Test for coronavirus in Malta; result negative – Health Authorities

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A test for the new virus from China was carried out in Malta, the result of which was negative, health authorities said.

The Head of the Superintendence for Public Health Professor Charmaine Gauci told Newsbook.com.mt that so far only one test for the coronavirus from China (nCoV) was carried out in Malta. She also said that authorities were following up on four people with links to recent travel in China.

On Monday evening health authorities organised a seminar about the novel coronavirus for healthcare professionals at the Malta Life Sciences Park in San Ġwann. The consensus of the panel was that there was no cause for alarm in the country.

The Chairperson of the Malta Medicines Authority Prof. Anthony Serracino-Inglott attributed the “fuss” about the new virus to the fear of the unknown. Nevertheless, he said that scientifically speaking one can’t ignore the unknown.

Dr Tanya Melillo Fenech from the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Unit said that Malta is currently in the “containment phase”. She explained that a system is already in place which can pickup people coming from China. Screening can then take place. Quarantine facilities are available in the event of confirmed cases.

Professor Michael Borg from the Infectious Disease Department at Mater Dei hospital told Newsbook.com.mt that the hospital had enough protective equipment including masks for staff. Another consignment of protective gear is expected to arrive within the coming days.

Prof. Borg said that people travelling on planes who were worried about getting infected should take a bottle of alcohol rub with them applying it regularly to their hands throughout the flight. Rather than the general public wearing face masks, Prof. Borg said he would focus on proper hand hygiene. He also added that the coronavirus might remain viable in the environment for 48 hours.

Prof. Gauci said that there might be shortages of protective equipment from private agents. General practitioners who can’t source equipment on their own can contact Mater Dei hospital to obtain the necessary kits.

Prof. Michael Borg also explained that every patient with coronavirus will infect roughly two people. In comparison, a person infected with swine flu would infect 1.6 people.

The Chairperson of the Mater Dei Pathology Department Dr Chris Barbara said that the initial test for the coronavirus produces a resul within two hours. He explained that the test is very sensitive and quite specific. While the chances for false negatives was low, he said that if one tests a patient too early a case might be missed.

The seminar was organised by the Malta Medicines Authority, the Academy for Patient Centred Excellence and Innovation in Regulatory Sciences, and the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department.

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The coronavirus will eventually hit Malta, said Health Minister Chris Fearne. But he was quick to add that Malta is well prepared for any eventuality. Fearne was interviewed by Peppi Azzopardi on Xarabank Friday evening. Minister Fearne said that Malta is not immune to the virus as we are part of the world and we are no different from other countries.