Four new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed overnight, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has said. 

It brings the total number of people infected in Malta to 431, with three deaths.

However, the numbers of daily reported cases have been falling over the last few days and more than a quarter of those who contracted the virus have now recovered. 

Eight more people recovered from the virus overnight, Gauci said, bringing the total recoveries to 126.

Rate of infection drops

Gauci told the news conference that the rate of infection - the number of people each sick person contaminates - has dropped.

She had previously said the so-called 'R0' factor in Malta was at 1.5. She later told Times of Malta the figure had dropped to approximately 1.1.  

Germany has begun opening up shops and other businesses, partly because the rate of infection there dropped below one for the first time last week. 

Gauci said Malta's success in fighting the virus depended upon public cooperation with preventative measures and that it was important for anyone with symptoms to continue to come forward for testing.  

"We are doing well as a country, we are doing our best as authorities, but everyone must do their part to help," she said.

New cases

The new cases include three people in the Ħal Far centre for migrants and refugees, which is currently under mandatory lockdown. They include a man from Morocco, a 17-year-old Somalian and an 18-year-old from Sudan. 

Gauci explained that the authorities were carrying out tests at the centre in tranches, rather than all together.

The fourth person is a 59-year-old man, who was tested after experiencing shortness of breath and other symptoms.

Gauci was asked about the low numbers of cases being reported, despite mid-April being forecast as a peak period for the virus in Malta, and whether there could be a problem with the tests.

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New tests

She said authorities were carrying out tests via swabbing, which is, she said, the "gold standard" but admitted it also "has some shortcomings".

Asked by Times of Malta if the authorities had changed to using a different type of test recently, she said there "may have been a difference in the type of swabs". 

She explained that there are diverse types - some, which must be held in refrigerated conditions and others that are not. She said authorities have "specialised refrigerators and transport so the tests are kept as should be."

She also reassured the public that the authorities had a contingency plan, should there be another wave of cases.

Currently most coronavirus patients are being treated at home. Some 39 people are being treated in various hospitals, with two of those in intensive care.  

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