Quarantine measures designed to halt a potentially catastrophic outbreak in the Ħal Far open centre are failing to address warning signs of a vicious spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, videos and photos sent to Lovin Malta show.
Large groups of residents in the open centre are still sharing communal bathrooms, dormitories, and public spaces despite eight residents testing positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours.
A resident has even claimed that people have just been handed a water bottle and small biscuit, and not informed of much else.
One clip shows the state of crowded bathrooms at the centre, which itself has long been known to be poorly resourced.
Each bathroom is shared among a host of residents in the building, one potential patient using the facilities could result in an uncontrollable spread.
Other images show residents, who usually are cooped up along with five other persons, still roaming around the few public spaces in the facility in large crowds.
With a population of over 1,000, social distancing is simply impossible for residents of the Hal Far centre.
Residents who spoke to Lovin Malta have raised the alarm that quarantine measures are merely protecting the public rather than addressing the growing outbreak in the centre.
They’re terrified of either contracting the virus or of the fatal consequences of potentially passing it on to someone.
So far, the government has placed the centre under quarantine for the next two weeks. At the same time, the Malta Red Cross opened a makeshift clinic. Open centre residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been segregated.
Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci has said that the health authorities have made further recommendations, but would not elaborate.
Despite measures, the centre is simply unable to handle a significant outbreak. Any significant spread will place undue pressure on Malta’s healthcare system, just as things seemed to be under control.
To address the issue, some have suggested opening up Malta’s now-empty hotels to create an efficient quarantine facility for the 1,000+ residents.
Tensions within the centre, it must be said, are often high during normal times. A shocking riot erupted last year. Mishandling the decision could create a similar scenario.
Residents inside the open centres are not illegal immigrants. Each resident has been granted some form of asylum status after months being processed in the Ħal Safi detention centres.
There are a total of 241 cases of COVID-19 in Malta after 14 new patients were confirmed this morning. Five patients have officially recovered and no one has died.
Three people remain in ITU, just one patient is in critical condition.
If you believe you are suffering from the Coronavirus, follow these guidelines:
Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people, as you would with the flu.
Do not go to Mater Dei, the emergency department, health centres, private clinics, or pharmacies. Stay home and call the public health authority’s helpline 111.
If you are returning from an affected country, do not break self-quarantine rules or you will be subject to a €1,000 fine.
You can call +356 21324086 for advice.
Avoid calling 112 unless it is a real emergency. That emergency line is crucial in saving lives in peril, and having it be flooded with calls on the coronavirus could have fatal consequences.
What should the government do to prevent the outbreak in the detention centre? Comment below.