People who have been vaccinated make up just a quarter of those who have contracted COVID-19 in the fourth wave of the pandemic, from a population in which close to 90 per cent have taken the jab.
Most of the vaccinated patients are elderly or have comorbidities that affect immunity. The figure for positive cases was provided by Tanya Melillo, who heads the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Unit.
The vast majority of residents – topping 400,000 this week – are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, meaning the 25 per cent of vaccinated people who tested positive came from a group comprising the vast majority of the population.
The remaining 75 per cent of cases reported in recent months, on the other hand, came from a far smaller proportion of the population that has not taken the vaccine.
Malta’s fourth virus wave began in July, when several cases linked to the contagious Delta variant of the virus were detected among English language students. The country has reported about 4,500 virus cases since then.
The proportion of patients requiring hospital treatment is down significantly when compared to previous waves, when vaccines were unavailable or still being rolled out to the general population.
Melillo stressed that different people will develop different levels of immunity, with their health status a key factor.
Those with lower levels of immunity could still end up in hospital or suffering serious consequences following infection, she noted.
One such case was a vaccinated person with terminal cancer who died while COVID- positive last week. The virus had “tipped the scales”, she said.
“COVID-19 infection just makes it harder on the body to try and fight the virus when it is already seriously compromised due to other chronic disease,” she explained.
We know this virus is more transmissible and infectious than the original COVID and the other mutant viruses
“That is why we insist on wearing masks in groups and other measures, to try and limit the spread of this mutant virus among the population.
“If you are meeting different people every day and drinking in band clubs because of the village feast, you are exposing yourself to the heightened risk of contracting the now dominant Delta variant from someone,” Melillo said.
Referring to the psychological state of those who, having been vaccinated, felt they were out of the woods and found themselves ill again, she maintained that people were “now fed up hearing about COVID-19 and not interested in doing quarantine”.
“It is summer and, perhaps, they want to go out and enjoy themselves after a long winter,” Melillo acknowledged.
For some people, being indoors for 14 days was too much to handle for many reasons, including psychological as, by nature, they would be anxious worriers or because the home situation made it hard for a family to live together for two weeks in a confined space.
Other issues Melillo’s team was facing among quarantining persons was the inability to work and earn an income, which remained “very worrying” for those who ended up not being able to pay the rent or buy food.
“Obviously, those who are vaccinated feel it is unfair to have to remain in quarantine,” she said, reminding people that inoculated primary close contacts now have the opportunity to get tested on day seven. If the result is negative, they and the rest of their family – secondary contacts – can be released.
This did not, however, apply to those living in the same household with a positive case, Melillo reiterated.
As to whether people were letting their guard down and opening a window into the possibility of contracting the disease, Melillo said Malta was doing very well thanks to the vaccine roll-out and its uptake.
“But, unfortunately, the unvaccinated foreign students brought the Delta variant with them to our shores and this spread among them to the general population.
“We know this virus is more transmissible and infectious than the original COVID and the other mutant viruses.
“So, yes, for many it was a shock to discover they got the disease and were exposed to this mutant virus,” she said.
“Since the Delta variant is now circulating, we have to be vigilant and not let down our guard as, otherwise, we could get the disease, even if mildly, and end up in quarantine together with our families, colleagues and friends,” Melillo warned.
The evidence on the effectiveness of continued mitigation measures in public and of the virus vaccines is “indisputable”.
“These facts cannot be denied but some choose to ignore them as they have their own agendas,” she said.
94 cases of infection
On Saturday, 94 new COVID-19 cases and one death were recorded. The number of patients in hospital stands at 38.
This came after the number of new cases shot up to 101 on Friday, the highest number of new cases recorded in nearly two weeks and the first time in 14 days that the number of new cases had reached triple digits.
Friday's 101 new cases are practically double the 51 new cases reported 24 hours earlier.
As of Saturday, 404,213 people in the country are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Over the past months, a total of 783,983 doses were administered by health workers.
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