The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Watch: Coronavirus briefing - Only three cases, but curve still going up - Gauci

Tuesday, 24 March 2020, 11:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

Only three cases of Coronavirus were reported in the last 24 hours, but this does not mean that the worst is over, Health chief Charmaine Gauci said today.

We are learning from other countries which saw the numbers dwindle, relaxed their grip only to see the numbers jump up again, she said when addressing the media today.

It has also happened in Malta, last week, that numbers dropped for a day, meaning that people could have got the wrong impression that the numbers were subsiding. No, they are not, Gauci insisted, as the curve is still going up.

The numbers are not going down, she said. Far from it; we are still in the first days of the spread, she added.

Everybody should understand that the measures that have been introduced in the past days should continue to be strictly observed, Gauci insisted.

Today's three cases bring the total number to 110 cases since the first case was reported on 7 March, she said.

The three cases recorded today were all imported, Gauci said.

The first case is of a 20-year-old woman who returned from London on 18 March and developed symptoms on 22 March. She was in quarantine since her return and only her family members could have been exposed.

The second case is of another 20-year-old woman, a University student, who was abroad between 4 and 9 March with other students. She attended a lecture on 10 March, and developed symptoms a day later, but since 14 days have passed from that lecture it is unlikely that anyone who came in contact with her will contract Coronavirus. Nonetheless, other students who could have come in contact with her are being approached by the health authorities.

The third case is of an American 49-year-old man who resides in Malta, and who was in Austria between 11 and 14 March. He has been in quarantine since his return and was in contact with just one member of his family.

Gauci said that the 61-year-old man who developed pneumonia is still in intensive care.

Asked about the government's plans for a pre-fabricated hospital, she said that the idea is to have everything prepared for any eventuality. So far, Mater Dei Hospital and St Thomas Hospitals are being used for Coronavirus patients, while Boffa Hospital is being converted. The installation of a field hospital would increase the number of beds available, she said, adding that it will be installed with all amenities as close to the main hospital as possible. 

It is better to have this kind of hospital with modern equipment than trying to convert an old hospital like St Luke's, she said. The investment required to use St Luke's would be much greater and so it makes more sense to have a field hospital.

Regarding testing patients, Gauci said that Malta has the third highest rate in Europe and that the authorities are opening more swabbing centres to provide more places for testing. “80% of the coronavirus patients will not need to be hospitalised, yet we have no indication of how many are expected to be infected, that is why we must stick to the measures and social distancing.”


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