Watch: Asylum seekers get tested like others coming from high-risk countries

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The mandatory testing for asylum seekers takes place as they hail from a high-risk country for Covid-19 – Libya – the head of Mater Dei Hospital’s Infectious Disease Prevention & Control Unit Tanya Melillo said.

During a Newsbook Q&A, Dr Melillo highlighted that the same policy is in place for people coming from other high-risk countries, specifically naming India and the US as examples. In contrast, no such requirements are placed on those who reach Malta from countries deemed to be low risk.

At present, Malta counts 215 active cases of Covid-19, of which 88 are asylum seekers who have been kept isolated from the general population since their arrival. Only a few other cases are imported: most hail from various clusters, including a pool party in a St Julians hotel, the Santa Venera feast and Paceville.

PM lays blame on migrants

But in his reaction to the ongoing spike in Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that the asylum seekers were mostly to blame, minimising the impact of the mass events that have brought about the various ongoing clusters.

His xenophobic line of reasoning drew sharp criticism from the Medical Association of Malta however, as well as from civil society NGO Repubblika.

On her part, Melillo highlighted that the asylum seekers who tested positive for Covid-19 could be considered to be imported cases, much as any other patient landing at the airport would be.

Precautions at the airport

An airport spokesman explained to that various procedures and measures were in place to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading, including the following:

  • Thermal screening for all passengers, whether departing or arriving in Malta. This screening is done through specialised cameras monitored by health professionals, who stop any passenger whose body temperature exceeds 37.2°C.
  • Passengers landing in Malta are asked to fill two forms so that they can be easily be contacted, should a Covid-19 case be identified among those who took the same flight.
  • Over 120 hand sanitising stations have been installed around the airport.
  • Signage reminds passengers to keep their distance from each other.
  • The pathways followed by passengers have been reorganised, so that departures and arrivals do not cross paths.

The measures may be viewed here.