The spread of coronavirus to Malta has caused concern and Times of Malta has received hundreds of queries from our readers via email. Vanessa Conneely and Florian Wassmann answer some of the most common questions asked. 

Prevention and protection

How is the coronavirus transferred from one person to another?

According to the World Health Organisation, Covid-19 is transferred by small droplets from nose or mouth after coughing or exhaling. Another person can breathe in the droplets and get infected. You should stay at least one metre away from a sick person. If you are the person coughing or sneezing, do so into your elbow or a tissue and wash your hands afterwards.

Can you contract coronavirus by walking in the street without any contact with other people?

Since the virus is mainly spread through droplets coughed or sneezed by a sick person, you are unlikely to contract it if you don’t have contact with people. When walking on the street, you would need to touch a contaminated surface to catch it. That’s why it is important to keep your fingers away from your nose, mouth and eyes and to wash hands frequently.

Cooked food does not pose a threat

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Health Minister Chris Fearne is advising anyone who thinks they might have come in contact with the virus to call the 111 helpline. He also says doctors will be sent out to test for suspected cases. So stay at home and away from others as much as possible. The symptoms of coronavirus are fever, tiredness and dry cough but some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea.  

Travel

The government early on Tuesday banned all to Italy amid drastic coronavirus measures. The following questions were received and answered before the ban.

Do you have to self-quarantine if you come in from Sicily?

So far, the Italian government has isolated the entire Lombardy region and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna) Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche) Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli (all in Piemonte)Padova Treviso and Venezia (in Veneto). Malta’s health authorities are urging people to avoid non-essential travel to these parts of northern Italy. People returning from these areas are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Currently, there is no such restriction for Sicily. However, individual work places may make different requests on employees.

What about people who come here from Italy?

While there hasn’t been an outright government ban on travelling to Malta from Italy, flights from the worst affected regions have stopped. Ryanair has suspended its flights from Bergamo, a day after Air Malta stopped its daily flights from Milan. Anyone arriving in Malta has their temperature checked.

I am travelling to Malta. How can I get tested to see if I contracted the disease while in transit?

Since hospitals and doctors don’t want to get overwhelmed, they are not testing people unless they show symptoms, have been to an affected area or have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19.

Places to avoid?

Should I visit nursing homes since the elderly are the most at risk?

Nursing homes across the country are taking extra precautions. Visiting hours have been restricted and anyone entering is asked to wash and sterilise their hands. Notices have been placed around facilities, asking patients to tell staff if they experience symptoms.

Should I send my child to school if we have been away or he/she is sick?

So far schools have mainly been asking children who returned from affected countries and areas to stay home for 15 days and only return with a medical certificate. However, it is best to check with your child’s school about their preferred precautions.

I’m concerned about people who work in restaurants and bars transmitting the virus through food or drinks they serve customers.

People working in the service sector have a special hygiene guideline which – if followed correctly – avoids the contamination of plates and glasses. Cooked food does not pose a threat.

Health risks

I have diabetes. Am I more at risk?

After catching the coronavirus, people with diabetes and other underlying health conditions appear to develop serious illness more often than others, according to the WHO.

What are my chances of dying?

Scientists are still unable to determine the fatality rate as it is uncertain how many people have become infected. Illness is generally mild, particularly for children and young adults.

But it can cause serious illness. One in five people who catch it need hospital care, according to the World Health Organisation.

People with underlying medical conditions such as a high blood pressure, heart or lung disease or cancer are more likely to evolve severe symptoms and therefore are at higher risk.

So far people aged over 80 have made up the most fatalities.


Coronavirus: Your questions, answered 

What do you want to know about the coronavirus? Email us your questions and we’ll ask the experts: newsroom@timesofmalta.com.

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