Live Update: Covid-19 Bulletin Malta – Thursday 26th March 2020

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Update 1726

Lockdown for persons aged 65+, pregnant women and people with particular conditions

Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne announced two new measures to improve social distancing following the recent increase in cases.

Government has announced a lockdown for persons of over 65 years, as well as younger persons with chronic diseases, such as insulin-dependent diabetics, persons making use of biological medicines, persons who have been on chemotherapy in the past six months, persons who suffer from immunosuppression, pregnant women, people with respiratory complications and others who will be identified through a further communication by government. This is to avoid contact with persons who are potentially carrying the virus. These persons are at greater risk and therefore the authorities feel this decision is needed to protect these members of our community. In total, this covers around 118,000 people. This measure comes into force from Saturday morning. The only exception will cover medical necessities.

The second decision gives the Police authority to ask people not to gather in groups larger than five. Ideally, people should not stay in groups of more than a couple, but the Health Superintendent will delegate its authority to police officers to ask groups of more than five to disperse. This decision was taken since despite the ban of organised events, were still gathering in public spaces, with all the risks that this entails.

Chris Fearne re-iterated the earlier message by Prof Gauci that the fact that low number of new cases were registered today should not put our minds as rest. Predictive modelling is being carried out and we have enough data to be able to anticipate what will happen in the next few days. He explained that the pattern is now shifting from imported cases to predominantly local transmissions. “We are still in the early phases of this epidemic”, noted Fearne, explaining that in other cities such as Milan, Madrid and New York, a number of people were losing their lives not solely due to the virus directly but rather due to the overwhelming of their healthcare systems, since persons who could otherwise be saved are not able to receive adequate cure. “We need to learn from this”, insisted Fearne. For this reason we are also boosting the availability of beds in hospitals.

Fearne explained that in Gozo, beds in ITU will increase from two to 20 in the next few days, as well as another 120 COVID-dedicated beds, which is around 80 more than the present amount.

Two new testing hubs were opened today at Luxol (Malta) and in the Gozo helipad side. Despite the authorities working hard to improve the supply of tests and beds, the Minister explained, it was crucial to reduce supply, that is the number of infected people by reducing contact.

Update:1333

Five new cases, Cabinet underway.

Five new cases were registered today, taking Malta’s total to 134. Two of these cases were related to local transmission. One of these forms part of an already-identified cluster, while the other had reported to work and her colleagues are being contact traced. A larger number of swabs were being carried out and therefore more cases are expected.  The authorities have now tested 4,230 people, meaning Malta was per capita the third country in the world with the most swabs taken. 33 persons are currently hospitalised.

Meanwhile, it is understood that an emergency Cabinet session is currently underway.

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Update 1319

The Opposition has proposed that those prisoners edging close to the conclusion of their prison sentence should be released and kept under house arrest.

PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami appealed for better protection against the virus for police officers on the line of duty.

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Prof Gauci had been clear in her warning last Tuesday during her daily live briefing – do not be fooled by the fact that only three new cases were identified during the previous day. Just 4 hours have passed and the Health Superintendent was proven right: Malta witnessed the largest increase yesterday with 19 cases added to a tally which now starts looking rather significant: 129.

Despite this drastic increase, much of the media debate throughout yesterday continued to focus on the economic stimulus package presented by PM Robert Abela the evening before. While most constituted bodies welcomed the improved measures which directly benefited the most-affected business and their 60,000 workers, the Opposition highlighted the plight of at least 110,000 other private sector workers whose job was in jeopardy as the crisis evolved.

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