Watch: Coronavirus briefing – Three weeks after first case, number climbs to 149; one critical
watch coronavirus briefing three weeks after first case number climbs to 149 one critical - Watch: Coronavirus briefing - Three weeks after first case, number climbs to 149; one critical

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci announced on Saturday that Malta had registered 10 new cases of Covid-19, and that one person had to be hospitalised and is in critical condition as a result of the virus.

Earlier, Health Minister Chris Fearne had anticipated that there were 10 new cases registered in the last 24 hours, six related to travelling and four to local transmission.

This means that, three weeks after the first case was recorded, the number of cases in Malta increased to 149.

The first case had been registered on 7 March.

One of the new cases is of a man, aged 72, who is in critical condition, Gauci said. He developed pneumonia and is intubated. He becomes the third person who were taken to ITU, with two other persons, a 61-year-old man and a 60-year-old woman, who are in a stable condition.

The man was taken to hospital on 26 March, but his condition turned for the worse a day later and tested positive for Coronavirus. He had been in contact with a relative who had been abroad.

Another three cases related to travelling involved three people from the Philippines who came to Malta on 13 March – a woman aged 40 and two men aged 41 and 47. They developed symptoms on different days and tested positive in the last 24 hours.

A man who returned from England on 19 March developed symptoms on 21 March. He had been in quarantine since his return.

Another Maltese man, aged 30, returned from France on 13 March and developed symptoms on 24 March.

Gauci said that in the latter two cases, it was noticed that the patients had lost their sense of smell and taste before developing other symptoms.

The other four cases recorded today are linked to local transmission.

A 34-year-old woman, a health care worker, developed symptoms on 26 March and tested positive in the last 24 hours. A contact tracing exercise is taking place to establish who came in contact with her.

A 36-year-old man, the partner of another patient who developed Coronavirus earlier, alson tested positive. He developed symptoms on 22 March.

The other two cases involved two Indian men, aged 36 and 31, who also tested positive and are now part of a cluster of seven.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether people who could not find someone to care for their dogs could still take them out for a walk at least once a day, Gauci replied that if people have absolutely nobody to help them care for their animals then they will have permission to continue to care for them themselves. 

She stressed however that in doing so, these people must continue to avoid contact with other people and observe all social distancing measures.

“These measures aren’t legislative to enforce; they are there to protect the people who are most vulnerable.  People know how this virus is transmitted, and they know that there is a risk of transmission if they meet someone outside their household.  We are doing this to protect those who are most vulnerable and we ask the public to cooperate as much as possible to protect themselves”, Gauci said.

Also asked by this newsroom what constitutes essential measures which vulnerable people are allowed to go out of the house for, Gauci noted that one such thing is going to the bank to cash in a cheque so to have cash in hand.  She pointed out however that the Superintendence is working with banks to identify measures which would avoid having people needing to go directly to the bank, hence avoiding contact with others over there.

With three weeks since the first Covid19 case was found in Malta having now elapsed, and with schools now closed until the end of June, Gauci was asked what health authorities are expecting in the future and whether they are expecting this situation to be prolonged.

Gauci replied that their aim is to extend this period as much as possible so that new cases keep filtering in slowly.  She noted that the last thing that authorities wanted was a situation like in Italy where the health system is overwhelmed by the number of cases coming in. 

“The slower the cases come in, the more capable we will be to offer the necessary treatment”, she said.

She noted that authorities understood that these measures affect the concept of normality that everyone is used to, but said that it is better to have to adapt to this new way of life rather than have the health system unable to cope with the number of cases.

Asked about the most recent set of guidelines to be revealed, which have caused some confusion, Gauci clarified that those who live with persons who may be more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 than others – these vulnerable people being those over the age of 65 and those with chronic conditions – should, as much as possible, try not to go to work.

In the case that there is absolutely no other option, then those people who live with vulnerable people can go to work, but should maintain all social distancing measures to minimise the risk of contracting the virus. 

The same social distancing measures should be observed within the household as well, she pointed out.  She explained that vulnerable persons should ideally sleep alone in a room and should have exclusive use of a bathroom as well, and that close contact with people in the same household should be avoided as much as possible as well.

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