It seems as though the UV index is higher than usual this year, already reaching highs of 11 and 12. Should we be worried? Is it safe to go out in the sun when the index is this high? - Christina Micallef

Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn and permanent damage to the skin. This can lead to the development of skin cancer. Adolescents and young children are at a greater risk of skin damage due to overexposure of the sun. One should be especially careful and adopt adequate sun protection with a UV index of six or higher.

Some tips for prevention include:

• Limit time in the midday sun

The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm. To the extent possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.

• Watch for the UV index

This important resource helps you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun’s rays. While you should always take precautions against overexposure, take special care to adopt sun safety practices when the UV index predicts exposure levels of moderate or above.

• Use shade wisely

Seek shade when UV rays are the most intense, but keep in mind that shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection. Remember the shadow rule: “Watch your shadow – Short shadow, seek shade!”

• Wear protective clothing

A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, and the back or your neck. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 per cent UV-A and UV-B protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.

• Use sunscreen

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30+ liberally and reapply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.

We live in a block of flats and all owners and tenants use a common lift. No one uses a mask and no one sanitises except myself. How should we go about this, taking into consideration that some flats are rented on very short lets and strangers are in and out of the block? - Mary Darmanin

Precautions are important in apartment complexes because communal areas increase the risk for the spread of COVID-19. Ideally all owners should agree on protecting each other and also agree on a schedule to clean and disinfect common areas daily. If there are shared areas such as the laundry, it would be best to create a schedule to avoid interactions. It is best to use the stairs instead of the elevator and avoid gatherings in common areas. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

How safe is it for a baby to travel on a plane? Wearing all the necessary precautions, face masks, hand sanitiser, not touching your face, mouth or eyes for us adults is doable, but how should we protect a baby? - Aisling Stafford

COVID-19 is not very frequent in children under the age of one year. However, they are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19. This is likely due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop complications. If you need to travel, take personal protective measures like face coverings for yourself, hand hygiene and keep the social distance to reduce the transmission rate of the virus. This does not eliminate the risk entirely.

Airlines require employees and passengers to wear face masks during flights except when eating or drinking. Very young children are exempt from wearing a face mask.

Are boat parties advisable at the moment? - Josephine Vella

Parties pose a higher risk for COVID-19 as multiple factors promote transmission of the virus. Usually at parties, people are socialising in large groups, sometimes in tight spaces, and drinking alcohol, which lowers inhibitions and makes it less likely for people to stick to preventive measures including keeping a distance from each other. Usually during parties, people tend to talk more loudly, which only increases the chance of spraying viruses on to others.

We are non-smokers and were so very happy that smoking, at least until June 30, was not allowed within 10 metres of a restaurant’s outside tables. Is this regulation still in force? – Mark Castillo

As of April 2004, smoking was restricted in all enclosed public spaces, including public transportation, clubs and restaurants however this legislation did not cover outside dining areas. Considering that 80 per cent of the population does not smoke and that Malta offers beautiful outside dining areas, along the years we had various complaints from people who were exposed to smoke from a near dining table.

The legal notice 206/2020 whereby smoking is only allowed if it is done 10 metres away from the place where food is being served was enacted as outside areas offer a safer dining option than indoors for COVID-19. This legislation is still in force.

One needs to keep in mind that 80 per cent of the population are non-smokers, so it is important to protect the health of the people and the minority who have not managed to quit can smoke at a distance.

I am on steroids and immunosuppresants. Is travelling to Gozo safe for people like me? - Marthese Borg

People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of getting complications from COVID-19.

Hence it is recommended to take the precautions including social distancing and avoiding crowds, hand hygiene and wearing of masks where recommended.

Charmaine Gauci, Superintendent for Public Health

Have any questions to ask the superintendent? Send an e-mail to askcharmaine@timesofmalta.com.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us