A spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Malta has led to a surge in calls to a special helpline and increased demand to get tested.

But concerns have also been raised about contract tracing efforts, with some complaints that those attending mass events along with coronavirus patients have not been told to get tested. 

In recent days, reports of cases involving someone who attended an event or visited a particular place continued to emerge, sparking concern among those who were not contacted despite being at the same place as the infected person.

But according a health official, a person is only contacted if the positive patient was infectious at the time of the event. 

Event organisers or shop-owners are nonetheless still notified that someone who visited the shop or attended their event in the previous week had tested positive for the virus.

This could include a taxi company, for instance, or even a grocery store, the health official said.

In such cases, people at the same place are not told to get a swab test but to look out for any COVID-19 symptoms for the next 14 days, which is the virus incubation period. A person can become infected at any point during this period. 

“At that point, we only contact those persons who might have been at risk because they could have been infected by that patient. The others are only asked to look out for symptoms,” the health official said. 

Times of Malta sought clarifications after the organisers of an event that took place on Sunday, Indigo MT, raised the alarm about a partygoer testing positive. The organisers said that despite the positive case having been at their event, contact tracing had not been carried out by the authorities. 

Party organisers Indigo MT say they are in touch with the health authorities over the issue.Party organisers Indigo MT say they are in touch with the health authorities over the issue.

A similar issue involving a school prom was also making the rounds on social media, with the health authorities again saying the person was not infectious while attending the event. 

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is the process used by health authorities to identify any potential contacts of a person infected with coronavirus. 

The authorities immediately go back 24 hours, asking the infected person to name any close contacts within that time window. 

Those on this list are put under quarantine and tested, as are those who live in the same household as the infected person. 

The health authorities then ask the COVID-19 patient to list the places visited from a week before the onset of symptoms.

Places mentioned are informed of this in order to be able to instruct people to look out for any symptoms.   

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