Malta is to offer a COVID-19 booster shot to everyone aged 12 and over, the Health Minister has said.
Chris Fearne made the announcement in a news conference on Friday after revealing the country registered 40 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily tally in six weeks.
The shot is already being administered to the over 70s and plans to roll it out to teachers and healthcare workers have been brought forward by a week, starting from Monday.
Fearne said the over 60s will be offered it from December 6, while the over 45s will be invited to take the top-up jab from the first week of January.
"We have made the decision to give the booster to everyone," he said.
"The decision to start giving a booster was the right one because immunity is waning and so the booster is crucial."
He did not specify the timeline for those under the age of 45 but said that, as per the vaccine rollout, it will be offered according to age group. Malta offers COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over.
"We believe the booster will make a big difference in Malta," he said.
Currently, 94 per cent of the population has taken the vaccine, while 75 per cent of the over 70s have received the booster.
Hospital numbers stable
Fearne stressed that while case numbers were increasing, with 298 active cases, the situation at Mater Dei hospital remains "stable" and most people were experiencing "very mild" symptoms.
There are currently nine COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital, including three in the intensive treatment unit.
"But cases in hospital and ITU tend to go up three weeks from the community spread, so although the situation is still under control, we have to remain vigilant," he said.
He ruled out any imminent increase in measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"In recent months we have been constantly removing some measures but right now, it is the time to monitor the situation and while we will not adding any measures, we will also not be removing any," he said.
If hospital numbers do not spike, more measures could be reduced, he added.
On the case numbers, Fearne said there are three main clusters: two from workplaces with 25 cases and eight cases each, and a small cluster at a childcare centre, which has six cases.
He stressed that workplaces remain "risky" and said masks were therefore "crucial".