Gauden Galea, the Maltese physician who is spearheading the World Health Organisation’s investigation into the COVID-19 coronavirus in China, is now using his contacts there to help out his home country.
Public health professor Neville Calleja told Times of Malta that, thanks to Galea’s contacts in China and the Malta Trust Foundation, Maltese health authorities were able to have a 1.5 hour long teleconference with a top respiratory specialist in Wuhan, which used to be the epicentre of the coronavirus.
“This was invaluable when it came to understanding how it is contracted and spreads and how we should treat it,” Calleja said. “China has had the most cases, so no other country has their level of experience and expertise right now.”
While China has recorded more COVID-19 cases than any other country, the epidemic has slowed down significantly and there have been no locally transmitted cases for two days in a row. China has said that the 39 new cases it confirmed today were all imported from other countries.
Calleja said Malta is basing its response to the coronavirus crisis on a model adopted by Singapore, which has introduced social distancing measures without imposing a total lockdown.
“While some people are critical of the fact that flights were still being allowed to come in from the outside, passenger numbers have dropped on their own, so even that is reducing the risk of infection,” he said.
The physician noted that Malta has had a slightly slower growth rate of coronavirus than other European countries so far, helped by the fact that it is a small island which can control its borders more easily.
However, he urged against a sense of complacency, warning that even if the virus were to leave Malta, there will still be a risk of it returning in a second wave if the country lets its guard down.
“Malta doesn’t want to make the same difficult decisions as Italy, where those who are over 80 are no longer being treated because the healthcare system is so overrun,” he said.
Malta has so far registered 53 cases of the coronavirus, out of which two have fully recovered and the rest are believed to be in good health. It only registered five new cases yesterday, a decline from the ten cases registered on Wednesday.
However, Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci urged against a sense of complacency, arguing that the numbers are still very low and the worst is yet to come.
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