Malta is one of seven EU countries of “high concern” due to rising COVID-19 death rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The island joins Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the bleak assessment by the EU agency.

It said these countries had “an increased proportion of hospitalised and severe cases”, and “increasing or high death notification rates are already observed... or may be observed soon,” owing to a spread among older people.

A spike in deaths among the elderly has led to Malta placing third in the EU in terms of deaths per 100,000 people recorded over the last two weeks. 

Spain has recorded 3 deaths per 100,000 people over the last two weeks, Romania has recorded 2.7, while Malta is next, at 2.2. 

The ECDC report assessed the overall risk of COVID-19 as “high” for the general population and “very high” for vulnerable individuals.

“The improvements that have been made in case management, supportive treatment and care are still not enough to avoid severe disease and death in a large proportion of vulnerable patients,” it said.

It suggested Malta and the other six high-risk countries implement more “non-pharmaceutical intervention” – a term for public health measures aimed at social distancing. 

“Implementing stricter non-pharmaceutical interventions... appears to be the only available strategy that may be able to ensure a moderate (as opposed to high) impact of the disease on individuals and on healthcare provision,” the report said. 

Malta’s COVID-19 death toll is at 27, after two more people died on Wednesday night. Both victims, a 73-year-old woman and a 91-year-old man were residents of care homes. 

The elderly woman was living in San Ġużepp home in Fgura, which is tackling an outbreak.

Earlier this month, the government issued new protocols aimed at protecting elderly home residents, which included more frequent swabbing tests and temperature checks. 

On Wednesday, Malta reported 42 new COVID-19 cases and 18 recoveries, bringing the total number of active cases to 680. 

Some 2,898 people have tested positive for the virus since it reached the island in March. 

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