Malta looks to start easing COVID-19 measures
Malta is planning to start gradually easing COVID-19 pandemic counter-measures in the coming days after the country registered no new cases, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Sunday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
Out of 448 cases detected in Malta since the confirmation of the first case in early March, 282 have recovered, according to the minister.
Addressing a press conference, Fearne said the sacrifices that people had been asked to make in the past few weeks had paid off.
Malta, he said, took a cautious approach from the outset and had rolled out its plan to be hit by a "river rather than a tsunami" so that the country's healthcare system could be able to cope with the demand.
"We always said that we should aim to avoid a tsunami of cases and instead turn the spread into a river, and we have managed to achieve that, also because the majority of the Maltese people obeyed the guidelines of the health authorities and adhered to the instructions to stay home and stay safe," Fearne said.
He warned that despite the good news, the pandemic was not over yet.
Fearne urged people to continue observing the guidelines that will remain in place for the time being until the health authorities, based on scientific evidence, start to relax some of the measures introduced gradually over the weeks.
He said the measures will see the re-introduction of some of the health services that were stopped to allow the authorities to concentrate on the virus spread. The government will then also see that social life will be gradually restored and economic activity re-activated.
"There could be a second wave so the authorities wanted to make sure that even this hit us slowly so that we can cope with the demand," he said.
Replying to questions, Fearne said 28,000 tests had been carried out and the government did not plan to introduce mandatory testing across the population. It was also against using any app that could track people and invade on their privacy.
Speaking in a radio interview concurrently, Prime Minister Robert Abela said the government was looking at achieving the right balance between restoring life to what it was before the pandemic hit and retaining the success it has had so far in its fight.
The key to managing this process was striking a balance between easing off the measures too soon and not waiting too long.
Malta is currently in partial lockdown, with people over 65 and those suffering from certain health conditions not allowed to leave their homes. It banned travel and is only accepting repatriation flights, with anyone arriving having to spend 14 days in mandatory quarantine.
It also introduced several other measures to prevent community spread over the past few weeks, including a ban on being in groups of more than three people unless from the same household, the closure of all schools and the suspension of all religious services and major events.
Court cases were put off and non-essential surgeries postponed. Banks closed some of their branches as a precaution and the government later ordered the closure of non-essential outlets excluding supermarkets, those selling household items and pharmacies.
Malta is also in the process of ordering a prefabricated 90-bed hospital, similar to the one built in Wuhan, China for COVID-19 patients. It will be set up in the grounds of the only state hospital on the island which has already been extended to full capacity in case it is needed.