Public Communication on measures preventing COVID-19 spread

Public communication of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Minister of Health Ogerta Manastirliu about measures designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19:
Good evening!
Communicating with you more often the usually, we somehow have become a kind of studio announcers, but this is the very nature of our work and commitments in the past few days. Entire workload is being carried out in office. Not a step outside office and, on the other hand, constant communication is needed, especially given the current circumstances and conditions, when we are dealing with a two-pronged offensive against both the epidemic and the coronavirus infodemic. On all sides you hear everything, not to say that in addition to fake news, unverified information, uncertified comments, there are also intentional statements, just like it was the case yesterday, just like it happened today, issued by those who actually have a great responsibility and instead of assuming that responsibility, as it is the case around the world when man is specifically targeted and for emergent reasons and the greatest of plights, natural disaster, or a confrontation with an invisible enemy, such as a dangerous virus is, there should be no political game and no propaganda.
On the other hand, it is indispensable when negative propaganda threatens psychological equilibrium and is so necessary like a medicine is at moments like these, one cannot refrain from reacting. One is forced to react although you feel in an extremely difficult position. Given that under such circumstances the nature of our work has changed and indeed here, I and the people working inside this building are surrounded by computers and information coming from all sides and as soon as I found out about the testimony of the doctor in question, I promptly asked about him, because it was a very bizarre statement, and what I found was this picture of the doctor he himself has posted on social networks associated with a decent caption about true sacrifices in the endeavour to save people’s lives and wearing special protective suit, because the truth is that there is zero shortage of special protective suits for the health personnel and doctors who are treating the coronavirus cases.
Same information I acquired about the doctor’s private life. In his private life, this doctor is free not just to issue “Rama go” calls, but he can also hit the roof and ask me to hit the roof too. However, if a physician as a citizen enjoys his civil rights and as a physician does his duty, which nobody is questioning, even though it is an ethical violation to serve at this moment certain propaganda, how can a political party that aspires to govern the country involves in this scandalous misinformation.
However, I don’t think there is any question about how and why it can, but this is the second time in a while, with the earthquake yesterday and this emergency that has challenged the world, not just Albania today, and these are things that take place in no other country around the world. As to some things that were said, it is important to once again highlight that facts are increasingly showing we haven’t been idly waiting for someone tell us, be it the opposition as this is its duty after all, to prepare an action plan and be ready, but the due plan was in place well ahead of this initial stage of the fight against the coronavirus and we have provided all necessary equipment to cope with even with the worst-case scenario that has been developed on the basis of projections according to the WHO algorithm and on patterns that update every second from all countries and best practices. This is the fact.
Now, let me come back to your questions and concerns. Meri says that each nurse and physician should perform in-home visits, meanwhile, completely wrong and in contravention of all this war rules, Lulzim Basha said that when people have fever and body temperature should go to hospital and everybody there should be equipment with all tools and equipment. No, this is not the case. Whoever has body temperature should head to nowhere. He or she should just dial 127! There could be nothing wrong and more confusing than saying equip every health facility with a reception and care ward for every person having body temperature, because nurses would contract coronavirus. This is scandalous. What we all should everyone know is that if someone shows body temperature symptoms, which is the first symptom, he or she should immediately dial the emergency number 127 and listen carefully to the advices. This is how it is happening everywhere in the world. This is also the case here, according to best practices.
Another question arriving simultaneously is that made by Besmir, who says that the earthquake-affected families will now be forgotten. This is not true. These families won’t be forgotten. Quite the contrary, the international competition to build the new homes for these families has been launched. The bid for all international companies with the expertise and experience in developing such construction projects has been made public and we are about to announce the international bid for reconstruction of the damaged school buildings. In other words, nobody has forgotten the quake-affected people. But most importantly, you should respect and not forget the advices we are giving today.
We will present two interesting trajectories to figure out what to expect and to understand the reasons why strong measures are advisable, as well as discussing that these measures are taken step by step, not all at once, and are put in place as soon as we face the challenge of the coranavirus spread in our country and these measures are nod made before this happens and there are various debates on how to slow or speed up these measures.
Why we didn’t opt for the most aggressive scenario for these measures’ implementation?
This is a trajectory based on the analysis carried out by scientists and then propagated by many well-informed and certified sources, showing what happens depending on precautionary measures.
The yellow curve shows the pandemic, the measures designed not to prevent the infection – it is very important to highlight this, because neither we, nor other country can stop the outbreak. German Chancellor today acknowledged that 60% of German citizens will contract this virus. This is not about how many people will contract it, but how to slow down the spread of the virus in order to have due capacities to tackle the negative consequences, because I have said and I reiterate that around 80 percent of the infected people will easily recover without understanding that they have contracted the virus at all and the primary advice we have been given and which is the basis of our reasoning is that not every case will be tested. It is impossible for someone to ask for testing just because he or she has arrived from Italy and fear they have contracted the virus. Tests for the virus will only be conducted when someone shows early symptoms.
The yellow curve shows the countries where no prompt actions have been taken in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. It is impossible to take preventive measures in Albania when the virus emerges in China. The virus arrival time is estimated around 45 days, yet the measures are put in place when first cases are detected.
The next curve shows the spread of the virus when measures are implemented.
The government’s Normative Act is ready and will be formalized in the coming hours to address the measures, but also to address sanctions, because it is a balance to be maintained and I hope we have kept it well through the continued advice, but there is also a need for sanctions, which in many countries are extremely severe. We, I believe, have a balance here too, even though they are unusual sanctions because it is an extraordinary moment. So, in fact, we have decided to approve the ban on all bars, restaurants and couple this with a very strong sanction for those who will dare to open the doors of their businesses, but the good thing we welcome is that everyone has promptly acted to observe these measures as soon as we have announced them. In the meantime, we are considering a ban on the urban transport tomorrow, or in the coming days in Tirana and Durres. Why such tough measures are being imposed in Tirana and Durres and why in these two big cities first? Because we are not the first ones to face the corona virus prevention challenge. We can build on other countries’ experience. We now have the statistical patterns built on this experience and we have clear idea about what we should gradually do, always bearing in mind what we already said at the very beginning.
Neither we, nor other country would succeed in preventing the spread of the virus, but it is crucially important how you build entire protection system and such measures are really our protection system that would allow us to develop whole required capacities to tackle critical cases gradually. What happened to the countries that failed to put such measures in place right after the virus outbreak, as someone is asking why we acted prior to the outbreak. Such measures are not adopted in advance as they would be useless. On the contrary, such measures would trigger incredible damages to our common life and the country’s economy. These measures are taken as soon first case is detected and escalation of these measures determines the way how will stem spread of the outbreak, which, according to the projections and scenario depending on the number of coronavirus cases, which will increase day by day, but most importantly the increase in number of infections should be closer to the purple curve rather than the yellow one. If growth in coronavirus cases is close to the purple curve than we can claim that the situation is totally under control.
A question has been rightly and consistently made regarding the garment factories and also call centres with a considerably high number of employees. It is very important to realize that there is a huge difference between crowded places that are not under the control of the relevant authorities, so to say, and where it is impossible to hold the administrator of a shopping mall responsible for taking measures to stem the spread of the virus if people want to go to this shopping mall, just like you can’t pretend for every bar, restaurant or gym to take care of providing all necessary conditions and make sure that rules are strictly applied. We are inventing nothing, but just doing exactly what the rest of the world is doing.  So please, I understand very well, we all well understand that watching TV, watching what happens, being concerned about relatives, we hurry to teach others and go beyond what is the predetermined limit of the strategic plan. This happens to me too, but what I do is that I always refer to the Technical Committee of Experts. We cannot afford being adventurous, neither be overcome by panic, insecurity, nor by the idea that everything was tackled immediately, and this wouldn’t be a surprise, because this is not the end of the world, we are not fighting the ultimate, final and decisive battle on which our and whole humankind existence and survival hinges. No, this is not the case and everyone should understand that life goes on although this situation may last, but it won’t last indefinitely. Why am I saying this? I am saying it because nobody proposes taking drastic measures to halt the production chain, which is vital for the present and the future. Nobody recommends such drastic measures especially when we are still facing a natural growth in number of infections and what is strongly recommended and required and what we should to utmost to make sure that safety distances are respected at workplaces and protective measures are fully in place there. The real problem is not that you are heading to a crowded place, but that everyone there should be equipped with protective tools and equipment. They should all be supplied with protective equipment in the workplace and this is absolutely doable. This is what we have been demanded. We will impose sanctions on anyone failing to honour these requirements. So, it is up to the companies, the manufacturing enterprises and the enterprises that are part of the country’s economic chain to take all actions and cut number of people in a certain area by creating safe distances, employ all necessary elements that really help cope with the situation, including face masks, plastic gloves, needed cleaning products and detergents next to every work table so that workers wash and disinfect their hands, something that is strongly advisable by the best international practice. The other is that it is absolutely clear and necessary to distinguish. What happens in a bus and what happens in a workplace, where someone runs everything and I believe they understand that it is not about protecting others, it is about protecting themselves, their families, what happens is a completely different context of discipline vis-à-vis the rules. If everyone were to respect the rules and should everyone were to be ready and become available to this protection system, which hasn’t taken place even in China, except when using extreme force that turned out to be effective as new infections are dropping, then there is no reason for us to resort to our guessing only and move forward hasting. Another constant question is that concerning the health personnel members and health professionals themselves. Ogerta already said and I would like to reiterate it. It is important that health workers and professionals are all uniformed in terms of measures they should put in place. However, it is for sure that on the frontline of this war we have deployed a system that is equally professional like the systems of other countries and I am very glad that many Albanian compatriots living and working Italy who have already experienced such a situation in the neighbouring country, praise the way we are actually managing this situation. I am also pleased that experts appearing on Italian TV channels cite Albania as an example among several countries that have developed a strategy and have taken appropriate measures in a timely manner and are escalating such measures properly. The issue of imposing a loan holiday for both household and business loans is being considered, but there is very important thing. It is impossible – I don’t know, it is both as laughable, as painful, shameful, scandalous and also criminal for the other party to take advantage of the situation and appear in such an environment, where everything should be made to call upon the voice of reason and calm people down, and instead suggest what we should do today to take financial measures of a day later, just like it was the case when the earthquake hit the country. While people had yet to bid farewell to the earthquake victims, other people here in Tirana were speaking about the damage estimations. But just like we succeeded in coping with the earthquake aftermath, I assure everyone that we will succeed in handling this situation too and with this and only mutual understanding and trust and mutual interaction to figure out what we are asking would be absurd at another usual moment, but it is the most basic and normal thing to do today.
I will give the floor to Ogerta again, asking her to clarify another important element regarding capacity for coronavirus testing and when tests should be conducted, because this is a very important aspect. I have already stated – not today, not at this time, but on the calmest day of the year – that I have no time to waste to turn on TV and watch the evening political talk shows, and I assure you that not only I waste nothing, but I do absolutely make use of that time to do much useful things that help, teach and relax me, choosing instead to watch a movie or another shows, but never political talk shows, which, according to the information I have been provided, since I am informed briefly, I wonder how comes that people gather in a TV studio and dial the emergency number 127?! Can anyone tell me why?! What is the emergency number 127? Is that something to joke with? They call the emergency number 127 to see whether it is operational or not. No! The emergency number 127 is the only address for anyone who shows symptoms, while others should understand they need neither to go to hospital, nor to call 127, just because they have met someone. I told you and I repeat. The infection is spread somehow uniformly everywhere. The way we react and the measures we adopt change the shape the outbreak takes and they also alter the capability to put the outbreak under control and then calmly tackle the most critical cases. If the outbreak then spreads to reach the yellow curve, it collapses the system. It actually collapsed one of Europe’s excellent systems, like the Italian health system is. And it collapsed it to the point that forced Italy to recruit and train physicians of other profiles to act as respiratory therapists. The grand and excellent Italy regarding its health system has collapsed to the point it has no longer hospital equipment to address the needs. Why? Because, the country acted slowly and citizens responded inappropriately.
Because I am coming across someone, who says: “What is going to happen to us since we have taken it easy.” Nothing, but what you are actually doing poses a serious threat not to you personally, because you have already made up your mind to take it easy, but I personally and others cannot afford telling you “farewell”, but your irresponsible actions pose a serious threat to your grandmother, your family members, relatives and friends. Therefore, it is incredibly important to realize that young people mostly challenged everything and used to throw parties to show “they don’t care about the coronavirus”, or others who staged athletic and gym shows by hugging and kissing each other. These actions do not help at all. This is about everyone doing his job and his part and that’s why the state, the government, the Ministry of Health proposes government to impose drastic measures. That’s why state police and military police officers are being deployed to verify every citizen recently arriving from Italy, who drive cars and travel around instead of self-quarantining for 14 days. They should stay home, not because they are culprits, but because they and their families need to be protected and understand the situation, because tomorrow it might be too late for them. This is the essence of this entire operation of successive measures. As to the admission capacities, the equipments and the way we plan to cope with even a worse situation should the best case scenario fail and the virus spreads aggressively, Ogerta should speak in her capacity as the Minister of Health and consider what the Technical Committee and the health system is doing.
The latest report on the situation presented by Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu:
Some 50 doctors and nurses in regional Durres hospital tested negative for the COVID-19. Meanwhile, tests have completed for a total of 84 suspected cases, with 3 of them testing positive in Tirana and they are all close contacts of the first confirmed COVID-19 patient.
To date, 241 COVID-19 suspected cases have undergone coronavirus testing and 15 identified persons have tested positive for the virus: 12 of them have contact with the first identified case and 2 are new cases: 1 in Tirana, 1 in Lushnje, while a 73-year-old died today at noon in the Durres hospital.
The health condition of the coronavirus infected people is as follows:
Four people have been hospitalized in the Infections Diseases Hospital their health condition is stable, whereas 10 of the COVID-19 people are currently self-quarantined and show no clinical symptoms of respiratory infection. Some 104 persons, who are close contacts of the confirmed COVID-19 patients are now self-quarantined.