old woman who works as a carer in the community.

Another two cases were those of a 63-year-old woman and a 61-year-old man, both of whom were not working and therefore a contact tracing exercise involves only their relatives. Another 33-year-old man tested positive during a contact tracing exercise involving another patient.

Gauci had stern words for two of the new patients who tested positive. One of them, a 21-year-old female student, who visited an elderly relative in spite of experiencing symptoms, and later tested positive; and a 33-year-old man who was experiencing symptoms and yet went to visit other people, and who now also tested positive.

She said that people who experience symptoms should stay at home and contact the health authorities, not go to visit other people, particularly vulnerable persons.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether there had been any more people registered as recovered – 16 have been officially announced as such so far – and whether there is any more clarity about whether a person who recovers is immune to the virus, permanently or even in the short term, Gauci said a set of tests were being analysed and that an announcement on the number of recovered persons should be made in the coming days.

With regard to immunity, Gauci said that research in this regard was still ongoing, speaking of the importance of such research in determining exactly the level of immunity that one would have after recovering from the virus.

Answering questions about a boat of migrants brought into Malta by the Armed Forces of Malta on Friday, Gauci said that all of the migrants rescued had been swabbed and tested negative for the virus.  All the migrants have been placed in quarantine for 14-days as the law now requires.

Asked about studies released in recent days which show that Malta will experience its Covid-19 peak by the end of this month, with around 19 deaths, and whether the health authority’s modelling is showing similar numbers, Gauci expressed caution at such projections, noting that the methodology of such a model needs to take into account certain features.

She said that Malta is currently using the model used in Hong Kong to map out its projections – this because of Hong Kong’s similarly dense population. The projections, she said, depend on the virus’ r-factor – it’s reproduction rate – and that in turn depends on how well people follow the guidelines and restrictions which are in place.

That same study estimated that Malta’s death count could be anywhere between 19 and 120, she said before noting that one must be careful with which modelling technique to use.  She said that what is most important is not to make predictions, but to have enough beds to cater for all the cases who will need them.

Gauci made one final appeal – in Maltese and in English – for people to stay at home and not go out or visit other households in spite of the good weather and the fact that it is Easter weekend.

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