Watch: Coronavirus briefing – Nine new cases, total reaches 393
watch coronavirus briefing nine new cases total reaches 393 - Watch: Coronavirus briefing - Nine new cases, total reaches 393

Health chief Charmaine Gauci said nine new Coronavirus cases were registered in the last 24 hours, for a total of 393.

She said that the cases registered today were locally transmitted, and it was not possible for the health authorities to establish how the virus was contracted.

Three of them are migrants at the Hal Far open centre, Gauci said.

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They were caught during a screening process in which the migrants are randomly tested. Twenty tests were carried out in the past day, with three testing positive.

They are a 23-year-old man from the Ivory Coast, an 18-year-old Tunisian and a 25-year-old man from Sudan.

Two other cases involved foreigners who live in Malta. They are a 34-year-old Indian woman and a 23-year-old English woman. The Indian woman works as a carer in an old people’s home but she was tested before she returned to work after a long time away, and therefore was not in contact with the elderly people living at the home. With regards to the English woman, she went to the workplace the day before her symptoms developed, and a contact tracing exercise is taking place to see who the colleagues she came in contact with were.

The other four cases are Maltese citizens, including a 71-year-old man, who is a pensioner and was in contact only with members of his family; a 50-year-old working woman who has however been at home for several days before symptoms developed on 4 April; and two men aged 48 and 30. The 48-year-old last worked on 9 April and developed symptoms two days later. The 50-year-old developed symptoms on 11 April and a contact tracing exercise is being carried out at his workplace, while relatives who were in contact with him are also being checked.

Gauci said that in the past 24 hours 1,051 swab tests were carried out for a total of 19,121.

She said two patients are still in intensive care, with one of them on a ventilator. The number of recovered patients is 44.

In all, 19 health care workers at Mater Dei Hospital have tested positive for the virus.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether authorities were considering reducing the population of places such as the Marsa Open Centre – where no positive cases have been found so far – by providing alternative accommodation to residents, Gauci said that they are monitoring the situation in all centres especially where a lot of people are living together.

She revealed that random testing within the Marsa Open Centre will be carried out soon to see if any cases are found, but there are already symptom screening measures in place in order to identify potential cases early.  So far, no cases have been found, she said.  

Also asked by The Malta Independent about news of a soon to be published legal notice which criminalises the wilful spread of Covid-19 with a penalty of up to 9 years in prison, Gauci said that this legal notice and its implications are still being discussed.

Asked about the fact that is the third day in a row where a relatively low number of new cases was found, Gauci noted that the numbers can vary a lot and it is difficult to pin down how they will change from one day to another.

She said that authorities were taking these numbers to form a trend line; a trend line which is indicating that cases are still increasing but are doing so at a rate which is encouraging to authorities.  Still, she noted, there is no indication that the peak has been reached yet, meaning that people must keep taking all the necessary precautions and obeying the restrictions put in place.  

Asked about why kits which detect certain antibodies which Malta has acquired had not been put into circulation yet, Gauci said that research and tests being done abroad had questioned the validity of these tests.  She said that before they are sure of the validity of these tests, they will not be used.

Answering another question, Gauci said that Malta’s r-factor – the reproduction rate of the virus – stands at 1.5 – reflecting what statistician Vince Marmara had told The Malta Independent some weeks ago.  This is compared to a global r-factor of 2.2.

She said that the r-factor must continue to be lowered till it is below 1, and noted that this can only be done if people obey the regulations which are currently in place.

Asked about the rising prices of certain medicines, Gauci said that this is something which the Medicines Authority and the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) is working on.  She noted that since this is a global pandemic it has affected other countries and – in turn – companies in those countries, which then affects the price of items such as medicines.

She said that the authorities are working to ensure that the supply of these medicines continues and that the prices remain stable.  

Asked whether there is an infectious diseases unit inside the Gozo General Hospital, Gauci said that the hospital has an isolation unit which is used for positive cases. 

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