Health Minister Chris Fearne today announced a series of measures that will come into force as from Monday to intensify the fight against the spread of Coronavirus, with 90 cases registered in Malta so far.
Addressing the media, Fearne said that Malta has now moved into a new stage. The first stage was when there were no patients, the second stage was when there were imported cases, the third stage was when people were infected through direct contact with imported cases, and now the country has started seeing local community spread.
He said that there are measures that apply for this stage, adding that other countries took more restrictive steps as they are in even more advanced stages.
The measures that will come into force as from Monday at 8am are divided into three parts.
The first is the closing all non-essential retail stores, such as clothes stores, shoe-stores, toy and electronic stores, household goods and other such stores.
The shops not affected are those providing food – supermarkets, grocers, bakeries, fishmongers, confectionaries and stationery shops.
Fearne said that if anyone breaches this measure there will be a €3,000 fine for each breach.
The second set of measures deal with non-essential services. Non-essential services include hair-dressers, beauticians, tattooists and other such services.
Postal and medical services will still operate, so will bank and transport services. Pet shops will also remain open.
The third set is that all public gatherings and meetings will be banned.
The exact definitions of all the above will be published in the Government Gazette. Any breaches of these regulations will be fined €3,000 per breach.
These measures, he said, “are ones that are adapted for the situation we are in.”
Fearne said that the government spent months introducing new systems, training people etc. to be in the best position to meet the demand that was to come in terms of the Coronavirus. “We are in a good position and we are increasing our services that we might need to offer.” He said new testing hubs will be announced in the coming days, including in Gozo.
He spoke about controlling and keeping the demand for required services low. Until now, he said, a number of measures were taken to reduce contact between people, including closing down schools, closing bars, gyms and other such measures.
Answering questions from the press, Fearne said that citizens within the country will continue on with their work, however if possible it should be done through teleworking.
He added that stationaries who sell newspapers will be able to open as communication is essential. As well as shops that are related to I.T and telephone servicing.
The MUMN (The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses) asked the government to organise child-care services for their members, “however we decided to make this service available for all health workers,” Fearne said. The childcare service is available for children who are 12 years old or younger.
He added that this service “is also being extended to healthcare workers who work within the community, including pharmacists and people who work in caring for the elderly.”
With regards to a number of people seen queuing in places such as banks, Fearne made an appeal to people to keep social distancing: 1 metre between one person and another.
With reference to the situation that occurred in Gnejna Bay last Thursday, Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that “if anyone wants to go out for some fresh air, it is very important to go to non-crowded places as overcrowding can increase the risk of spreading the virus.”
Fearne added that “the majority of people within the country are cooperating and abiding by what the authorities are telling them to do.”
“As a government we are already working with private hospitals such as St. Thomas Hospital who are treating COVID-19 patients, however we are currently seeking to work with other private hospitals in order to make use of the services they have to offer,” Fearne said. Private dentists, doctors and pharmacies are also offering their services.
Asked about the construction industry, Fearne added that construction works will not stop.
With regards to the people who came to Malta from other countries and brought with them the virus, Fearne said that “if we did not have any people coming from abroad we would not have had these cases, however at that stage it was impossible to completely close off Malta.” He added that the “people who came to Malta from abroad and tested positive for the virus are either Maltese citizens or residents living in Malta. Therefore, even if we took the measure of banning flights from the very first day, we still had to bring these people back home.”