Five new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed overnight as authorities say the numbers contracting the virus through local transmission are increasing. 

Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci said that there are now 139 people with the virus out of 4,662 tested.  

Her briefing came as around a quarter of the population will be under lockdown from Saturday as part of measures to protect the most vulnerable. 

She said that there were five positives out of 432 swabs taken on Thursday. Of the new cases, one was related to travel and four were contracted in Malta. 

Of all the cases, roughly half were related to people being abroad while half picked up the virus in the community, she said. 

Most of the patients in Malta have mild symptoms. Two are being treated in the Intensive Treatment Unit at Mater Dei, but a 61-year-old, who also has health complications, is about to leave the unit because his condition is stable. 

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The new cases are:

A 23-year-old Maltese man, who lives in the UK but arrived back to Malta on March 17 and began feeling symptoms the following day. Contact tracing is being carried out on fellow passengers on his flight and his relatives are being tested. The man has been in quarantine since his arrival.  

A 23-year-old Maltese man, who was in contact with a person who had previously tested positive. Testing is being carried out on those he worked with and members of his family. 

A 32-year-old Maltese man with light symptoms who was found through screening at Mater Dei hospital, where he was due to have an operation. He had no history of travel or contact with confirmed cases.

A 30-year-old Indian man, who lives in Malta and is a healthcare worker, who had symptoms on March 23 and was in contact with a person who had previously tested positive. Contact tracing is being carried out on staff and patients.

A 23-year-old man from Gambia, who lives in Malta and had symptoms on March 24. He did not go to work since exhibiting symptoms and his housemate is being tested. 

Asked about the delay between the onset of symptoms and authorities reporting a case, Gauci said this reflects a delay in people calling the helpline.

Clarity on new measures

In the question and answer section of the news conference, Gauci was asked to clarify some aspects of the Saturday lockdown that will affect the elderly, pregnant and those with certain medical conditions.

Addressing the concerns of people worried about who will care for their animals, she said that if no one can help, authorities will make an exemption. The person will be allowed to go out to take care of the animals and then return home. 

She said that people who live with the elderly should continue to do so and in certain circumstances, where it is not possible for them to work from home, they can leave for work and buy essentials.

Gauci also reiterated an appeal to employers to allow teleworking wherever possible. 

On reports of packed crowds at bus stops, Gauci said the authorities were taking measures to keep people two metres apart. 

 

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