A total of 43 COVID-19 patients are being treated at three hospitals, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said on Friday during her weekly COVID-19 update.

Two of these are being treated at the Intensive Treatment Unit and are breathing with the help of a ventilator, while another nine are at the Infectious Diseases Unit. Ten people are being hosted at other Mater Dei Hospital wards. 

Another 10 patients are at Sir Paul Boffa Hospital, while 12 people are at St Thomas Hospital.

Eight of the hospitalised patients reside at homes for the elderly. 

Gauci noted that the average age of the patients, hovering around the 20s and 30s earlier this summer, had shot up to 50.6. 

There have been two coronavirus-related deaths since Gauci's last Friday update. A 91-year-old woman became Malta's seventeenth COVID-19 victim on Thursday, and an 86-year-old woman died at the IDU on Monday.

Over the past few days, the number of elderly people who tested positive for COVID-19 has spiked. The government has in the meantime issued a set of new measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19 at homes for the elderly.

Five of Friday's 39 new cases are from homes for the elderly. Gauci called for proper infection control procedures at homes for the elderly, to avoid another outbreak. 

So far, the largest cluster related to homes for the elderly was traced to St Joseph home in Fgura. Ninety-three residents and 23 staff members have tested positive for the virus. 

COVID-19 clusters

A third of the cases diagnosed this week were sporadic, while the rest were related to clusters. A total of 20 people with COVID-19 live in Gozo.

Gauci said on Friday that while cases traced to entertainment events had slowed down, most of the clusters were related to homes for the elderly. 

There are currently 117 cases related to homes for the elderly. These include residents and staff. 

Meanwhile, cases related to family clusters increased by 71 patients this week. Another four cases were related to social gatherings while a further four were traced to the workplace.

She urged people who test positive for coronavirus to isolate themselves and, if possible, use a different bathroom from the rest of their family members. Otherwise, bathrooms need to be thoroughly cleaned.

Gauci said that Malta, like the rest of Europe, was experiencing another peak. 

She noted that while according to the law, 15 people could meet up in public places, people should try to keep this number even lower.

"The virus won’t distinguish between relatives and friends,  so the more we avoid gatherings, the less the risk," Gauci said.

11 travellers test positive

Referring to travel restrictions, the superintendent said that no new countries will be added to Malta's amber list this week.

Since August 22, the authorities have randomly tested 456 travellers at the airport. Eleven of these tested positive for the virus. 

Asked about the reopening of schools, Gauci said the authorities were focusing on controlling the rate of infection in the community in order to minimise the risk at schools.

So far, less than five per cent of those with COVID-19 are children. 

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