On Wednesday, March 11, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced a ban on all air and sea travel to and from Germany, France, Spain, and Switzerland beginning on Thursday, March 12, due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This follows an announcement on Tuesday, March 10, that Malta will suspend all travel with Italy. Travelers who arrived in Malta from Germany, France, Spain, or Switzerland on March 11 will be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Anyone who traveled to Italy in the previous 14 days must also observe a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Police will reportedly conduct spot checks on quarantined individuals; those who breach the quarantine may be subject to fines.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Abela also announced a ban on outdoor events of more than 2000 people and indoor events of more than 750 people.
As of March 11, there have been six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malta. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue; throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.