Two new coronavirus cases were confirmed over the past 24 hours, following a record 585 swabs.

Charmaine Gauci, Superintendent for Public Health said on Sunday that Malta has now had 151 cases since the first case was registered three weeks ago.

The new cases are a 39-year-old Maltese man who was not abroad but was in contact with a colleague who was abroad and had shown symptoms, and a 35-year-old Maltese woman who also had not been abroad.

She was in contact with a member of her family who returned from the UK a few days previously and had shown symptoms.  All the family had been in quarantine.

Gauci warned against complacency because of the small number of confirmed cases. 

It was true that containment was going well, but this was the early stages of the curve.

"We want the people's cooperation to keep the new cases low," Gauci said, stressing that vulnerable people, in particular, need to stay indoors.

She said the police were out in places where people normally met to ensure that no groups of five people or more were together to try to contain the spread.

Four people are currently in ITU at Mater Dei Hospital. They include a 72-year-old who remains in critical condition on a ventilator.

Another two patients have been transferred to the ITU from the wards although they are not on a ventilator.

A 61-year-old woman has been moved from the ITU to the wards but another man was taken into the same unit last night and is undergoing tests.

Replying to questions, Gauci said that repeat testing is only carried out when a person who tests negative has a worsening of symptoms. 

Despite this, she urged all those who test negative to self quarantined, as one could not exclude the presence of other infectious diseases.

Gauci also said that the Superintendence was piloting a project by which a number of tests for every run of testing included a batch from volunteers who had not exhibited symptoms.

The World Health Organisation has made strong recommendations for countries to ramp up testing and practice self-isolation.

Widespread testing helps scientists understand where and when new cases may appear as well as pinpoint individuals who may have been infected without realising it, giving countries the right data to fight the virus more effectively.

Countries like South Korea have proven that quick interventions based on the facts are effective in curbing the spread of the virus before it becomes widespread. 

The country had the highest number of confirmed cases outside of China at the beginning of the outbreak. But numbers peaked in late February while health authorities were managing between 10 to 20 thousand tests per day in over 600 testing centers. 

Iceland, with its population of just over 360,000 is implementing blind testing in asymptomatic people. 

The country has managed to test 11,727 people, about 3.2 per cent of the population, allowing them to paint a more accurate picture of the spread of the virus within the community.



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