Malta has so far avoided a spike in new COVID-19 cases across Europe but Health Minister Chris Fearne has urged eligible people to accept their booster appointments.
Europe was the only region in the world where COVID-19 cases increased last week, according to the World Health Organisation, which said there was a seven per cent rise overall.
Malta, however, has one of the lowest positivity rates in Europe, at around one per cent.
But Fearne is warning that Malta is not isolated from the rest of Europe and has joined fellow health professionals in urging people to accept their invitation to top up their COVID defence.
So far, 98 per cent of residents in homes for the elderly have had their booster jab while 58 per cent of people aged over 70 have received the third vaccination.
Our high vaccination rate... is working to our benefit
He told Times of Malta that, by the third week of November, all those aged 70 and over will be offered the booster.
“New COVID positive cases and positivity rates are once more going up all over Europe,” he said. “The onset of cold weather and, quite frankly, COVID fatigue are certainly contributing to the rising numbers. The positivity rate in Malta remains relatively low at around one per cent,” he said.
“However, Malta is part of Europe and of the wider world and, as we have been saying from the start of the pandemic, we are all in this together. Our high vaccination rates and the roll-out of booster doses are working to our benefit.” Fearne urged those eligible for a vaccine booster to accept their appointment invitation and thanked the hardworking medical staff that is continuing to “provide an excellent service over a sustained period of time”.
According to figures collected by Our World in Data, 0.9 per cent of COVID tests in Malta are positive, with only Italy, Austria and Cyprus registering lower shares.
At the other end of the scale, nearly a quarter of tests in Slovenia are coming out positive, while 6.7 per cent and 4.6 per cent of the tests in Germany and the UK respectively are positive. European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Thursday also called for increased vaccination.
In a Tweet, she said she had spoken to the health ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania, whose care systems were under pressure due to the increasing number of COVID cases.
“It is urgent to maximise vaccination rates. The EU stands ready to support countries in need,” she said.
Some countries, like the UK and Ireland, are seeing an increase in cases, despite high vaccination rates.
Health leaders in England have called for some restrictions to be re-introduced such as making mask-wearing mandatory in crowded and enclosed spaces.