Further restrictions unnecessary unless coronavirus outbreak escalates – Fearne

Malta is prepared for an escalation of a coronavirus outbreak, but more restrictive measures should not be implemented unless this happens, Health Minister Chris Fearne said this afternoon.

Fearne was addressing parliament on the outbreak, fielding questions from no less than 17 MPs in the process. As Prime Minister Robert Abela had done in a press conference earlier today, he sought to reassure that the situation was under control.

So far, five cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Malta, but the minister stressed that these cases have all been imported; the virus has not yet started spreading in Malta. This was an important distinction, Fearne explained, and this was why the measures implemented in Malta were not the same as those implemented in countries where the situation had escalated further.

“Implementing measures late is bad, but so is implementing measures early,” he explained.

So far, public events have been restricted to a maximum of 2,000 people outdoors, and 750 people indoors as a precaution, but this, like other measures, could change if the virus starts spreading locally.

“The government is prepared for the possibility of the virus spreading locally,” Fearne assured. However, he also highlighted that the situation could change rapidly, even within hours.

First cases addressed effectively

The minister emphasised that the health authorities have been prepared for the virus’ arrival in Malta, stating that when the first cases were identified, they were effectively addressed. Among other measures, training has already been provided to over 700 professionals in the health sector.

“These preparations started in January. If we hadn’t prepared, the disease would already have spread across Malta,” he said.

Fearne confirmed that should the situation escalate, 300 isolation beds could be prepared in short order. However, he noted that this would represent a significant escalation, as only around 15-20% of those who contract the virus would require hospitalisation.

The minister also emphasised that the media should be cautious to avoid spreading alarm, insisting that this had not always been the case. He specifically mentioned the Nationalist Party media, urging party leader Adrian Delia to intervene.

If you want to be the first to receive the latest news on the coronavirus in Malta, download the Newsbook APP here