94 Migrants Rescued Off Malta, 65 Tested Positive for CCP Virus

July 30, 2020 Updated: July 30, 2020

Over two-thirds of a group of 94 migrants who were rescued at sea then taken to Malta and isolated on Monday have tested positive for the CCP virus, according to Malta’s Ministry of Health.

“As per usual procedure, migrants arriving by boat are immediately quarantined for 14 days and tested,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The migrants who are positive will continue to be isolated at the Ħal Far Initial Reception Centre and the rest will remain in quarantine and followed up.”

Migrants rescued off Malta
Rescued migrants are being checked by a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worker upon their arrival in Senglea, in Valletta’s Grand Harbor, Malta, on July 27, 2020. (Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo)

The migrants had issued a distress signal from their packed dinghy as it crossed the Mediterranean Sea headed for Europe on Sunday, but it took more than 30 hours for rescuers aboard an Armed Forces of Malta vessel to reach them.

At the peak of the pandemic, Malta closed its ports to all traffic including vessels carrying rescued migrants, some of whom were held on tourist boats until on-board unrest triggered them being admitted by the country.

This single cluster of positive migrant cases is the largest cluster detected in Malta since the first case of COVID-19, a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, was detected on the Mediterranean island on March 7.

The next largest Maltese cluster is one of 18 cases that were all linked to a party they attended.

Eighty-five of the 94 migrants had been tested so far, the Maltese health ministry said.

Nine of the 94 rescued migrants were still awaiting an examination, the ministry said, but swab tests for them were due to be issued on Tuesday night. They gave no further information about the migrants’ condition.

No details of the nationalities of the migrants were given; however, the dinghy they were rescued from is believed to have set sail from Libya.

Infection Concerns

Non-governmental organizations, such as Sea Watch, who conduct civil search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean, have recently accused both Malta and the island’s close neighbor, Italy, of deliberately slowing down rescue missions in an effort to dissuade people from putting to sea.

Italy, among the worst-hit countries by the CCP virus, has recorded over 246,000 confirmed cases and 35,000 deaths. Malta has recorded 720 cases and 9 deaths.

“This group arrived in Malta together and were in contact with very few other people before they were tested,” the health ministry said, playing down the likelihood of locals getting infected.

The discovery that so many of the group have the CCP virus, however, is likely to exacerbate concerns in both Malta and Italy that the new arrival of infected cases will undermine local efforts to eliminate the disease.

Reuters contributed to this report