At a press conference yesterday afternoon, the Princely Government clarified several points on the coronavirus outbreak in the Principality. Minister of Social Affairs and Health Didier Gamerdinger addressed the subject of chloroquine, virus screening, masks and antibacterial gel.
27 cases in Monaco, including one recovery
Four new positive cases of COVID-19 appeared in the Principality by Sunday evening, bringing the current total to 27 proven cases including one recovery. Didier Gamerdinger specified that not all these people were residents of Monaco. Ten of them are hospitalised either in the Principality or in France. Others with mild symptoms are self-isolating at home, being followed up by doctors. He confirmed that several carers at the Princess Grace Hospital Centre have tested positive for coronavirus.
“Taking this development into account, the health situation remains manageable. We are not yet on the verge of a very rapid increase in the epidemic,” reassured Didier Gamerdinger.
The use of chloroquine
The use of chloroquine against COVID-19 is very controversial in France, but the CHPG is already using the antimalarial drug, which has been effective for some patients, under “very close” medical supervision. They are paying close attention to its undesirable side effects.
“The Minister of State has taken a decision to preserve stocks in the Principality and prevent dangerous self-medication. The state has priority to order it from wholesale distributors but it is prohibited from being sold in pharmacies. However, for patients already undergoing chloroquine treatment, they will be able to obtain it from a single pharmacy in the Principality”.
“Because this molecule presents risks of misuse, overdose, and heart and kidney problems, it will only be dispensed or used after close monitoring and under medical supervision,” added Gamerdinger.
Deliveries of hand sanitiser
There are three laboratories producing antibacterial gel in the Principality. The Government assures that large quantities will be destined for health structures and pharmacies in the coming days.
“One Monegasque laboratory delivered 1.5 tons of gel last week and is expected to deliver 1.4 tons this week. A second laboratory is expected to produce 6,000 litres this week. The third produced 170 litres last week, and is expected to produce 650 litres by tomorrow, plus 650 more by the end of this week.
Screening and analysis in Monaco
Regarding virus screening, Didier Gamerdinger indicated that Monaco does not have “very high level specialised laboratories” and for this reason must send the samples to Nice, Marseille and even Paris. According to the Minister, the Principality carries out more tests than other countries in Europe.
“The test is manual and can only be carried out in very high level specialised laboratories. The analysis takes four hours, plus transport time. We don’t have this type of laboratory in the Principality because we don’t have a virology service,” explained Didier Gamerdinger.
The government is studying three possibilities to allow tests to be carried out directly in Monaco.
“The first possibility is that we have a pre-ordered automated system from a French supplier. This machine is currently being tested and would allow an analysis in 35 minutes, and therefore larger-scale screening. If it is certified by the French authorities, we will use this. Second possibility: we have systems at the hospital that allow us, for example, to detect influenza A within half an hour. If the pharmaceutical industry finds a chemical agent that detects COVID–19, we will buy these agents which would be compatible with our systems. For the moment, they are undergoing tests. One last Italian method that interests us is smaller machines, 30cm by 30cm, which are currently being tested in Italy. If these are certified and available in the near future, we’ll buy two.”
Masks: Expected deliveries
The Minister stressed that their priority is the hospital system, firefighters and health care professionals. The Principality has ordered masks from China which are due to arrive in the next few days. Two Monegasque companies produce 500 to 600 masks per day for patients in the city. “These are cotton masks that are not suitable for healthcare professionals who need surgical masks.”
“Of course, like other countries, we’re under stress. We supply the hospital, firefighters, city health professionals. It is a time sensitive job. We have massive orders in progress. But, beware of scams, we are overwhelmed with unsolicited proposals. France has ordered all production be from its own French units. All mask producers located in France are obliged to serve only France. So, it is impossible for us to get our supplies from them. We ordered from China, but China is having trouble delivering.”
Suspension of visits to the CHPG
Visits to the Princess Grace Hospital Centre are prohibited as of today. The only exception is for patients at the end of their lives. Others are encouraged to stay in touch with their loved ones by telephone and videocalls. The hospital is preparing for COVID-19 by freeing up beds to accommodate people who need to be hospitalised or placed in intensive care.
A psychological unit
The health authorities have made psychologists available to respond to any distress the Monegasques may experience. Here is the contact information for the line dedicated to COVID-19: 92 05 55 00, available 7 days a week from 9am to 6pm.
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