Updated 12.15pm

A 29-year-old-man and a 26-year-old woman have tested positive for coronavirus in Malta.

They are the eighth and ninth COVID-19 cases on the island.

The man is a foreigner who lives and works in Malta. He left for Belgium on March 5 and came back from Brussels on March 8.

He then started showing symptoms - including slight fever - on March 9.

The man, who lives on his own and works for a private company, returned to work upon his arrival, and authorities have started tracing those he came in contact with.  

Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said the authorities will be looking into who was sitting two rows behind and in front of him on the airplane.

The risks are minimal because he did not have any symptoms while travelling, she added. 

The second case for Thursday - 26-year-old woman - is also a foreigner who returned from Berlin on March 10.

She travelled to Amsterdam by bus and then flew to Malta.

In Malta she works for a private company and she returned to work for two hours upon her arrival.

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The woman shares an apartment with three other foreigners, but Gauci said she has claimed that she did not come in contact with others while in Malta.

Similar contact tracing will be carried out in her case.

On Wednesday, a man and a woman, both Maltese, tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the sixth and seventh confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. 

Both had been on a holiday in the Italian Dolomites and had been in self-quarantine. Both are in good condition, Gauci said on Thursday. 

The woman is a 53-year-old relative of the man, a doctor. She started showing symptoms on March 11.

All nine cases in Malta imported

All nine coronavirus cases in Malta have been imported, Gauci said.

"We again appeal to the public to not just turn up at the testing centres but follow the direction of their doctors and health authorities," she said.

The police and the health authorities are working together to enforce the mandatory quarantine rules announced on Wednesday

"We are encouraging people to not go out unnecessarily and we are also urging for teleworking," Gauci said. 

The new coronavirus outbreak has been characterised as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. 

Gauci said authorities will be evaluating the situation and issue measures about schools accordingly.

As things stand, only those who travelled to affected countries should not return to school and should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Travel ban

Malta has halted all travel between Malta and five countries: Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and Spain in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus infections.

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Those returning from these countries, as well as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Iran, South Korea, must follow the mandatory quarantine rules. Mandatory quarantine is for a period of 14 days. Anyone found not adhering to these rules could be fined €1,000.

Italy is under complete lockdown as a result of the virus, and has shut down all businesses except food shops and pharmacies.

A travel ban on Europe imposed by US President Donald Trump, has also seen the European Council President Charles Michel warn that "economic disruption must be avoided."

Vulnerable people to avoid going out unnecessarily 

The health authorities are now also urging people considered vulnerable - mainly the elderly and those with chronic diseases such as asthma and heart conditions - to avoid going out unnecessarily.

While insisting there was no cause for alarm and the authorities were not urging people to stay home, those considered vulnerable should take extra precautions.

"Unless these people really need to go out or to go to crowded places, then they should avoid doing do," Gauci said.

Heed health authorities' advice - President

Meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday, President George Vella appealed to the public not to panic but at the same encouraged everyone to heed the health authorities' advice. 

"The President would like people to understand that the country's health facilities are among the best in Europe and so people should feel safe in the knowledge that under normal circumstances, the recovery rate is very high," a statement from the Office of the President said.

A number of Vella's engagements have also been postponed.  

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