As public health officials are focusing their efforts on containing the novel coronavirus, Prof. Neville Calleja, from the University of Malta’s Department of Public Health, highlighted how the academic community’s unison in pitching in their skillsets is definitely leaving a positive mark on how Malta is tackling this present challenge.
Speaking to Newspoint, Prof. Calleja, who is also one of the country’s top infectious diseases specialists, mentioned this in relation to the invaluable information obtained about how COVID-19 is spreading.
“The intelligence gathering of academics, not just ones specialising in health and medicine, has been crucial in getting more insights and assistance in our country’s effort to battle COVID-19”, he told Newspoint.
“It’s nothing short of an amazing multidisciplinary camaraderie from skilled people we didn’t even think could apply their services to the current situation”, he continued, before mentioning the example of Dr Dominic Cortis, FEMA lecturer, who is applying actuarial techniques to help better understand the spread of COVID-19.
Prof. Calleja said he is even receiving links to relevant journals from other academics who come across them, “pre-peer-reviewed research which is proving useful in monitoring efforts made by other countries in combatting the virus and the progress in developing a cure”.
But it is not just the academics who are pitching in. Final year medical university students have also very willingly responded to a call for assistance and are working shifts in wards, and pharmacy students have been given laboratory space to produce a hand sanitising solution. Furthermore, pharmacy students have been assisting in the Pharmacy-of-your-Choice unit within the Ministry for Health to deliver medicine to the elderly and vulnerable patients.
And the networking undoubtedly even goes beyond the academic community. Thanking the Malta Trust Foundation for facilitating contact with a top respiratory specialist in Wuhan, China, Prof. Calleja said the key 90-minute meeting gave him and his colleagues “sterling information” on how the virus is contracted and spread.
This key meeting was also facilitated by Dr Gauden Galea, a Maltese doctor and more importantly member of the World Health Organisation team in China since the outbreak was announced in January. In Autumn of 2018, Dr Galea had received an honorary degree from the University of Malta.
Prof. Calleja also referred to the vital help from diplomats and procurement personnel who are “working night and day to help secure medical supplies”.
And lastly, the help from the corporate world and the general public, whose “appreciation has a soothing effect on the mental health of our professionals”.
Yet some of this, he said, is unfortunately being cancelled out by “the non-cooperation from individuals who aren’t following the guidelines being constantly issued”.
Stressing once again on the need to trust public health officials who are incessantly working towards minimise the impact of the virus on the Maltese population, Prof. Calleja concluded that “we are confident that if we do manage to flatten the curve and give ourselves breathing space to be able to effectively cope with the cases, we can reduce the mortality rate from this, as we’ve seen happen in some other places”.