The Malta Independent 8 April 2020, Wednesday

Watch: Coronavirus briefing - Five new cases, total reaches 134

Thursday, 26 March 2020, 13:28 Last update: about 12 days ago

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said five new Coronavirus cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, the total now reaching 134.

Three of them were related to travelling, while the other two were locally transmitted.

Of the 134 cases, 14 are being kept at Mater Dei Hospital's Infectious Diseases Unit, and another 18 at St Thomas Hospital. One person, a 61-year-old man, is still being treated at Mater Dei's Intensive Therapy Unit but, Gauci said, the man is getting better.

Addressing the media, Gauci said that the trends are showing that sometimes the number of cases registered is higher than other days, as was happening today. Today's five cases are closer to the three registered on Tuesday but contrast with the 19 registered on Wednesday and the 17 recorded on Sunday and Monday.

One case recorded today is that of a Greek woman, who resides in Malta, who contracted the disease when in Cyprus. The 28-year-old woman returned to Malta on 19 March and experienced symptoms a day later, with the result that a contact tracing exercise is taking place to establish who was sitting next to her on the plane.

The second case was of a Maltese 60-year-old man who was in England and returned on 13 March, experiencing symptoms on 16 March. This case was linked to another two other Coronavirus patients who contracted the disease while in England.

The third case related to travelling is that of a Maltese 60-year-old woman, a health care worked who had been in England. She returned to Malta on 20 March and was admitted to hospital on an unrelated case but later developed Coronavirus symptoms. She has now been transferred to the Infectious Diseases Unit. Members of her family who were with her abroad are in quarantine.

The two locally-transmitted cases are that of a 23-year-old man, whose case is related to another already diagnosed, and a 26-year-old woman who experienced symptoms on 20 March when she was at work. In the latter case, the health authorities are checking other colleagues who may have been in contact with her.

The Malta Independent asked if the health authorities are considering to invest in tests that have been developed in China that give a result in 15 minutes. Gauci explained that there are two types of tests that health authorities use. Firstly, there are ones that are carried out through swabbing and this is worked through a VCR which captures small particles of the virus - this requires a person to have symptoms and have a number of particles in the throat. 

The 15-minute tests are known as 'rapid testing' which measure the immunity of a person and through it, you can pick out people who have had the virus in the past. This does not really apply to Malta at this point in time. However, she explained that these tests might be used later on.

Asked if it is safe for people who tested positive to quarantine at home with the rest of their families, Gauci said that the health authorities always carry out a risk assessment exercise. If people are cooperative and trustworthy then it is easier to leave them at home, but regular inspections are still carried out. The situation at home is also taken into consideration. If the household includes vulnerable people, it is more likely that the patient is then kept in a hospital. She pointed out that they also give guidelines on what people who are isolated at home should do so as to reduce the possibility of transmission. 

Asked if there are plans for self-testing she said that all testing takes place in swab hubs, healthcare centres, in the emergency rooms and some even by the private sector. The health authorities encourage tests which are done privately as there has been a case which was found out through such testing. She added that swabs from respiratory cases not related to the Coronavirus are also assessed to ensure that there is no chance of infection. 

She pointed out that when compared to other countries MAlta is one of the countries that has carried out the most tests per capita which is part of the strategy they are adopting while still being in the containment phase.


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