A peak in COVID cases registered at the beginning of January is decreasing, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said on Friday during her weekly update. 

Her comments come hours after doctors sounded the alarm about the flow of COVID-19 patients to Mater Dei hospital, calling for a weekend curfew. Gauci insisted that the authorities implemented measures whenever deemed necessary.

On Friday, a total of 143 people tested positive for COVID, while three patients died and a further 201 people recovered from the virus.

Gauci said the vaccination roll-out was going well, with elderly people who are housebound set to start being vaccinated next week.

So far, 16,531 doses have been administered, including 616 second doses.

Gauci urged those who have been vaccinated to continue following mitigation measures, including social distancing and hand washing.

178 COVID patients hospitalised

Providing details about hospitalised COVID patients, she said 18 were being treated at Mater Dei's ITU, while another nine at the IDU. 

A further 43 were being cared for at other Mater Dei wards, while another 11 were being treated at Sir Paul Boffa Hospital.

Ten people are being cared for at St Thomas Hospital, another 12 at Karin Grech Hospital and a further 57 at the Good Samaritan facility.

Four COVID patients are at Mount Carmel Hospital, and another 14 at the Gozo General Hospital, one of whom is in intensive treatment. 

January peak decreasing 

The Superintendent noted that the peak in cases registered at the beginning of January was decreasing.

Most of the new cases registered the week  - 362 - were traced to positive family members, while another 110 were linked to the workplace.

Some 52 were linked to social gatherings, and a further 31 were registered in care homes.

Another 25 cases were linked to sports activities or gyms, while 18 were imported. 

Most of those testing positive for COVID are aged between 25 and 34, while the average age group is that of people aged between 35 and 44.

Mortality was high among those aged between 75 and 84.

Testing at the airport

Between January 14 and 20, there were 1,029 people who arrived from abroad and were asked to get swabbed.

Only two tested positive, one from Poland and the other one from Bulgaria.

Urging people with COVID symptoms to stay at home, she said 9,500 people had booked their tests online over the past week.

She also urged people to download the COVID tracing app. Around a fifth of Malta's population - 91,865 people - were using the app.

Gauci also noted that the authorities are seeing new cases emerge several days following contact. She therefore recommended people who come in touch with a positive person to take a test on the fifth day following the exposure. 

Just three cases linked to new variant

Answering journalists' questions, Gauci said there was no need to close schools.

The clusters of positive students or school staff were "not big", she said.

Meanwhile, genetic sequencing was ongoing, and so far, only three cases were linked to the UK variant, she added. Some 20 cases are tested for this new variant every week.

Asked for a reaction to doctors' appeal for a weekend curfew, she said that whenever the authorities needed to take action, they did so.

The current ITU situation reflected the activities held over the festive season, she confirmed.

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