Newsbook Q&A goes through the coronavirus process

Amy Borg interviews Dr Tanya Melillo

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Today at 4pm Newsbook.com.mt will be interviewing Dr Tanya Melillo, Public Health Consultant who will be answering the stream of questions which the public has not stopped sending.

She will also go through the process of the coronavirus test: from swab to result. Can they get it wrong? Why is it so effective? Can I have coronavirus and not know?

Journalist Amy Borg will interview Dr Tanya Melillo on Newsbook.com.mt with the questions you have sent.

17:00 Thank you for following us.
Monique Agius
16:58 Many are worried that one would need to continue practice social distancing once the outbreak is over?

Dr Melillo: For now, we need to continue practicing social distance. Once we start lifting the measures these will be done gradually. It won't happen overnight. The situation we would like to avoid is thinking it's over only to get a second wave.
Monique Agius
16:56 Is it time to implement more restrictive measures and close other shops?

Dr Melillo says that as a country we were lucky because the measures were implemented earlier on. She says that at this point there was no need to implement more restrictive measures.

It is important to continue practicing social distancing.

The measures which were taken earlier on are paying off, Dr Melillo remarks.
Monique Agius
16:53 Many do not believe that they have tested positive. Others were concerned especially those who are living with elderly parents. Most were in shock but that is understandable, Dr Melillo explains.

Dr Melillo remarks that those who live alone most probably suffered the most not only due to coronavirus but due to loneliness.
Monique Agius
16:49 Why is it that not all residents at Hal Far open centre tested at once?

Dr Melillo explains that by systematically testing all residents one may test negative but might develop symptoms later. She explains that the health authorities are testing residents unit by unit. Those who test positive are then isolated.

Residents at Hal Far open centre are very cooperative and would like to get tested. Despite the language barrier in some cases, they do understand what is going on, Dr Melillo says.
Monique Agius
16:46 Dr Melillo explains in case of house sharing and one of the housemates are placed under mandatory quarantine. She underlines that these people would not be allowed out.
Monique Agius
16:44 What about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the frontliners' mental health?

Dr Melillo explains that there is a pandemic response plan in place. The plan takes into account the psychological aspect of the healthcare workers who are working under pressure and especially those who are working in ITU. She says that counselling sessions were being offered to healthcare workers.
Monique Agius
16:43 What medicine is being given to those being treated at home?

Dr Melillo says those at ITU would need a higher dose of concentrated oxygen. These people would be breathing with the help of ventilator.

The doctors will give antibiotics in the case of a secondary bacterial infection.
Monique Agius
16:41 What treatment is being given to patients who are at the IDU and how is this different from those recovering at home?

Dr Melillo says that many are recovering at home because they had mild symptoms. She explains that those being treated at the Infectious Diseases Unit it is most likely because they have chronic illnesses.
Monique Agius
16:35 What is being done to reach out the foreigners living in Malta?

Dr Melillo says that the health authorities were working closely to the NGOs. The NGOs have provided leaflets translated into different languages. The health authorities have found assistance from the embassies too.

Unfortunately the Maltese when they see the sun, they go out, she remarks. She reiterates the call to remain home and avoid going to places where others are likely to gather.

Studies show that social distancing and hand washing are effective against the virus, Dr Melillo says.
Monique Agius
16:33 A reader has asked to widen the testing to reach more individuals.

Dr Melillo says that apart from those who are coming forward through 111, health care workers and residents at Hal Far 'Tent Village' were being tested. She says that in these cases, those who tested positive were not necessarily symptomatic.
Monique Agius
16:32 Given your experience in the sector, how are you looking at the coronavirus?

Dr Melillo has headed the department for the past 15 years. This means she has experienced past public health challenges such as ebola, zika and H1N1.

She says that coronavirus gave the health authorities more challenges.

"The virus is still one step ahead of us," Dr Melillo says referring that there is not enough information.
Monique Agius
16:30 Can a person who has recovered from coronavirus, contract it again? Should one continue practicing social distancing?

Dr Melillo replies in the affirmative. She explains that there is not enough information about the new virus. Studies are currently underway to establish such details. She refers to influenza and highlights that every year one has to take a yearly vaccine.

Such details are not known at this stage to be able to establish what to do next year.
Monique Agius
16:27 The next question is about those individuals who have recovered. So far, 150 people have recovered fully. Do you test for antibodies, Amy asks.

Dr Melillo says that they are still validating the tests since they have proved to be unreliable. The health authorities are getting new kits and validating them before using them on a mass scale.
Monique Agius
16:26 What has changed in test kits?

Dr Melillo explains that the change was in colour and has changed because the kit would have been bought from a different place.
Monique Agius
16:24 Should one continue wearing contact lenses?

When wearing contact lenses, one should wash their hands thoroughly. Dr Melillo stresses that the importance of washing one hands after wearing glasses. Hand sanitizer can be used to clean one's mobile phone and glasses.
Monique Agius
16:23 One cannot wear a mask today and then wear it again two days later. The mask has been contaminated, Dr Melillo stresses.
Monique Agius
16:20 Do you think masks and gloves should become mandatory?

Gloves – no, she says. If one wears gloves but do not wash those gloves frequently with alcohol or hand sanitizer, then it is useless, Dr Melillo explains.

She says that it is not enough to just wear gloves or masks, it is important to be aware of how to wear and remove protective clothing to avoid self-contamination. Health care workers receive training on how to do this.

It ends in a situation of false protection. One would think they are protecting themselves but instead they are making it worse for themselves.
Monique Agius
16:19 A patient does not need to wear gloves in hospital since one practises hand hygiene. It's important for one to wash their hands frequently, she underlines.
Monique Agius
16:15 What about patients receiving chemotherapy?

Dr Melillo says that patients receiving chemotherapy should not be afraid. She acknowledges that cancer patients have been through a lot. She explains that it is important to keep to the time allotted. There is nothing wrong in wearing a mask, Dr Melillo says. She reiterates that is important to practise social distancing.

Staff at Mater Dei Hospital are also taking the necessary measures to minimise the risk.

It is important not to miss one's appointment, Dr Melillo says.
Monique Agius
16:14 An asymptomatic person who is carrier can recover on their own just like those who have tested positive, Dr Melillo explains. She adds that these people will shed the virus just like others who are symptomatic.
Monique Agius
16:13 There aren't enough studies to determine why men are more likely to contract coronavirus, Dr Melillo says.
Monique Agius
16:12 Another question concerns those patients who suffer from hay fever and in which case the symptoms are similar to coronavirus.

Dr Melillo says that many a time, patients realise it's different from the usual symptoms. She urges those concerned to get in touch with the health authorities and take the test.
Monique Agius
16:09 She explains that a patient will have to take a survey in order for the health authorities to carry out a risk assessment. This will allow the authorities to understand whether other contacts are at a high or low risk of contracting the virus.

A different section will call each contact and inform them that they have a fourteen day mandatory quarantine period. Those in quarantine will receive an email.

There is another group who are taking care of those individuals who have tested positive and subsequently recovered.

There are different teams and processes in place, Dr Melillo explains.
Monique Agius
16:06 Many have complained of a nose bleed following a swab test and they suspected that they tested negative because of this. Dr Melillo is asked to clarify if this is the case.

Dr Melillo says that the nose bleed will not impact the result.

She explains that results are sent by email or via SMS. In cases where wrong details were given, it is taking longer.

Dr Melillo explains that when someone tests positive for coronavirus, her team would call the patient to announce the result and start contact tracing procedures.
Monique Agius
16:05 Dr Melillo explains that the swab consists of a long cotton wool which is inserted via the nose. She underlines that one needs to relax and refrain from moving around. Some patients are more sensitive than others and such individuals can experience a nose bleed.
Monique Agius
16:03 What is the process for one to get tested for coronavirus?

Dr Melillo: It is important to call 111 if you suspect of having developed the symptoms associated with coronavirus. It is important to call and try again if you call during peak times. Individuals are asked for for their personal information. Once this data is inputted into the system, the hubs will receive the information and this will be used to set up the appointment.
Monique Agius
16:02 Journalist Amy Borg will be hosting this Q&A session.
Monique Agius
15:57 Public Health Consultant Dr Tanya Melillo will be replying to the questions sent in by our readers in today's Q&A session.
Monique Agius
15:56 Don't forget to download the Newsbook.com.mt app and subscribe to our WhatsApp alerts for the latest updates.
Monique Agius
15:49 Good afternoon and welcome to Newsbook Q&A.
Monique Agius

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