The number of COVID-19 tests per capita in Malta is among the highest in the world, publicly-available data suggests.
As of Tuesday, Malta had carried out a total of 19,121 coronavirus tests, a figure that confirms the authorities’ claim that a good portion of the population is being tested for the novel coronavirus.
With an average of 38.74 tests per 1,000 people, Malta is only superseded by Luxembourg and Iceland.
In the former, around 48.5 tests for every 1,000 people are being carried out. In Iceland, the figure shoots up to 104.3 for every 1,000 individual though the country has been testing its entire population with the help of a private firm.
The UK and the US, which in recent weeks have become two of the worst-hit countries in the world, carried out less than 10 tests per 1,000 people.
Data for Malta is provided by the Superintendence of Public Health. Statistics for other countries are compiled by online research platform Our World in Data, which includes data for 57 countries around the world.
The World Health Organization has urged countries to test as many people for the virus as possible and has made widespread testing a cornerstone of best practice.
"You cannot fight a fire blindfolded, and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don't know who is infected," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.
As of Tuesday, Malta had confirmed a total of 393 cases since the novel coronavirus reached the island on March 7. Since then, 44 people have recovered while three have died.
While initially only those who had been abroad were being tested for the virus, as local transmission was confirmed last month, the authorities widened the testing criteria to also include others who had not been overseas.
In more recent weeks and with the increase in the number of symptomatic patients - those that do not show any signs of having the virus - the authorities have also started carrying out random testing. Such random tests have mostly been carried out on healthcare workers, those working in homes for the elderly as well as with those currently under lockdown at the Ħal Far open centre.
Malta currently has four swabbing centres - at Mater Dei, Luqa, Luxol and Gozo.
Mater Dei hospital’s labs are currently carrying out tests on antibody test kits it had obtained recently, to ensure these were are effective and reliable. Such tests are used to determine whether a person has developed antibodies to fight the coronavirus.
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