[WATCH] As airport reopens, doctors union urges heightened discipline against COVID-19 risk

Medical Association of Malra urges public to adhere to measures aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus as Malta reopens for tourists

MAM President, Martin Balzan
MAM President, Martin Balzan

With the airport expected to reopen tomorrow, the doctors' union is urging the public to step up their adherence to the precautionary measures meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Medical Association of Malta acknowledged that it was necessary for the airport to open its doors again in order to continue reviving the economy, but cautioned that visitors coming to the island could pose an additional risk of spreading the virus.

MAM said the public should continue to wear masks and visors and to practice good hygiene through frequent hand washing and sanitising.

The Association also said that, although the government would no longer be enforcing social distancing rules, the public should still practice social distancing to lower the chance of spreading the pathogen.

"The airport will be reopening tomorrow - we know the economy is very dependent on tourism, and we, therefore, cannot afford to keep it closed," MAM president Martin Balzan told the press on Tuesday morning.

He said that Malta currently had the COVID-19 situation under control, with only a couple of new cases having been detected in the past week. "The situation currently is good."

Balzan praised the public for doing their role in preventing the spread of the virus. He noted that, despite his fears, the reopening of hairdressing salons and restaurants had not led to an increase in cases. "It appears there was no case tied to the reopening of hairdressers and eateries," he said.

In the case of bars, he highlighted, social distancing was not always being observed.

Balzan went on to underline that the coronavirus would remain an issue for the world until a vaccine was found. This made it all the more important for people to keep protecting themselves from it, especially when considering that people would now be coming from abroad who might be carrying the virus.

"Now that a new risk is going to be introduced [the reopening of airports], it is important that we do not create additional risk through our behaviour."

He noted that if a single case is found at a hotel or another establishment, that establishment would have to be temporarily closed, leading to loss of business.

"Our message is this: let us not lose all that we gained in the past weeks, and let us increase our attention [when it comes to measures to prevent the spread]," he said.

Visitors, returning residents with symptoms should be referred for swabbing

MAM is directing its members to consider visiting foreign nationals (with no local ID) and residents of Malta returning from abroad as high risk if they present with the typical symptoms of COVID-19, and immediately refer for swabbing at one of the centres.

MAM also said that it was concerned that the advice being given to the public was unclear. MAM has, therefore, together with the Association of Public Health specialists, issued a number of guidelines to the public, amongst them:

  • It is important that people remain vigilant and follow public health recommendations. This will reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • If you or anyone you know develops any of the symptoms suggestive of coronavirus it is important to organise a swab test by calling the Public Health helpline (111).
  • Everyone who has travelled in the last 14 days should avoid vulnerable people and get tested if any symptoms appear. This applies to tourists too. Call 111 to organise a test and isolate until the results are out. 

MAM also called for people to following the below key principles:

  • Maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others
  • Meticulous regular hand hygiene using soap and water or a hand sanitizer containing at least 70% alcohol for 30 seconds
  • Adopt mitigation measures - use masks and/ or visors when carrying out activities within the community

Read the full guidelines released by MAM and the Association of Public Health Doctors below: