Two COVID-19 patients died overnight and a third died during the day, health authorities said on Saturday.

Two of the victims, women aged 72 and 86 respectively, were both receiving treatment at Mater Dei Hospital's intensive care unit. Neither patient had any underlying health conditions, sources told Times of Malta.

A third patient, an 85-year-old man, died later in the day on Saturday. He suffered from underlying conditions, the ministry said when announcing his death. 

The three fatalities mean the country has now reported 20 coronavirus-linked deaths in total, with five this week alone.   

Rumours of the two women's deaths began circulating early on Saturday morning but health authorities only officially confirmed the deaths in a statement at 12pm.

The Health Ministry said the 72-year-old had been admitted to hospital on August 11. She tested positive one day later and was transferred to Mater Dei's ITU on August 15. 

The second victim, aged 86, tested positive on September 8 and was transferred into intensive care on September 16.

The third victim, aged 85, tested positive on September 12 upon admission to Mater Dei. He was being treated inside the hospital's Infectious Diseases Unit. 

In two statements, the ministry offered the families of all three victims its condolences. 

Five coronavirus patients have died this week, making it the deadliest week during the pandemic so far. An 86-year-old woman died on Monday while a 91-year-old patient died on Friday. 

As well as a record number of fatalities, Malta also registered a record number of new coronavirus cases this week. On Sunday, a record 78 new cases were detected and even higher daily tally of 106 new patients was then recorded on Wednesday. 

A further 65 cases were added to coronavirus patient lists on Saturday.

Elderly people are especially vulnerable to suffering complications following COVID-19 infection and health authorities have expressed concern about a spike in cases within residential homes over the past weeks. 

Restrictions inside those homes were tightened this week, in an attempt to limit the virus’s spread within them.

Many of the new virus cases identified this week have mainly been linked to two clusters - one from homes for the elderly and another related to family contacts.

As of Friday, there were 117 new patients from the elderly homes cluster and 71 from the families cluster. A total of 43 patients were being treated in hospitals on Friday, though only eight of them from homes for the elderly.

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