Malta's new COVID-19 cases record has once again been smashed as 72 new  patients tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours. 

The health authorities did not provide any details on the new cases but said that contact tracing is underway. 

This is the third time in a week that the number of new daily cases reached an all-time high. 

In their daily update on Facebook, the health authorities said 20 patients have recovered, bringing the total number number of active cases to 557.

The new cases were detected from 2,435 swab tests. 

Though the health authorities said some of the new cases had been in contact with other positive patients, they provided no additional information. In recent weeks, the updates would always include details on whether cases were imported, transmitted locally and whether they were part of known clusters. 

The figure comes as more countries boot Malta off their safe travel lists, a decision that has led to cancellations by both those coming to the island and those flying out. 

The rate of spread of the virus has been higher than two for days now, Times of Malta is informed, though the health authorities refuse to divulge the exact rate. 

Any figure above one is considered to be dangerous as an infected person risks passing the virus on to more than one other individual. 

Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said during her weekly briefing on Friday that the elderly and vulnerable should be more vigilant as there had been cases in recent days involding older persons.

As of Friday, there were at least 1,200 people in quarantine, with some 140 of them being healthcare workers. It is unclear how many people are under quarantine after the latest cases were identified. 

Warnings by Fearne, Gauci

A government spokesperson said testing for the virus had increased by some 60 per cent over the previous week and that the number of people who recovered had also increased in recent days.

Health Minister Chris Fearne and Superintendent Charmaine Gauci both warned that new laws would be introduced if social distancing guidelines were not respected. 

"If people do not adhere to measures introduced then further actions will need to be put in place," Gauci said. 

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