The number of coronavirus cases has steadily risen since a 12-year-old Italian girl became Malta's first patient on March 7.

More than three weeks later, as of April 1, some 188 patients have tested positive for the novel virus. 

Times of Malta went through the data in the public domain to highlight some trends and figure out what the average COVID-19 patient looks like. 

What is the average age of a patient? 

As of the 188th case registered on April 1, the average age of those with coronavirus in Malta stands at around 39 years, with just over 100 of the patients being under the age of 40. 

While the elderly are more susceptible to the virus - so much so that the authorities have imposed quasi-lockdown measures for those over 65 - most of Malta’s cases involved people in the 19 to 35 age bracket. 

There were 13 patients whose ages were not given during the daily briefings.

The youngest patient is three years old while the oldest is 81.

Is it affecting men more than women? 

The majority of cases - 58 per cent - involve men, with women accounting for 42 per cent. Although Malta's total numbers may be too small to use as a basis for assumptions, that male-leaning trend has been reflected in other countries, too. 

In Italy, for instance, more than 70 per cent of those who died due to the virus were men. And out of 40 countries being tracked by Global Health 5050, just Romania and France have reported more coronavirus cases among women than men.

While the World Health Organisation and other international bodies have yet to officially acknowledge this trend, many other countries have reported higher numbers for men than for women. 

As the virus is new and still poses many unknowns, researchers are still trying to establish why that might be. 

What are the current cases versus recoveries? 

While the numbers have continued to increase daily since March 7, only two patients of the 188 cases have recovered, which amounts to around one per cent.

The health authorities have repeatedly said when asked about this that the virus persists for a long time and it was important for patients to remain indoors even if they only experienced mild symptoms, since the virus could still be transmitted to others. 

None of Malta’s COVID-19 patients have died since testing positive for the virus, as of April 1. 

How many new daily cases have there been since March 7? 

Since the second week of March, lunchtime in Malta has meant one thing - coronavirus updates. Gauci has been giving her daily press briefing at around 12.30pm, providing an update on the numbers while also giving some basic information on every new case.

The highest number of cases in a single day recorded so far - 19 - was reported twice, on March 25 and on April 1. 

Only two cases were registered on March 10, 11, 12, and 29.

Nobody tested positive for the coronavirus on March 8 and 9.

How does Malta compare with other countries in terms of coronavirus cases?

As of April 1, Malta ranked among the top 100 countries around the world, having the 95th highest number of cases. 

There are now over 880,000 cases worldwide, with over 44,000 people having died of the virus. More than 185,000 people have recovered. 

The US, Italy and Spain have the most cases when compared to the rest of the world, followed by China, Germany, France, Iran, the Uk, Switzerland and Belgium. 

How does Malta compare with other countries in terms of testing for coronavirus?

As of April 1, Malta had carried out a total of 7,561 COVID-19 swab tests. On a per capita basis, the country is one of the countries testing most broadly for the virus. 

Testing was initially only being carried out at a special testing hub in Luqa and Mater Dei Hospital. But two additional public testing hubs in Pembroke and Xewkija - as well as a private clinic offering testing in Burmarrad - have made it easier for authorities to test people. 

Malta has also increased its lab testing capacity and can now process around 700 tests a day. That is reflected in the growing number of daily swab tests being carried out. While the country was initially testing up to 300 people a day, over the past five days an average of 600 tests a day have been carried out.    

Where are patients from?

While other countries have issued information on where the COVID-19 patients live, as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, this has not been the case in Malta.

Repeated requests for this data have been turned down, with Gauci saying the decision not to divulge this information was taken to protect the patients' privacy.

It remains unclear whether there is a particular locality that has more residents with coronavirus than any other. 

What do the experts have to say? 

Times of Malta reached out to Mater Dei pathology department head Chris Barbara, who said the numbers for each country varied because of the different measures being taken. 

In Malta’s case, for instance, the fact that most patients were in the younger age groups was to be expected because of lockdown measures imposed on the elderly. 

“Despite our measures, however, we are still getting elderly people testing positive and this is still of concern. We have been saying for weeks now that the elderly are more vulnerable and yet they fail to understand that Malta is part of the world and the virus has reached our country too,” Barbara said. 

But what about the men?

On this, Barbara said the numbers were similar to those being reported abroad - meaning men seemed to be more susceptible to the coronavirus. Though, just as is the case everywhere else, there is no explanation yet as to why this is happening. 

“We have never told women to stay home, for instance, so that is still something we cannot explain,” he said. 

Other than that, Barbara said the numbers match the authorities’ expectations.

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