The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Watch: Coronavirus - 13 test positive, first cases at Zammit Clapp, St Vincent de Paule

Rebekah Cilia Friday, 10 April 2020, 12:21 Last update: about 3 months ago

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said 13 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 350.

Most of the cases reported today are of people linked with the health sector, including cases at the Gozo Hospital, Zammit Clapp Hospital and the St Vincent de Paule home for the elderly.

Gauci said that an 88-year-old woman tested positive at the Gozo General Hospital, together with two carers who work in the male ward of the same hospital: a 57-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man.

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Two cases were registered at Zammit Clapp Hospital, a male carer aged 53 and a female carer aged 51. In such cases, Gauci said, the carers are now in isolation while a contact tracing exercise to check which patients could have come in contact.

The first case registered at the St Vincent de Paule home is that of an 88-year-old woman who has now been isolated. She also suffers from other conditions, Gauci said. Until Wednesday, Minister Michael Falzon had said that no cases had been reported in State-owned homes for the elderly, including SVPR.

Another 88-year-old woman was admitted to the Infectious Diseases Unit at Mater Dei Hospital. She also has pneumonia, Gauci said.

A male health care worker at Karen Grech Hospital and another female health care worker, aged 29, in a private home also tested positive.

An eight-year-old Syrian boy who resides in Malta, and who entered hospital with an unrelated condition, also has Coronavirus, she added.

The mother of another boy who entered hospital to accompany her son for an unrelated condition also tested positive, while the boy was negative.

The other two cases are of a woman aged 66 and a man aged 39.

Asked about the one-month-old patient reported positive previously, Gauci said the baby is in a good condition and being followed by paediatric specialists. 

Noting that residents of elderly homes are being found positive, Gauci remarked that staff is also being found positive. Most of the elderly homes were on lockdown from very early on, but as staff changes, positive cases many result. 

Fortunately, cases are being found early on and a strategy is being devised, together with the management of these elderly homes, to see how to proceed to better protect the elderly, which are the most vulnerable. 

Healthcare workers which include nurses were found positive, including yesterday, as yesterday no details were given. Four carers working in elderly homes were found positive yesterday and the necessary precautions, as well as contact tracing, was being carried out, Gauci said.

No clusters were found in any elderly home in Xaghra but, just like in Malta, Gozo is now having local transmission. A swabbing centre has also been set up in Gozo.

Asked if mass testing in elderly homes will be carried out, Gauci said the best measures to be taken are still under discussion with management from these homes. She reminded that when carrying out the test it is only providing a result for the current state of the person, adding that the following day the person could still get the virus. 

“We emphasise the importance of infection control measures of safe distancing, regular washing of hands and the use of masks, where necessary.”

Gauci said software is available, as already announced by the Health Minister, which is provided by the World Health Organisation and adapted for Malta. This software provides a record of all the positive cases, as well as how the contact tracing was carried out, and where links were made between the cases. 

An epidemical report will be issued in the coming days which will include further details. This report will include the locality of the patients, but the locality does not mean the transmission was carried out in that locality. Gauci explained that the place where the transmission took place is difficult to identify, unless the cluster is known. The locality is only where the patients live.

The workload has increased, Gauci said, even for the helpline. Resources have also increased for the case management team, which follows up on each case. More people are being trained for this team.

The contact tracing team is also working hard to identify who a positive person might have been in contact with. Gauci said there are a lot of volunteers on board. 

The discharge team provides a follow up on the tests that were carried out on those identified through contract tracing, to give information to the public and also data is passed on to ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control), as per obligation. Gauci also noted there are various other teams working in relation to this virus, including the environmental health officers. 

The patient from St Vincent de Paule was from the St Francis ward, Gauci noted, adding that in institutions the virus can enter in many ways, like via visitors and staff. All measures are being taken including random testing and proper infection control measures. 

Asked to clarify, Gauci said that visitors may be new residents entering the elderly home, which are being kept in quarantine, “it is difficult to verify where the patient got the virus from,” she added.

Personal protective equipment is being given as necessary, based on a risk assessment which depends on the contact the worker may have.

Asked by this newsroom, if all those living in the open centre in Hal Far were tested, Gauci said that the authorities were working closely with the Red Cross to see if any migrants develop symptoms. If symptoms are present, they are tested straight away. 

Gauci also noted that random testing is being carried but no new cases were reported. When asked about the Marsa open centre, Gauci said random tests were also being carried out there and no cases were reported. 

Cases found positive in Gozo are being kept on the island, Gauci said, adding that the Gozo General Hospital is prepared for any cases that would need a ventilator. 

Preparation is underway for a study to verify the antibodies in people in the community. Gauci explained that through this study, one can tell how many people were already affected by the virus. 

At the moment, the measures introduced are keeping the situation stable and in control. If more measures will be introduced, depends a lot on the community and how they follow the measures noted. 

“The aim is to be able to cure all the patients that will need,” Gauci said.

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