Nearly one in 10 active coronavirus cases are in homes for the elderly, who are most vulnerable to the virus, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has revealed.
Of the 2,167 patients being treated for COVID-19, some 204 are residents of care homes across Malta and Gozo.
There are COVID-19 outbreaks in six homes: Dar Pinto (74 patients), Golden Care Malta (39), Zammit Clapp (35), Casa Paola (36), San Lawrenz (7) and Saint Vincent de Paul (13).
"Please pay attention to mitigation measures," Gauci warned at her weekly public briefing on Friday afternoon, where she announced 121 new cases and 105 recoveries.
She also announced two more deaths - an 86-year-old woman who tested positive on November 8 and died on Thursday night and a 75-year-old woman who tested positive on November 20 and died on Friday morning.
It brings the death toll to 108 people, out of a total of 8,681 cases. This week alone, 16 people have died with the virus.
Authorities announced 121 new known COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Watch Gauci's update here
Thirteen people are being treated in the intensive treatment unit at Mater Dei, while a further two are being treated with intensive care at Gozo General Hospital.
A further 13 are in the infectious diseases unit at Mater Dei while a further 175 people are being treated in other wards and hospitals.
Five homes for the elderly, the most vulnerable age group to COVID-19, have seen an increase in the number of positive cases.
How is COVID-19 being spread?
Of the clusters of active cases, most come from households, with 138 cases, then workplaces (60) followed by arrivals from other countries (13) and social gatherings (4).
"Don't go to work if you are sick," Gauci warned the public. "There are a lot of viruses going around as well as COVID. Some symptoms are very similar so if you feel any of them, don't go to work."
The 13 imported cases came from 610 tests at the airport, which introduced rapid testing this week, meaning that results can be obtained within half an hour. Since August, there have been 78 imported cases of COVID-19.
There are seven cases in migrant detention and open centres. In prison, there are six cases: two prisoners and four staff.
The average age of a COVID-19 patient has dropped slightly from last week, to 42 with the most common age group remaining between 35 and 44. Overall, active cases are trending upward, Gauci said.
When will Malta get a vaccine?
She said the "light on the horizon" was news about a vaccine, especially that it is proving to be effective among older people. However she would not speculate on when Malta could expect to receive doses.
"Everyone wants it to control the situation in their countries, so there will be a period of months for manufacturing. We cannot expect it to be available immediately when licensed. That is why we have to keep mitigation measures," she said.
Dismissing concerns that people would refuse to take the vaccine and therefore it should be compulsory, Gauci said the Maltese "usually get vaccinated so we don't see the need to make it mandatory."
With Christmas approaching, Gauci appealed for the public not to spend it meeting a lot of people and to bear in mind the elderly and vulnerable.
"The best gift we can give is protecting our family from the virus, which could have horrible consequences," she said.
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