Hundreds of people are missing their COVID-19 testing appointments, raising concerns that this could pose a risk to public health and affect the accuracy of projections.

Last weekend alone, about 100 failed to turn up for their appointments on Friday and another 100 the following day, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci told Times of Malta.

“They never showed up – this isn’t fair,” she said, adding that this was despite her efforts to get anyone with coronavirus-like symptoms to get a swab test done.

The missed appointments tended to be more common over weekends but were not limited to those days.

She said that when people scheduled for testing failed to show up they were wasting frontline medical professionals’ time and taking up a slot for someone else who could very well be infected.

The no-shows could also be spreading the virus further without even knowing that they are actually infected.  

“When we called these people who did not show up, many of them said that they hadn’t come in for testing because they were feeling better. But the virus and transmission do not work that way, so it is important to get tested if you have been directed to do so,” she said.  

So far, Maltese health officials have carried out over 24,500 tests, with publicly available data showing Malta is among the best performers globally.  

With an average of 38.74 tests per 1,000 people, Malta is only superseded by Luxembourg and Iceland.

The country at present has four swabbing centres – at Mater Dei, Luqa, Luxol and Gozo. 

Gauci said authorities were carrying out tests via swabbing, which she described as the “gold standard” but admitted it also “has some shortcomings”.

“We are doing our part as health officials and frontline medical professionals, but the public need to do their part too and cooperate,” she said.

“We are doing well as a country, but there is more still to do.”

Asked by Times of Malta if the authorities had changed to using a different type of test recently, she said there “may have been a difference in the type of swabs”. 

She explained that there are diverse types – some which must be held in refrigerated conditions and others that are not.

She said authorities have “specialised refrigerators and transport so the tests are kept as should be”.

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