Fourteen per cent of those listed as ‘COVID-19 fatalities’ did not die from the virus, but had the infection when they passed away, fresh figures supplied to Times of Malta show.

According to the health ministry, in 14% of the 403 COVID-19 deaths registered up until April 15, the virus “contributed” to the death but was “not the underlying cause”.

This means that of the 403 cases, 346 of them had COVID-19 listed as the primary cause on the death certificate while the remaining 57 fatalities had other conditions listed. In these cases, COVID-19 was still listed on the death certificate as a secondary cause.

Of the 57 cases, the most common causes of death were cardiovascular conditions, followed by cancer.

The deaths of all those who die while infected with COVID-19 must be registered as virus-related fatalities, including those where coronavirus is not listed as the primary cause of death.

Of the 57 cases, the most common causes of death were cardiovascular conditions

Sources in the medical field said that patients’ conditions are often exacerbated when they are infected with the virus. Despite the primary cause of death not being COVID-19, it also cannot be denied that the infection played a part in causing fatality.

“Of course, the virus likely made things worse for the patients, that is why the vulnerable have been shielded so much throughout,” one source said.

Earlier on in the pandemic, the health authorities would specify whether or not a patient who died while positive for the virus has other “underlying conditions”. The detail stopped being provided amid widespread criticism deeming the information insensitive and offensive to the victims and their relatives.

A similar review of the COVID-19 registered deaths in the UK recently revealed a quarter of the fatalities there were not caused by the virus.

Malta’s COVID-19 death rate has plummeted in recent weeks as the number of new infections also dropped, with public health chief Charmaine Gauci pointing to the month-long semi-lockdown imposed in March and the rollout of vaccines as being behind the improvement.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s weekly report, the number of new cases registered by the Maltese health authori­ties over the past two weeks stood at 140.5 per 100,000 people. This was the lowest rate since September.

Similarly, the number of COVID-19 deaths in recent weeks was also comparable to that recorded at the end of September.


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