The Italian government has officially confirmed the first two cases of the coronavirus within its borders.
Italy will be suspending flights to and from China after doctors confirmed that two Chinese tourists have tested positive for the deadly virus.
The news came as The World Health Organisation declared a global health emergency yesterday.
Just last week, the WHO decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency amidst an investigation into the virus in Wuhan, China led by a top Maltese physician, Dr Gauden Galea.
Since then, thousands of cases of coronavirus have been reported and the deadly virus has spread overseas with 15 countries confirming infections including the UAE, US, Germany, France and as close as Rome, Italy after two possible cases of the virus were detected onboard a cruise ship.
At least 213 people have since died from the coronavirus so far, most of which are in the Hubei province where the virus emerged.
The spilling over of the coronavirus has consequently warranted a reconsideration by the WHO’s emergency committee and the organisation has reversed its previous decision and declared a global emergency.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
As a result, borders will be closed and flights will be canceled from the viruses’ epicentre, which may cause massive economic disruption for the region.
Malta has already taken precautionary measures in case the virus does reach its shores, with Health Minister Chris Fearne announcing earlier this week that 12 beds will be set up outside Mater Dei Hospital to treat any patients with mild cases of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, serious outbreaks of the virus will be dealt with at the Infectious Disease Unit in the hospital.
In addition, health clinics and emergency departments now also have designated isolation rooms. Aside from this, if a GP alerts authorities that someone may be infected with coronavirus, they can be isolated at home.
Malta International Airport is also screening anyone coming from cities in which cases of the virus have been recorded at an isolation area located in the airport.