The government is planning to quarantine migrants with coronavirus at sea after 19 of the 33 migrants brought to Malta on Wednesday tested positive.

They bring the number of positive cases in Malta so far up to 131 with further updates expected in the official announcement expected at 12.30pm.

The government said on Thursday that all 33 were isolated and tested according to protocol that dictates all migrants arriving by boat are immediately quarantined and tested.

Those who tested positive will stay in isolation at the Ħal Far Initial Reception Centre and the rest will remain in quarantine. 

Another group of 94 migrants who were rescued by the AFM on Monday after the boat they were crammed onto started taking in water. Sixty-six of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the government said it will be issuing a call for expressions of interest for a vessel on which to keep immigrants in quarantine.

The Home Affairs Ministry said it was working hard to reduce the number of arrivals, and in the past weeks thousands of migrants who had embarked on a trip from Libya were saved in Libyan waters and returned to the point they had departed from.

Work had also continued for the relocation and return of people who were not eligible for protection, it said.

In spite of this, there would always be cases where the choice would be to either save people in Maltese waters or let them die. In such cases, the government said it had no choice but to save them in line with its legal and international obligations.

All necessary precautions had so far been taken in cases where migrants were found positive to COVID-19, keeping them in isolation, the government insisted. It said a clinic has been opened at Ħal Far, operated by the Red Cross. 

At this stage, the government felt there should also be the option of setting up base on board a ship to manage the situation in the best possible way.

This had to complement government work, which was above all focused on preventing arrivals, it said.

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