Covid-19 -Now Upsetting The Elderly Homes Sector

Author: Jurgen Dalli – Junior Legal Associate, PKF Malta
Published on Malta Chamber 8th October 2020

Amongst the many sectors that Covid-19 has affected during this pandemic, one can find the elderly residential homes which have been impacted a great deal as of lately, especially in the last few weeks where a number of cases as well as deaths have been registered in a number of elderly homes around Malta. As a matter of fact, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has labelled Malta as a high concern country in their latest report on Covid-19 transmissions, after the spike in cases, especially the increment in cases in elderly homes.

In Malta, there are more or less 40 elderly homes at the moment; both private and state-owned. One particular home; St Joseph Home or Residenza San Guzepp in Fgura, released a statement in late September stating how 41% of 278 resident living in the home tested positive for Coronavirus. Out of these 113 residents, 29 were staff members whilst another 50 are being held in quarantine. Despite being the most direly affected, Residenza San Guzepp is not the only elderly home which was afflicted with a spike in cases, in fact, a flare-up in cases was noted in four homes.

The management in their statement also confirmed and put a lot of minds at rest as they argued that the different clusters are being held in different groups without contact; i.e. the positive cases, negative cases, and persons in quarantine are not in contact with one another. Interestingly enough, cases in elderly homes have only been registered in privately owned homes as no cases have been reported in any other residents at the other state-run elderly homes declared the Minister for Family, Children’s rights and Social Solidarity, Michael Falzon.

In fact, the other spike in cases was noted in Simblia Care home in Naxxar where there were two cases and a further two cases in Casa Antonia in Balzan.

As part of their obligations during this pandemic, elderly homes are being requested to conduct a swab test on residents once every three days following a containment plan. However, this is not the only measure being introduced in order to contain the virus from spreading even more. The new measures mean that visits are only possible by virtue of an appointment during all days of the week between 9:30 am and 11 am and between 5 pm and 7 pm.

Moreover, these visits can only last to a maximum of 15 minutes. Only four people are allowed to visit residents during the allocated time whilst only one parking space is being made available for visitors outside the main entrance. The necessary screening will be taken such as thermal scans in order to ensure that the visitors do not have any symptoms themselves such as high temperatures due to fever. A shuttle service from and to the main entrance of the visiting points is being provided whilst the wearing of a mask or visor is mandatory and cannot be removed at any time. The 15-minute clause is being strictly followed and visitors are being asked to leave without delay upon the lapse of these 15 minutes. Moreover, if the visitors arrive late for their appointment, time will be deducted from their visit.

Visitors bringing medicine with them must do so in a consignment of two months, to avoid having items coming from outside entering the facility on a regular basis. Food or drinks that do not require refrigeration can be dropped off at the main entrance with the name of the resident marked on the item.

Apart from the measures being adapted for elderly homes, the health authorities are also conducting inspection and checks on weddings, cultural events, entertainment outlets and other establishments, in order to ensure that all the preventive measures in place are being adhered to. Those who are found to breach such measures are being fined. The Malta Tourism Authority has been entrusted with inspecting weddings, sporting events, cultural events, and entertainment outlets to ensure compliance with Covid-19 protocols. In a recent press release, the MTA reported over 500 inspections had been conducted in one single week at various establishments and events.

Out of these inspections, it resulted that 12 establishments had been found in breach of the protocols introduced amidst the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in them being subjected to a fine. These new protocols include the capping of 300 people for outdoor events and that of 100 for indoor events whilst also having a limit of one person per 4 square meters and having groups consisting of not more than 10 people.

Moreover, in establishments such as restaurants, people ought to wear a mask or visor whilst waiting to be seated and are required to wear a mask to roam under the restaurant such as to go to the bathroom or to leave the establishment. The wearing of masks is also required on public transport as well as to traverse with the Gozo ferry. Events with more than 100 people will have to carry a risk assessment prior to permission being given by the MTA and health authorities. As the number of deaths among the elderly due to Covid 19 increases, one hopes that better care and attention is given to residents in all homes.

Legal research has always been something Jurgen felt passionate about, primarily because the law is one of the main elements which contributes to how society evolves with the passage of time. Jurgen is currently in his third year of studies at the University of Malta where he is reading law and studying to achieve a bachelor’s in law. Jurgen joined PKF Malta and has acquired copious legal knowledge and experience by virtue of the incredible team of professionals who form the legal support section at PKF Malta. PKF Malta has the tools necessary to help potential clients with regards to cutting edge reporting of business innovation. PKF Malta ensures an efficient and effective service with an all-around pleasant experience due to its 25+ years of experience in the field.

Author: Jurgen Dalli – Junior Legal Associate, PKF Malta
Published on Malta Chamber 8th October 2020
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