Press Conference by Health Superintendent
Prof Gauci announced that 487 tests were carried out yesterday, resulting in 10 positive cases. Unfortunately, this includes a 72 year old and is in a critical situation. Six cases relate to travel, while four are local transmission.
The 72-year old is now in Intensive Therapy and making use of a ventilator. He seems to have contracted the virus from a person who had earlier returned from abroad. Three persons are now hospitalised in ITU, with the other two being in stable condition.
The cases of local transmission include a healthcare worker. Two are Maltese and two are Indian, with the latter related to an already identified cluster which had started at a workplace. This cluster now includes seven persons.
Prof Gauci explained that through the containment strategy, the authorities where seeking to avoid an overwhelming of Malta’s health care services. Social distancing was an important element in achieving this objective.
Chamber of Commerce: Uncertainty is harming business
In a press statement, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry remarked that recent instances of changes to instructions and incomplete clarity by Government have created unnecessary uncertainty. The Chamber believes that sound consultation with all relevant parties involved, prior to decision taking, can save time, remove confusion and avoid frustration for all.
In its statement, the Chamber argued that “the extraordinary times we are living can be considered completely unchartered territory, which every Government around the world is navigating with a degree of uncertainty. Within this context, the Malta Chamber reiterates its offer to assist Government in a bid to ensure misunderstandings and uncertainty remain to an absolute minimum.”
The Malta Chamber has received hundreds of communications from the business community voicing concern and asking for clarity on what was being communicated by Government. The few inconsistencies experienced lately are not only harming businesses, which at this time are facing the most trying moments of their existence, but are also bringing about an unnecessary level of uncertainty we could all do without as a country.
PN Press Conference
“No Prime Minister overturns decisions taken by his Health Minister, especially in such circumstances”. Adrian Delia criticized what he described as a U-turn the decision by PM Abela to reduce restrictions on the movement of the elderly and vulnerable persons as originally instructed by Health Minister Chris Fearne. He noted that the elderly had understood the need to stay inside in the current situation, therefore the Prime Minister’s relaxed approach sparked a massive confusion amongst many.
The PN leader criticized Government’s lack of long-term planning, urging the authorities to put in place a three-month plan to combat the spreading of coronavirus. Delia noted that Government announced a plan, only to change it after a mere four days, then issued a tender for a pre-fabricated hospital, and withdrawing it 48 hours later.
Adrian calls again on Government to reduce tariffs now that oil and gas prices have gone down considerably. He argued that Malta is saving around 86 million euro through lower international prices. Therefore it made sense that electricity and fuel prices were decreased to support families.
In the Press Conference, Nationalist MPs Jason Azzopardi has called out Government on the scandalous way it has issued a call for the provision of what he described as a “hospital in a container”. It was clear that operators close to the Labour Party had a heads-up to prepare themselves to bid for this call.
MP Karol Aquilina noted that had Government not sold off in a scandalous manner, three hospitals, particularly St Luke’s Hospital would have been able to provide an additional 1,000 bed. “Despite the critical situation we’re in, Steward Healthcare have not explain how they will contribute to help the national healthcare system”. Our professionals, insisted Aquilina, are paying the price for the fact that Government is wasting our resources in not insisting with Steward to contribute as necessary.
10 new cases – DPM Fearne
DPM Chris Fearne has announced that ten new cases were registered during the past 24 hours. The Health Minister explained that although the number was low for the third successive days, this was not a reason for complacency.
Mata’s total now stands at 149.
Fearne said that the WHO pinpointed Malta as case of best practice in its approach against the virus.
Speaking in Gozo, Fearne announced that 120 beds will be made available at the Gozo General Hospital for Covid-19 patients, 13 of them in intensive care. More than half of the required beds will be available in the next 2 weeks.
Fearne dismissed arguments of a change in policy regarding lockdown, insisting this a constantly evolving situation and directives are constantly fine-tuned.
The Minister for Education Owen Bonnici announced that schools will be closed till June. O level and A level exams, which were scheduled to take place as from 23 April, will not take place.
Is it a lockdown or is it not?
A quarter of the Maltese population was expecting to start a quasi-complete lockdown this morning, but guidelines issued by Government yesterday evening and subsequent comments by Prime Minister Abela on live television have slightly eased the original interpretation of the restrictions. “This is not a lockdown”, insisted Abela.
Persons over 65, as well as those suffering from a number of conditions can now leave the house not only for medical appointments but also to buy food, medicine and to attend to “essential or urgent” needs. These urgent needs can even include going to work for a critical reason, exercise child visitation rights and feed animals which are located somewhere else.
Persons living with the above vulnerable persons are not entitled to quarantine leave, therefore they are to report to work normally unless teleworking is provided. The same flexibility to attend to urgent needs applied for these persons.
Robert Abela explained that the measures had changed after that Cabinet had “listened to the people”.
Besides over 65s, the people who are affected by these measures include those which undertook cancer treatment in the past six months, insulin-reliant diabetics, those on dialysis, pregnant women, those who required heart surgery in the past six months, persons on oral steroids and anyone who was admitted to hospital due to cardiac or respiratory conditions in the past six months.
Despite the relaxation of the new requirements, PM Abela insisted on the need for social distancing. Malta has 139 patients infected with coronavirus.