Q: We are a 63-year-old couple. Our son and his wife are flying from Valencia on July 4 and are staying with us in our house. How safe do you think it is to have them in our household straight from the airport? If they decide to do a swab test, is it more recommendable for them to do it upon arrival or at a later stage? – Agnes Scicluna

Maintaining good hand hygiene and an adequate physical distance from others are still the most important factors to protect oneself. Malta offers random testing for asymptomatic persons. There is no obligatory testing for people coming from abroad through the countries listed in Legal Notice 244 of 2020. However, if they wish to do the test, it is recommended to be done within 48 hours of arrival in Malta and repeated between 10-13 days from arrival. Such testing may be done in any public or private testing centre. An appointment at the public testing centres can be arranged by contacting 111 or 2132 4086. 

Q: I have to attend court, however I am on immunosuppressant for a transplant along with steroids and take insulin for diabetes. What is your recommendation? – Michael Fiorini

Mitigation measures are in place in court to protect staff and visitors.  Persons need to wear a mask or visor at all times. It is also important to maintain a safe distance of two metres from other persons, regularly using alcohol rub and leaving the court when your session is finished.

Q: Are any people randomly selected for testing and if so, is it compulsory once selected? – Bryan Caruana

Viral tests check samples from the nasopharynx to check for the virus that causes COVID-19. Tests are carried out on symptomatic people or persons who wish to test themselves especially if they suspect they were exposed. Testing is also carried out in workplaces as part of the enhanced testing strategy.

Q: I am terrified of having anything inserted up my nose. Will a blood test for COVID-19 be available in Malta? If not, can someone decline the swab up the nose and have the throattested only? – Chantal Sciberras

Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19. The viral test will detect a person who has an infection through a nasopharyngeal swab. This is the best swab to be taken. However, in case of difficulty, this is discussed with the health care provider.

The other test is an antibody test (tested through a blood sample) which might tell you if you had a past infection. The antibody test might not show if one has a current infection because it can take one to three weeks after infection to develop antibodies. Therefore, it is not used a diagnostic test. 

Q: I cannot understand how face masks do not safeguard the wearer but only the other person.  How do we safeguard ourselves then? – Hamish Dempster

Face masks are to be worn in public settings such as grocery stores, pharmacies, medical clinics, retail outlets and on public transport.

Surgical masks or cloth face coverings slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Such masks filter out large particles in the air and protect others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer.

Face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus, so it is important to be responsible and everyone wears it at recommended places.

Q: Treatment is still not COVID-19 specific. What sort of treatments are you using for infected patients? Is it working effectively or is it that you haven’t had serious cases of late? – Anna Briffa

At present, no medicine has demonstrated efficacy in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Moderate to severely ill patients require supportive care and oxygen supplementation. 

A number of medicines undergoing clinical trials to assess their safety and efficacy as potential treatments for COVID-19, include the anti-viral remdesivir, systemic interferons, the anti-viral combination lopinavir/ritonavir, and monoclonal antibodies against components of the immune system.  It is important that the potential treatments are carefully assessed in randomised controlled trials. 

Q: As the focus has been solely on COVID-19 for the past months, we have not heard about other conditions. We usually get updates on conditions like diabetes, for instance, heart conditions, cancer and obesity. Are there any new trends we should be worried about? – Chris Borg

Health authorities have been taking a holistic view to healthcare throughout the pandemic. We have been monitoring other conditions throughout the pandemic, especially through mortality monitoring.  Malta is one of the participants of EUROMOMO, which measures excess mortality in participating countries, week by week.

One may notice that mortality in Malta, including that from other conditions, has been within the limits of normal throughout the period of the pandemic. In our transitioning phases, we did not only focus on the de-escalation of public health measures, but also, on the ramp-up of healthcare to curb the risk of complications among those suffering from chronic diseases.

As from the first release of measures back on May 4, the announcement included the reactivation of several elective healthcare services that will help reduce the burden of chronic diseases.

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

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