The superintendent for public health insisted again on Wednesday that people should celebrate Christmas within their household only, and places of work should not hold staff parties.

Replying to questions on COVID-19 at a meeting with the parliamentary Family Affairs Committee, Charmaine Gauci said 18 virus patients are currently in intensive care. There are currently 39 ITU beds ready with equipment and staff, with up to 100 beds available in case of a surge in cases. Training of staff is continuing.

Gauci gave an overview of the situation, pointing out that Malta is in 22nd place in Europe with regard to transmission and 19th in deaths, per capita. The number of new cases was stable in the past few weeks, thus lowing the transmission rate. (The R rate)  

However, according to international modelling, the number of new cases was expected to increase in the coming weeks in all European countries, she said. 

The important thing was to keep this projected increase as low as possible by continuing to observe precautions, she said.

For example, parents should not take children to school if they were unwell, and employers needed to make allowance for parents who had to stay at home to care for their kids.

Those having relatives in old people’s homes still needed to continue to see their loved ones from behind perspex.

And it was important that Christmas was celebrated in an altogether different way from the past.

“Things have to be different for Christmas to be safe. Remember how we marked Easter, Mother’s day and Father’s day without meeting each other? People responded well at that time, but now we may be seeing some pandemic fatigue especially when people have not met elderly relatives for a long time,” she said.

Inviting people home for Christmas would be wrong because homes were a closed environment, distances could not be respected and masks could not be worn if people were eating, she warned.

COVID-19 was a problem as people can be infective without showing symptoms, she added.  

Young people, therefore, should not attend any parties – which were banned anyway. Parties at home and office parties should also not be held.

“Christmas has to be different to be safe, but maybe we can enjoy the real sense of Christmas instead of the materialistic one,” Gauci said.

When replying to further questions, Gauci cautioned that precautions would need to continue to be taken even as vaccines were rolled out.  

She defended the decision for bars to be kept closed. That stemmed for an analysis of new cases which showed a higher incidence from places where people had been standing and drinking, including clubs and discos. In contrast, transmission in restaurants had been low, she said.  

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