Healthcare workers are already reporting cases of influenza and the common cold and are on the alert ahead of the upcoming flu season, according to public health chief Charmaine Gauci.

Such cases were much less evident last year due to the stringent COVID measures in place.

Gauci said the health authorities are preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of the flu in the colder months.

This was not an issue last year as, despite concerns there could be both COVID and influenza spreading in the community, hand-washing and the wearing of masks helped keep the flu at bay and only a few patients reported having colds.

But it seems things might be different this year, especially as fewer people are following COVID mitigation measures, Gauci said.

“We have started seeing the common colds again, something we did not see in the previous season because of the measures that were in place, including hand-washing, work-from-home and people being very strict with the mask-wearing,” she said.

Gauci said similar concerns were also expressed at an international level, where health authorities from around the world, including those of Malta, were now at a point where they are looking at ways to reduce the burden of influenza on health systems.

Yesterday, she went on to urge the public to get the flu vaccine when this will be available on October 25.

Meanwhile, hospital sources told Times of Malta that healthcare workers were preparing for the eventuality of an influx of patients being admitted with the flu. The flu season is usually the harshest just after Christmas and throughout January, when temperatures drop.

Before COVID-19 hit in 2020, there had been instances when Mater Dei Hospital was inundated with flu patients to the point that some had to be moved to other facilities. 

In early 2018, a year when a more infectious type of influenza had impacted the majority of patients, an influx of people seeking treatment for flu had forced hospitals to postpone non-critical interventions.

At the time, patients had to be moved to Karin Grech rehab hospital as there were no available beds at Mater Dei.

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