The Malta Independent 3 August 2020, Monday

Watch: Coronavirus - 8 migrants positive, residents at Hal Far Open Centre in quarantine

Sunday, 5 April 2020, 19:43 Last update: about 5 months ago

Eight migrants at the Hal Far Open Centre have tested positive to Coronavirus and this has pushed the government to put all residents at the centre under mandatory quarantine for 14 days, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne announced.

All 1,000 migrants at the centre needed to be at the centre by 6pm, and this meant that the government had to wait until the 6pm curfew yesterday to arrive before announcing this decision.

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Last Friday one migrant from the centre tested positive, and on Saturday and a second migrant who resides at the Hal Far open centre also tested positive.The latter had no connection with the first migrant. The other migrants who shared the same compound with the infected migrants have been quarantined. In all, over the past two days, eight migrants tested positive.

This quarantine is being ordered and handled in the same way that every other case was handled Fearne said. "This is not a question of race, not a question of colour or religion. The virus does not discriminate between one person and another and infects everyone. Treatment for an infected person must be the same for everyone. Every person who has the symptoms of the virus will be treated with dignity and will receive all the medical treatment needed."

Fearne said that in every case, "a person who is infected is isolated and the people in contact with them are quarantined, and this is what we have been doing from the beginning."

Fearne said that quarantine is one of the most important tools that a country has in the fight to contain the pandemic. Countries that managed to keep it under control utilised this tool, he said.

He said that the plan to contain the virus is by increasing the resources available to the healthcare system, and also by having the public cooperate and follow the directives issued by the health authorities. This, he said, is why they are pushing for social distancing and why people should only go out when necessary.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that the medical presence at the Open Centre are increasing. He said that through collaboration with the Red Cross, the medical personnel presence at the centre will increase, over and above the nurses, healthcare workers and doctors from the Health Department.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that the government will not let anything put in peril the good work by the authorities against the COVID-19 virus, adding that the government has an obligation to take the needed measures.

He said that through the help of the UNHCR and others, the authorities have been explaining to migrants the measures that have been being taken over the past weeks. Over the past weeks, it was also not permitted for people to go to the Open Centre, aside for those people who work there or live there.

The Red Cross has been operating a clinic at the centre for a few days, Camilleri said, adding that anyone there who needs medical treatment was receiving it on site.

Inside the Open Centre today, those who were found positive for the virus were segregated from everyone else and are being treated, he said.

Camilleri said that the quarantine on the centre will be enforced, but added that the pressure on the authorities will increase.

He said that every legal notice introduced over the past days applies to all migrants living at the centre and they are obliged to follow the quarantine order.

Camilleri said that the authorities through the aid from NGOs and entities were communicating the decision to the residents and explaining that it was being taken for their own good and for the good of the public at whole.

Addressing employers, he stressed that everyone is conscious of the sacrifices being made. He said that the last thing they expect is for employers to urge the employees living at the Centre to go to work. The quarantine obligation is imposed by law. He said that any employer pushing their employees who are at the Centre to go to work will be assisting people to break the law.

The new cases

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that two people who tested positive were in the same dorm as the migrant who tested positive for the virus on 3 April. These two were in quarantine since the 3 April patient had tested positive.

Two more of the new positive cases were staying in the same room as the migrant who tested positive on 4 April.

Aside from this, the authorities found that a 31-year-old began showing symptoms and tested positive. The sixth migrant was being monitored at Mater Dei Hospital and tested positive. So in total there were eight people who tested positive from the Centre.

Taking questions from the press, Fearne spoke about the ‘myth’ that he, Prime Minister Robert Abela and Cabinet are not agreeing on measures. “Firstly, we make the decisions together, after numerous meetings, so we all are saying the same thing. It is very clear; people who have no reason to go out, should not go out. It is very clear, those individuals over the age of 65 and vulnerable people, for their own sake ,are obliged to stay at home and only go out for necessities. It is important, that every person keeps themselves healthy and do exercise… if one cannot do exercise at home, do exercise outside in a place with not many people and stay safe,” explained Fearne.

When asked whether all migrants in the Hal Far Centre should be tested, Fearne explained that testing all at once might not result in a positive test straight away. “Quarantine is important as symptoms come out a few days after the individual would have obtained the virus, if we do the swab test before, the test will come out negative.” He explained that those who have the virus will be isolated so as to control the virus, and test will be taken once symptoms come out.

Regarding new medication, Fearne said that research was being carried out all over the world. “Malta is part of a joint procurement mechanism with other EU countries for any effective medicine which could come on the market,” he explained.

 

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