VALLETTA, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Malta has declared a public health emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected 213 people but so far without any deaths, the Times of Malta reported on Saturday.
Through a legal notice dated April 1 which was unannounced by the government, Malta's Superintendent of Public Health issued the emergency order retroactive to March 7, which is when Malta reported its first case.
The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) at the end of January. Many countries in Europe have since declared their own state of emergency in the face of the pandemic.
The legal notice gives the superintendent a wide range of powers including segregating or isolating people, evacuating people from any area, preventing access to places, controlling the movement of any vehicle and ordering people to undergo medical examinations.
Malta is currently on partial lockdown, with people over 65 and those suffering from underlying health conditions not allowed to leave their homes. It bans travel and only accepts repatriation flights, with anyone arriving having to spend 14 days in mandatory quarantine.
Several other measures were taken over the past few weeks to prevent community spread, including a ban on large gatherings, school shutdowns 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 except for 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, to prepare for a possible surge in coronavirus cases.