The Malta Independent 3 August 2020, Monday

‘It’s not about cancelling parties’ – virologist on COVID-19 spike

Karl Azzopardi Sunday, 26 July 2020, 09:30 Last update: about 8 days ago

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases relating to last weekend’s party Hotel Takeover does not imply that parties should be cancelled but one must consider that we are living in a new normal that requires certain protocols to be followed, virologist Dr Chris Barbara told The Malta Independent.

Last Thursday, the weekend-long event was on everyone’s lips after it was revealed that someone who tested positive for COVID-19 attended the party, causing great concern among all other attendees as well as the general public.

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The following day, Malta saw its first spike in cases in over a month of close to no registered cases as six new cases were reported, all relating to this same party despite both the organisers and the hosting hotel, Radisson Blu Resort, saying that all public health protocols were followed.

“I would not say that we cannot have any parties but we are living in a new normal that does not allow for certain things to go on as usual,” Barbara said when asked by this newsroom if he thinks that such large-scale events should be allowed to take place within the current context.

He explained that this is not about the organisers not following protocols but rather about party-goers not practising their social responsibility and abiding by public health recommendations.

“I am not quite sure that people were wearing visors and following protocols. I have heard that one champagne bottle was shared among twenty people which is definitely not what we’re advocating,” Barbara said, stressing that once people stop caring the country will be in trouble.

“The public is already seeing the consequences. The 14 days of incubation are not up yet and we already have problems,” he said.

Sources had told this newsroom that the people who shared a room with the first reported positive case tested negative despite sharing drinks amongst each other. Asked how this is possible, Barbara explained that it all comes down to the cumulative viral load of the virus.

“There is a cut-off value at which the viral load can cause an infection. So, if someone was exposed once and the dose was not large enough, then they will not get infected,” he explained. “However, without wanting to cause panic, the fact that they tested negative could also mean that they are still in their incubation period. I would not say they are completely free.”

Everyone should be careful with how they interpret results, Barbara warned, adding that every attendee who is calling to get swabbed as early as possible still needs to be cautious since they could still be incubating and test positive later on.

This newsroom also brought up the disregard of the two metre social distancing measure at the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra concert last Wednesday at the PM’s Girgenti summer residence, despite the strict protocols that were released about performances just a week ago.

Asked if he thinks that Prime Minister Robert Abela and his spouse Lydia Abela, who were present for the event, should be more careful and set an example for the public, Barbara said that the virus does not look at what status one has, be they the PM or a normal citizen. Similarly, protocols should be practised by everyone.

“I am all for opening up the economy and the airport etc. But once we do, we have to be much more vigilant. We know that one of the most important things is social distancing and if it is not being followed we need to correct it in my opinion,” he said.

Disregard of social distancing measures has been the downfall of many countries abroad, he explained, which, in turn, had an adverse effect on the economy – “so, let's enjoy the economy by opening up but be careful so that our numbers remain low.”

He also reminded that vulnerable people are now going out which can cause further problems.

“We all have our responsibility. The consequences of us not practising what needs to be done can be really bad. Some people can die from the respiratory complications the virus causes. So why should we not be careful?”

 

 

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