COVID-19 anxiety hits Malta

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A day after the government announcement that thermal cameras are being set up to screen inbound passengers, Malta has been gripped by coronavirus panic. The growing list of deaths linked to the infectious disease in neighbouring Italy, including a reported case a stone’s throw away in Sicily, is not helping either.

Here’s a rundown of the major stories about the coronavirus in today’s news cycle (final update 20:00 CET).

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci called a press conference confirming that no cases have been reported in Malta and assured the public that the country is well prepared for any eventuality. (The Times)

The Ministry of Health, too, issued a statement explaining that Malta is still in pre-containment phase. (The Independent)

However, passengers returning from the Italy, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Iran, and South Korea are being requested by health authorities to self-quarantine for 14 days. (LovinMalta)

The UK government has set out similar directives for Britons returning from the north of Italy. (The Independent)

Deloitte is asking employees returning from Italy to avoid going to the office and work from home instead. (The Times)

Two passengers aboard a flight from Bergamo in Italy were checked upon arrival in Malta after screening showed they were running a fever. They tested negative. (The Times)

A tourist on a flight that landed in Sicily from the same region, though, tested positive, marking the first case in the Italian island.

The government has reportedly sent a plane to bring back Maltese tourists in Milan. (Newsbook)

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that flights from the north of Italy are operating as normal for the time being but advised people to be vigilant. (Newsbook)

Air Malta, in fact, pulled back a decision to suspend flights from Italy and routes continued to fly as scheduled. (Newsbook)

The situation at the Freeport is somewhat different as doctors refuse to clear container vessels forcing activity to come to a halt. (The Independent)

Paul Pace, president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses, shot down government claims that the hospital is prepared for the possibility of an outbreak. (The Independent)

The Union has issued directives for its members not to treat any possible patients who contract the disease, accusing Mater Dei hospital of keeping plans secret. (Newsbook)

Education Minister Owen Bonnici said that the ministry is taking the necessary precautions to ensure that schools remain virus-free. (The Independent)

Meanwhile, the University of Malta set up an Emergency Situation Team to advise students and staff on developments. (The Independent)

The Chamber of Commerce said that the amount of questions about the coronavirus coming in have been increasing day after day. (Netnews)

The Ministry for Health is appealing for everyone to ‘Clean, Contain, Cover’ in a collective effort to combat the spread. (Newsbook)

People seem prepared to go the extra mile as wholesalers are quickly running out of facemasks. (LovinMalta)

Prof. Michael Borg, an expert in infection control, slammed ‘hysterical’ comments spreading of social media and said that there is no need for public alarm. (Malta Today)

His pleas, however, seem to fall of deaf ears as media outlets have reported dramatic clear-outs of supermarket shelves as customers stockpile on goods. (The Times) (LovinMalta) (Malta Today) (The Independent) (Netnews)

The major questions on people’s minds have been collected (and answered). (The Times)

Meanwhile, the international press has been busy reporting on the worldwide ramifications of the spread.

The World Health Organisation urged governments to brace themselves for the virus which is “literally knocking at the door.” (The New York Times)

Right on cue, Switzerland, Croatia and Austria have reported their first cases while as many as 1,000 hotel guests find themselves quarantined in Tenerife. (The Guardian)

The US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, warned that cases are expected to continue to rise in the country as the sell-off of global equities gathered pace in Wall Street. (Financial Times)

The deputy Health Minister in Iran, one of the worst-hit countries, has tested positive for the new coronavirus. (BBC)

In the meantime, authorities and experts in China are still tracing the elusive ‘patient zero’. (BBC)

BeInformed – CiConsulta’s Media Monitoring Service 

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