Updated 6.55pm, adds Malta Association of Public Health Medicine statement

The number of people tested for the coronavirus has reached 56, the health authorities said on Tuesday, confirming the swab tests had, however, all come back negative. 

In a press briefing, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said there had been 56 people who showed signs of the new virus and who were, therefore, subject to a swab test. 

None of these patients tested positive for the virus, she said. 

Reacting to doctors’ call for quarantine by those travelling to and from affected countries to be mandatory, Gauci said the current decisions being taken are in proportion to the risks.

People travelling to these countries are being asked to stay home for 14 days, however, the authorities are not monitoring whether they are actually sticking to these recommendations. 

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Downplaying the doctors’ concerns, the superintendent said she would be meeting them later on Tuesday to discuss their worries but would not say whether mandatory quarantine was being considered by the public health authorities. 

On reports that the Sir Paul Boffa Hospital in Floriana is being cleared away to be used as an isolation unit in case there is an outbreak of the new virus, Gauci would not comment. 

Meanwhile, the health authorities continue to be in touch with their European counterparts to ensure any measures, including those related to vaccines, are also implemented in Malta. 

The superintendent also appealed to people to follow the authorities’ guidelines and to act in a responsible way, especially when following quarantine orders. 

MAPHM statement

In a statement on Tuesday evening, the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine (MAPHM) expressed concern at the rising number of cases in countries neighbouring Malta.

It called on the government to immediately implement a ‘COVID-19 first’ policy, where all government departments made the fight against the virus their top priority.

It noted that it was only a matter of time until the first case was diagnosed in Malta and to prevent and possibly contain transmission, Malta needed to urgently implement tried-and-tested public health measures. 

The country’s public health authorities needed to be empowered to take all actions necessary to prevent a worst-case scenario.

Such actions included pushing messages on good hygiene, mandatory isolation in an identified site for infected people, quarantine of all close contacts of infected persons, suspension of public gatherings, movement restrictions with all flights from regions with sustained local transmission stopping completely, and mandatory quarantine for people who travelled to areas with sustained local transmission.

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