Health care workers are in the front line on the battlefield, and we must take good care of them, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said at the Thursday online press conference of the duty centre of the Operational Group responsible for the containment of the virus.

Regarding the protective supplies of health care workers, she said if they wear them they protect themselves from infection, and also prevent transmission of the virus.

Ms. Müller stressed repeatedly that anyone suspecting that they might have come into contact with the novel coronavirus because they have upper respiratory symptoms, returned from abroad or were in the vicinity of a confirmed coronavirus patient should immediately call their general practitioner.

It is essential that patients should not go anywhere as by doing so they can reduce the number of interactions within their environment, and in particular, in the health care system, she said.

As to whether a given patient does indeed qualify as a suspected case, the general practitioner will decide together with a disease control expert. If it is a suspected case, a special unit of the National Ambulance Service will take a sample from the patient in his or her home. If they require hospitalisation, the National Ambulance Service will take them to the designated institution, the Chief Medical Officer outlined, explaining the protocol.

Only those should wear face masks who must for some reason. However, if a person feels safer wearing a mask, they should wear one, but should put it on correctly, she pointed out. Everyone should be aware that wearing a face mask is not enough on its own, and does not substitute for the observance of other hygiene rules such as social distancing and the regular washing of hands, she stressed.

At the same time, even a simple face mask can prevent a person from transmitting the virus via droplet infection, she added.

She observed that the incorrect use of face masks could create the false illusion of safety. For instance, if someone keeps touching their face because the mask is not comfortable, by doing so they can infect themselves. Upon removing the mask, it must only be touched on the outside and immediately discarded, followed by the washing of hands.

In answer to a question, Ms. Müller said they are registering more patients in more densely populated areas, but there are no epicentres associated with specific areas. Incidences have been registered in the whole territory of the country.

She pointed out that in the event of mass incidences, there would evidently be more restrictive measures. However, the hygiene protocol will not change; also in that phase, the same hygiene rules will apply as in the present stage of the epidemic.

In answer to another question, she also highlighted that urgent interventions cannot be cancelled with reference to the epidemic. Emergency and other wards are obliged to receive patients if they need acute care.

(Ministry of Interior / MTI)