Six new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, the Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci, said on Wednesday.

That raises the number of confirmed cases to 399. More than 20,000 tests have been carried out so far.

Three of the new cases involve migrants at the Hal Far migrants centre.

The other three are a Maltese man, 21, who had been in contact with another confirmed case; a Gozitan woman, 38 who worked as a clerk in a hotel and a 60-year-old Maltese man who works as a government clerk.

Contact tracing is underway in all cases and the hotel is being disinfected but the hotel worker worked with only one colleague in an office.  He has been tested but the result is not out yet.

The number of new cases has been in single figures since Sunday.

"It is good that the numbers are low, but we want to make sure that this is the real picture," Gauci said when she replied to questions. "You need longer periods, possibly weeks to reach certain conclusions. These few days of single figures are not enough to have a reliable indication that the outbreak is easing."  

She warned there could be more cases which have not emerged. Anyone showing symptoms should come forward for testing.

Helpline for those stressed by having to stay indoors

She said the authorities are working with Richmond Foundation in view of the increase in mental health conditions due to prolonged period indoors. People were urged to use helpline 1770. This line has so far received 350 calls.

Replying to other questions, Gauci confirmed that a case had been confirmed at the freeport last week. The person involved had not had contact with other workers.  

Asked whether the number of tests included repeat tests, Gauci explained that when swabs are taken, there needed to be a certain concentration for the virus to be detected.  Consequently, even a negative result had a margin of error. Repeat tests were taken when a positive test resulted, and later when positive tests became negative. 

Social distancing must be observed

Gauci underlined the importance of maintaining social distancing. She said the authorities are monitoring factories and issuing recommendations to limit the risks there, such as the provision of hand rubs. Employees are also being urged to immediately report any symptoms. So far cases in factories have been very few.

She expressed concern about people going to beaches, saying the risk stemmed from the fact that when they went out, people were more likely to meet other people, who could potentially be carriers. The advice, therefore, was for people to stay indoors.  

No relapses detected

Gauci also explained how people who recover from COVID-19 are still kept in quarantine for 14 days and re-tested. So far there have been no relapses.

44 patients have recovered so far.

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