[WATCH] Restrictions may start to be lifted in ‘coming weeks’, Health Minister says

COVID-19 infection numbers encouraging and if trend persists government may start to lift some restrictions • Chris Fearne insists public’s cooperation remains key

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne
Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne

Malta may gradually start to lift restrictive measures if the number of new COVID-19 infections remains low, Chris Fearne said.

The Health Minister made the declaration in a recorded interview on TVM’s Xtra that will be broadcast tonight.

Fearne said the number of new infections over the past few weeks was “encouraging” but stressed that it was up to the people to continue following health guidelines to minimise the virus spread.

Fearne’s cautious optimism comes on the same day that the World Health Organisation’s regional office in Europe announced it will be presenting a set of six guidelines to countries for an exit strategy.

The minister said government was currently carrying out intensive studies to determine the impact of the current measures, and how removing them may affect the spread of the virus.

If, once we remove a measure, we see that the numbers start increasing rapidly, then we would have to impose it again Chris Fearne

“According to these studies, in the coming weeks we can start removing some of the measures we implemented in order to keep the virus under control,” he said.

Malta has so far recorded 412 cases of COVID-19, including three deaths and 82 who have recovered.

However, Fearne warned that any return to a state of normality will be gradual, with the health authorities monitoring the situation every step of the way, and re-implementing certain measures if necessary.

“As long as the numbers remain low then we can look at removing some measures. However, if, once we remove a measure, we see that the numbers start increasing rapidly, then we would have to impose it again,” he said.

The government’s strategy since the start of the pandemic on 7 March has been to avoid a deluge of cases that could overwhelm the health system.

Preparedness in hospitals has been scaled up in line with more stringent restrictions to curb the virus spread in the community.

“What we don’t want is a situation where there will be people who need to enter hospital or the ITU, and who could recover with medical help, but who do not, because we would not have the beds, doctors, or nurses to administer assistance,” Fearne said.

He noted that the current numbers were in line with the predicted curve.

“We are doing well, we are on the right track that is why I am encouraged by what I’m seeing. But everything will depend on how much we manage to be responsible, and maintain discipline,” he added.

READ ALSO: Northern harbour region records highest number of COVID-19 cases

More in Xtra