There has been a huge surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Malta, with 52 new patients testing positive.

It is the largest daily COVID-19 case tally since the virus hit Malta last month and brings the total to 293.

The new spike was reported exactly one month on from the country registering its first case on March 7.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said the figures should not be a cause for alarm and that Malta was on the "curve that we were predicting". 

He told a news briefing: "The number did not take us by surprise. The only surprise is that they came today and not days ago. We were expecting these figures last week."

'Record tests'

Fearne said the 52 new positive cases came from a record 825 tests and that the authorities have a target of reaching 1,000 tests every day from the four swabbing centres at Gozo, Luxol, Luqa and Mater Dei. 

Fearne said that to "better protect" people working on the frontline of the virus, more intensive tests are being carried out on healthcare workers and their families. 

Praising the response from the public in Malta, he announced said that a database is due to be built so that people who are willing to volunteer can register their skills. 

He again appealed to employers to promote teleworking and ensure that, as much as possible, people work from home.

New cases

He said the new cases are not suspected of being linked to the Ħal Far open centre for migrants and asylum seekers, which has been put under lockdown after eight cases were confirmed there. 

One of the cases is a woman who was living in a home for the elderly. But the Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci insisted strict measures have been taken in residential homes to ensure there is no spread. 

The gender of the new patients is almost even with 25 women and 27 men, the majority of whom are Maltese. Four of the new cases are being treated in Gozo and the remainder are in Malta. 

Virus spread among families

Gauci said that while some of the 'clusters' of cases come from workplaces, the majority are from families. 

She said that the incubation period of the novel coronavirus can be up to 14 days, meaning it can then be difficult to establish exactly when and where the person contracted the virus. 

On the number of ventilators and beds at Mater Dei's Intensive Treatment Unit, Fearne said authorities have started working on increasing the equipment. There are currently have 125 available intensive care beds and that will be increased to 200.

So far four people with coronavirus are being treated in intensive care, with one person on a ventilator. 


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