[WATCH] Coronavirus: Hal Far migrant open centre placed under quarantine

After eight cases of coronavirus involving residents of the Hal Far migrant open centre, the whole village of more than 1,000 people has been placed in quarantine

The migrant open centre at Hal Far has been placed under quarantine
The migrant open centre at Hal Far has been placed under quarantine

The migrant open centre at Hal Far has been placed under quarantine after eight residents registered positive for the coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne said.

The decision was taken this afternoon and communicated to residents at the open centre at 6pm.

Fearne said that eight residents of the open centre had coronavirus and a risk assessment undertaken by the Public Health Superintendent suggested it was best to place all residents under quarantine.

The open centre houses more than 1,000 migrants in crammed conditions.

The residents that are positive to the coronavirus have been isolated and those who are in a medically vulnerable state will be transferred out of the centre to be cared for in a more controlled environment.

The announcement was made this evening in a press conference delivered by Fearne, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci.

Fearne said the decision had nothing to do with the person’s nationality, religion or skin colour. “We want to afford dignity to every patient and the quarantine rules that apply to everyone else, also apply to the residents at the open centre. The message is being communicated to them with the help of the UNHCR and NGOs who work with migrants,” Fearne said.

He said that the presence of medical personnel at the open centre will be increased with the help of the Red Cross.

The quarantine will last for 14 days but may be extended if more people become sick with Covid-19.

Camilleri said that the forces of law and order were already on site in Hal Far to ensure that quarantine measure is respected. He said any breach of quarantine will incur a fine.

He also appealed to employers of migrants at the centre to understand the situation. “The last thing we want is for employers to encourage migrants to break the law,” Camilleri said.

“Tonight’s decision shows that we will leave nothing to chance that could disrupt the decisions taken by the health authorities that have been reaping positive results,” Camilleri said.

The cluster of cases from the Hal Far open centre came to light over the past three days.

Government action was taken 'too late' - PN

Measures put into place to control the spread of Covid-19 at the open centre in Hal Far were taken too late, the PN said.

In a statement late on Sunday evening, the party said that the centre was closed down after eight cases had already been discovered. It said this measure was taken “too late.”  

“The nationalist party warned about the danger of the virus spreading at the open centre and in prison days ago. The government hoped for the best but failed to prepare for the worst, and now the worst is happening,” the party said.

The PN said that the government’s lack of planning had now lead to a situation where 1,000 people have been put under lockdown in tents and containers. “This is a recipe for disaster.”

“The Government should immediately ensure that swabbing of all residents in the open centres is promptly undertaken. It should see how crowding at this centre is addressed even if alternative detention sites need to be found. Take all those measures so that the health of all workers working with these residents is safeguarded most effectively.”