No coronavirus infections in Malta yet

Health Minister briefs parliament on anti-virus measures taken at ports, medical centres • Covid-19 is the official name for the new coronavirus

The new coronavirus, known as Covid-19, emerged in China some six weeks ago
The new coronavirus, known as Covid-19, emerged in China some six weeks ago

No respiratory infections caused by the new coronavirus have been registered yet in Malta, Health Minister Chris Fearne said.

He added that two Maltese nationals were being kept in quarantine as a precautionary measure after they came back from a cruise in south east Asia.

Fearne informed Parliament on Monday evening on the measures being taken by the health authorities to prepare for the eventuality that the infection does reach Malta.

The new coronavirus, which has been named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation, developed in China and has resulted in more than 70,000 infections and almost 2,000 deaths, mostly in China.

Fearne said screening of passengers coming from high-risk areas is available at the airport and cruise liner terminal.

He noted that an isolation unit with 12 beds has been set up in a building outside Mater Dei Hospital and the number of beds in the hospital’s own isolation unit have been increased.

Replying to questions from the Opposition, Fearne said no vaccine had been developed yet.

He said there was agreement on European level to have the European Commission purchase vaccines for distribution among member states once this is developed.

“This will ensure that a small country like Malta will still have access to the vaccine in the early stages,” Fearne said, noting that during the Swine Flu outbreak of 2009, the country had faced difficulty in acquiring the vaccine when it became available.

Opposition spokespeople Mario Galea, Stephen Spiteri and Maria Deguara praised the efforts of the health authorities and urged people not to panic. PN deputy leader David Agius asked whether an educational campaign was warranted to inform people on how to take precautions.

Fearne welcomed the Opposition's comments, adding that information campaigns with recommendations on personal hygiene would follow the same lines as those for seasonal influenza.

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