The first cases of COVID-19 coronavirus community transmission were confirmed in Malta on Monday, significantly raising concerns that the virus will spread.

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said nine new cases had been confirmed since Sunday of which three were, for the first time, locally transmitted cases. The total number of cases is now 30.

 

Of the locally transmitted cases, two cases involved healthcare workers who had already been placed in quarantine after having been in contact with another Maltese healthcare worker who contracted the virus while travelling. One of them is a man, 36, who developed the symptoms on March 14. The other is a woman, 23. The two had minimum contact with patients.

The third case is also a healthcare worker.  It is not clear whether she contracted the virus from an Italian flatmate who had been abroad, or from another healthcare worker already confirmed as having the virus.

One of the patients is from Gozo but the virus was transmitted in Malta. The patient has been returned to Malta and is being kept in isolation.

The risk of patients having been infected is minimal, Prof Gauci said. 

The imported cases are a Maltese woman, 26 who had been to Britain, a Maltese man, 36, who was infected while on holiday in Barcelona, a Spanish boy, 15, who came to Malta on holiday and was about to return home, an Italian woman, 49 who was in Rome, an English woman, 32 who came to Malta on March 13 and a Maltese man, 19, who went to Dublin.

Gauci said all confirmed cases so far are in a good state of health. The authorities are tracking down all people they were in contact with. They are being put in isolation.

The first coronavirus case in Malta was confirmed on March 7, and the number of confirmed cases had risen to 21 eight days later. Two of those patients have since recovered.

Malta last week moved to stop the number of imported cases by banning travel from Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and France and later by ordering arrivals from all countries to observe two weeks of mandatory quarantine.

It also introduced several measures to prevent community spread, including a ban on large gatherings, the closure of all schools for a week and the suspension of all religious services. 

Court cases were put off and non-essential medical services postponed. HSBC closed some of its branches as a precaution. Major events including this week’s St Patrick’s Day and the feast of St Joseph in Rabat were cancelled. 

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