An isolation unit with 12 beds for mild cases of Coronavirus will be set up outside Mater Dei Hospital by the end of the week, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Wednesday.

Critical cases would be treated at the Infectious Diseases Unit inside the hospital, the minister added.

He stressed, however, that no cases of Coronavirus have been reported in Malta.

All people coming from cities where transmission of the virus has been recorded, are being screened at Malta International Airport.


Most people flying in from China would have taken transit flights, so these passengers are being identified and screened in an isolation area at the airport.
Results from swab tests taken during screening are out within two hours.

All health clinics and the emergency department have been allocated isolation rooms, and if GPs alert the authorities about a case within the community, the infected person can be isolated at home, Mr Fearne said during a press briefing.

Should a case be confirmed, a process of contact tracing will kick in and people who came in touch with the infected person will be isolated for 15 days.

In the meantime, medical staff who need to treat the patient will be provided with a visor, mask, gown and gloves. There are some 10,000 units of such clothing in stock, and another 160,000 on the way.

Any Coronavirus case in Gozo will be isolated in Malta.

The minister gave an assurance that people can eat Chinese food, and collect parcels from China as long as they would have been sent 48 hours earlier - the time a virus can live outside of a live host.

Replying to questions regarding about Maltese people in China, the minister said that so far, the  World Health Organisation has not issued any recommendations and the Maltese health authorities are in ongoing discussions with the Foreign Affairs authorities.

Mr Fearne speaking at the press conference with Superintendent for public health Charmaine Gauci and chair of the National Antibiotic Committee Michael Borg.Mr Fearne speaking at the press conference with Superintendent for public health Charmaine Gauci and chair of the National Antibiotic Committee Michael Borg.

What do we know?

Mr Fearne explained that while the first case of Coronavirus was reported in China on December 31, medics worldwide do not yet have a comprehensive picture of the new virus.

"The situation is quite fluid and all the information we have at the moment can change from one hour to another," he said.

The Coronavirus's consequences and the way it is transmitted are similar to, but not linked in any way, to the regular flu, he said, adding that more than 95 per cent - probably 98 per cent - of those who get the virus have a full recovery.

The differences between the flu and Coronavirus are that there is no herd immunity, no vaccination and no medical treatment.

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said the virus is transmitted through coughing, sneezing or close personal contact such as shaking of hands.
If someone sneezes on a surface, the virus will live on that surface for between 24 and 48 hours.

"Avoid contact with infected people, just like you would do in flu cases. Wash your hands frequently and if you go abroad avoid live animal markets and crowds," Prof Gauci added.



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