People who breach quarantine in relation to the Coronavirus should be fined €5,000, according to the Medical Association of Malta.

“Voluntary quarantine is not working, so it has to be mandatory.” union president Martin Balzan told a press conference outside Mater Dai Hospital on Tuesday.

“Obviously, we can’t afford to have a police officer standing outside the door of everyone who is in quarantine, this is not practical, nor are random spot checks. So, fines are the answer. You get fined if you endanger people in your car, so it should be the same for Coronavirus. If you sneak out when you are supposed to be in isolation, you are endangering the lives of thousands of people.”   

The doctors’ union also heavily criticised the government for not doing enough to protect the health of the Maltese population, saying it has been overruling the advice of health professionals. 

It is insisting that only people resident in Malta should be allowed to travel home to Malta from the three worst effected areas in Italy, Lombardia, Veneto and Emilia Romagna. And anyone who has already been there, should be in mandatory quarantine.

“If the intention is to protect our tourism industry we have to stop going and coming from where the risk is high. If we fail to do this and we get even one case of Coronavirus, the next day there will be no more tourists in Malta. So, the economic argument being made by the government is wrong. It is short-term and short-sighted. The danger is coming from these flights.” 

Balzan also called for the government to more to support private businesses, who may suffer if employees must work from home or take time off. 

“There is an onus on the individual, but mandatory quarantine should not be at the expense of the employer or the employee. Government has to foot the bill. We can’t have small businesses calling their employees who are in quarantine and telling them they have to come to work because the business needs to stay open,” continued Dr Balzan. 

Feeling prepared 

He said preparations for any future case of Coronavirus in Mater Dai are at a “very advanced stage” but he would not confirm where specific isolation units have been set up, should they be needed. “If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have said we were not prepared, but now doctors are going to work and have been informed on what to do.” 

The Medical Association is also encouraging people arriving from North Italy who have symptoms such as a high fever, dry cough or a sore throat to stay at home and call their doctor for advice, rather than presenting at a hospital. “Italy has an epidemic as people went to the emergency department,” added Dr Balzan. “We can help stop any spread here, by staying at home.” 

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