Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has delivered her weekly update on COVID-19, the last before Christmas and days ahead of first doses of a vaccine arriving in Malta. 

On Wednesday, Malta's COVID-19 death toll reached 201 as five new deaths were recorded. However, the number of daily cases continues to decrease with 82 new COVID-19 patients recorded from 2,609 tests.

"Let us keep working to keep this rate low," Gauci said. "We are seeing abroad the cases increasing and those going to hospital too - so we must continue all this work we are doing together so that the numbers remain low."

Watch the news conference live

Where are the patients being treated?

Of the 1,498 people who have COVID-19, the vast majority are recovering in their own homes, while just over ten per cent are being treated in hospitals in Malta and Gozo.

  • 10 of the most seriously-ill patients are under intensive care at Mater Dei hospital;
  • Seven are in the Infectious Diseases Unit; 
  • 31 are in other units at Mater Dei;
  • 80 are being treated in the Good Samaritan facility in St Paul's Bay;
  • Ten are at the Sir Paul Boffa hospital in Floriana;
  • Nine are at St Thomas hospital;
  • Five are being treated at Mount Carmel mental health hospital;
  • Four patients are in Gozo general hospital;
  • One is at Karen Grech hospital;

Most of the patients, 1,488, are in Malta while 65 are in Gozo. 

How is COVID-19 being spread?

Households account for the largest cluster of patients, with 70 traced back to people's homes, followed by workplaces, 38, direct contact with people, 24, and gatherings, 15. 

Gauci said the situation at homes for the elderly was being controlled through testing, quarantine and isolating patients at the Good Samaritan facility. But she said some homes still have a "few cases". 

There are no active cases in any of the migrant centres in Malta. 

The average age of a COVID-19 patient is 39 and the 25-34 age group has seen a peak in cases, she said. 

What about the new COVID-19 variant?

Gauci's latest update comes days after the UK announced it had discovered a highly-infectious new variant of the virus. Malta has suspended all commercial flights from Britain, except for repatriation of residents and nationals.

However, the number of imported COVID-19 cases remains low. Gauci said that between December 17 - 22, just eight tested positive. 

On Monday, two people from the UK and one from Italy arrived with the virus. The variant has not been detected from any case in Malta so far, Gauci said. 

Who should take the vaccine?

The first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is due to arrive by sea on Saturday, with a nurse at Mater Dei scheduled to be the first person on the island inoculated the following morning. Only 55 people will be given the jab on Sunday.

Healthcare staff and those aged 85 will then receive the jab before it is rolled out further. 

Gauci said the following people should consult their doctor before taking the vaccine, when they are invited to do so by the health authorities:

  • People who have had severe allergic reactions or breathing problems after any other vaccine injection;
  • Anyone who has fainted following a needle injection;
  • Anyone who has a severe illness or infection with high-fever;
  • Anyone with a bleeding problem, such as bruising easily or anyone who uses medicine to prevent blood clots;
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system, either because of a disease like HIV or medicine that affects the immune system.

Children under 16, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and women who are planning pregnancy within the next two months should not take the vaccine. 

Active COVID-19 cases or those in quarantine are being advised not to take the vaccine, so that they do not expose others. 

The first dose of the vaccine will give a person 52 per cent immunity, which rises to full immunity on the second dose, Gauci said, stressing it was important that people keep both appointments.  

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