The Malta Independent 1 November 2020, Sunday

Covid-19 weekly briefing - Two patients on ventilators in Intensive Therapy Unit

Friday, 18 September 2020, 12:20 Last update: about 2 months ago

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci delivering her weekly Covid-19 briefing earlier today, and gave a breakdown of the current situation.

On Friday, a 91-year-old woman became the 17th person to die whilst being positive for the Coronavirus.

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39 cases were found on Friday.

Gauci said 9 persons are being treated at the Infectious Diseases Unit, and two are being treated at the Intensive Therapy Unit. Those two patients are breathing with the help of a ventilator. 12 are being kept in other wards, 10 are at Boffa Hospital and 12 are at St Thomas Hospital.

She said that, in this second wave, the number of cases is increasing. “We saw a peak and now the numbers are increasing again, as is happening in many other countries around the world.”

She said that thanks to the measures taken, clusters related to entertainment venues and events have been eliminated.

The biggest clusters now are related to care homes. 117 cases related to care homes were discovered over the past week. The number includes both residents and staff members.

The authorities have introduced new measures to control the situation.

71 other cases were related to family clusters. There were only 4 new cases related to workplaces, Gauci said. This means that control measures are effective.

The health superintendent said that when someone tests positive, it is important that they self-isolate. Ideally, they should not share bedrooms and bathrooms within the same residence. People who visit that household to help out could be putting themselves at risk, she said, and caution should be exercised. If someone delivers groceries, for example, these should be left outside.

Average age of those who tested positive over the past days is 50.6 years. Gauci said testing is being increased and anyone with symptoms is urged to call the 111 helplines for an appointment. People showing symptoms should stay at home. Social distancing guidelines should be followed at all times and gatherings should be avoided.

Public gatherings have been capped at 15 people but, if possible, groups should be even smaller. The use of masks is also being emphasised by the World Health Organisation. These should be used everywhere outside of the house.

Gauci also referred to the travel lists, which are being evaluated on a weekly basis. There will be no change this week since the situation has remained stable. Romaina, parts of Spain, parts of France, Tunisia and the Czech Republic remain on the Amber list.

Random tests at the airport continue. 11 persons have so far been found to be positive for Covid.

Gauci said that people who are at risk of infection should avoid visiting elderly relatives at care homes. Masks should always be worn during such visits and the relevant guidelines should always be followed.

She also referred to the contact tracing app launched on Friday, which will complement the ongoing manual process.

She explained that the app works anonymously and does not share personal data. If a user tests positive, they can then input a Covid code, and their device would alert anyone who would have been in close proximity to them.

Replying to questions by this newsroom, Gauci said the two elderly people being treated at the ITU are breathing using a ventilator and their condition is not stable.

Gauci was also asked why staff at care homes are not working month-long shifts, like they were at the beginning of the pandemic.

She replied that, while this system had worked well some care homes, other homes where staff went home at the end of the day had also managed to control the spread of Covid-19.

“The important thing is to have strict infection control protocols in place and that PPE is used. When there is a break in infection control, the virus can spread from one person to the entire care home population.”

Gauci gave a breakdown of the outbreak in elderly homes, and explained that there were two residents from Casa San Paolo in St. Paul's Bay, 30 residents and six carers from Casa Antonia in Balzan and 97 residents and 23 carers from St Joseph Home in Fgura who have the virus.

Asked for a reaction to calls, by the teachers’ unions, to postpone the reopening of schools, Gauci said the authorities are doing all they can to control the spread of the virus in the community. If the infection rate is low, the risk that the virus will reach schools will be lower, she said. Gauci said the authorities recognise the importance of teaching but said there can never ‘zero’ risk.

Gauci added that so far, less than five per cent of those with COVID-19 are children.

Giving detail on the number of migrants who have tested positive, Gauci said that in the past week there have been no new cases among migrants, so the situation remains the same, but with more recoveries. She said that the original number of cases of migrants was;  37 cases in Marsa, and in Safi one case.

The press conference is being live streamed below.

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