Rising COVID-19 hospitalisations are driving Mater Dei hospital to "breaking point", public health consultant Tanya Melillo warned on Wednesday.

"The hospital is always very busy in winter. Admissions of patients with influenza and other health conditions generally increase at this time of year," she said.

"On top of that, this year we are dealing with a higher number of COVID patients, and we only have one hospital. We are reaching breaking point."

Melillo, a member of the Infectious Disease Prevention & Control Unit at Mater Dei, was answering questions about Wednesday's record number of COVID cases during an interview on Newsbook. 

She urged people to abide by restrictions, "avoid travelling as much as possible", and self isolate at the first sign of symptoms. 

"Even if you just have a sore throat or runny nose, don't go out, don't go to work, and isolate yourself from your family, because you likely have COVID," she said.

Melillo said the Omicron variant is likely behind the soaring numbers, but more testing needs to be done to officially verify a case of the variant.

She said new cases will rise even more in the coming days and they will not go down any time soon, "definitely not until the end of the year".

She urged people to go out only with their immediate family and in open spaces.

People, she said, are meeting in large numbers and ignoring restrictions, and do not always cooperate when they are contacted to quarantine.

"Please answer the phone immediately when we call you and cooperate with us," she said, implying that people are sometimes ignoring calls from health authorities and "changing emails" to get out of mandatory quarantine.

Melillo said that older people who got the booster vaccine are not getting sick as much, meaning that the booster is working.

On Wednesday, a record 582 new COVID-19 cases were registered in Malta and two people died. Of the cases, 47 are in hospital including four in intensive care unit. 

The numbers are 72 more than the previous record of daily cases set on March 10 last year.  At that stage, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital were much higher, with Mater Dei hospital having to open a third intensive care unit. 

Health professionals, however, say that those statistics need to be considered in light of an increase in flu and other winter illnesses this year. 

The nurses' union reacted to the increased numbers, saying the hospital is full and nurses are exhausted. It urged authorities to stop non-urgent surgeries and close bars.

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