A 19-year-old unvaccinated language student has been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in yet another case which reinforces the need for all people to be vaccinated, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Wednesday. 

The young foreigner is being treated in a specialised COVID ward at Mater Dei Hospital and is not in intensive care. He is the third patient currently in hospital for COVID-related treatment. All three patients are foreign and unvaccinated.

Fearne had already said on Monday that around 90 per cent of new virus cases detected over the past 10 days were in people who had not received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Focus to shift on hospitalisation rate

Fearne said Malta would continue to lift vaccine restrictions cautiously, but with vaccines clearly working, the focus would increasingly shift on the rate of hospitalisation, rather than new cases. 

Replying to various questions during a press conference, Fearne said the Malta authorities will closely follow developments in the UK, where the government has decided to lift almost all virus restrictions.

He noted that the UK's vaccination rate is almost as high as Malta's. As of Tuesday, the UK had given 86 per cent of adults one vaccine dose while around 64 per cent were fully vaccinated. 

Malta has given a lower percentage of adults one dose - around 83 per cent - but a higher share, around 78 per cent, are fully vaccinated. 

Private school can make its own rules

Asked about a private school's decision to ask its staff to be vaccinated, Fearne said this was a private school that could take whatever decisions it wanted as long as it respected industrial relations law.

The government's view was that vaccination should remain voluntary but that everyone should take the jab because of its benefits. Vaccinated people still risk being infected with the virus, he said, but that risk was far lower.

Walk-in vaccine clinics

He reiterated that walk-in vaccination centres will open on Monday week, July 19.

As of that day, any Maltese resident without a vaccination appointment will be able to get vaccinated by visiting a walk-in clinic and presenting a form of identification.

People without a local ID card will be able to present other forms of ID verification, such as a utility bill, to get the jab, he said. 

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