The authorities are in the process of drafting a plan that would ease the country out of the quasi-lockdown currently in place until April 11, public health chief Charmaine Gauci said on Friday.
She did not provide any details on what this plan will include, nor did she say when it will be made public.
"The authorities have always identified the hotspots - those areas where the risks are higher - and this is what the health authorities are currently doing.
"The plan is being drafted so as to relax measures in the best possible way," Gauci said.
The Superintendent of Public Health made the announcement during her weekly COVID-19 health briefing.
Gauci's press briefing kicked off just as the health authorities confirmed 103 new infections were detected overnight. The new cases were found after 2,252 tests were carried out. A further 332 patients have recovered.
The health authorities also confirmed four patients died from the virus - four males aged 68, 72, 73 and 80.
The number of new cases has stabilised over the past week, with daily figures hovering around the 100 mark. The total number of active cases now stands at 1,853, the lowest figure since the first week of January.
Malta is currently on quasi-lockdown, with schools closed and all non-essential business shuttered, as part of efforts to stop the rapid spread of the virus which in recent weeks spiked because of the so-called UK variant.
Gauci started off by providing an update on the vaccination programme, saying this was well underway and a substantial number of people already have full protection.
"We have sent out invites to all those over 80 and 75 and so those who are mobile and fall in this age group but who have yet to receive their letter should get in touch via the 145 helpline," she said.
The public health chief said Malta, like the rest of Europe, was still waiting for the recently-approved Johnson&Johnson vaccine to start being shipped to Malta. The authorities would be stepping up the roll our programme accordingly, she said.
Where are patients being treated?
Of the 1,853 active virus cases, 90 are being treated in hospital, including 20 of the sickest patients receiving intensive care. The full breakdown is:
- 20 in Mater Dei's intensive treatment unit;
- 6 in Mater Dei's infectious diseases unit;
- 64 in other Mater Dei wards;
- 4 in Gozo hospital, including two in intensive care;
- 14 in Sir Paul Boffa hospital;
- 15 in St Thomas hospital;
- 14 in Good Samaritan;
- 4 in Karin Grech;
- 3 in Mount Carmel.
Gauci noted the number of those in intensive care had gone down over the past week.
The UK variant remained "a concern" and has now taken over the original strain of the virus.
The latest data showed some 79.2 per cent of the cases are of the variant, she said.
Average age of cases is now 39. The impact of the vaccine is now leaving its mark on homes for the elderly, with only seven cases detected over the past week, five residents and two staff members.
"It is clear that the vaccine is working," she said.
'Keep following all measures'
Although the numbers were going down, Gauci warned against complacency and the measures should continue to be followed at all times.
"The numbers we are seeing are due to the measures in place and the vaccine. This is very important - we are seeing the numbers decreasing because of the controls in place.
"We do not want the same thing [spike in numbers] as before to happen - so follow the measures," Gauci urged.
This was especially important during the upcoming public holidays and Easter festivities, she said.
On the number of swab tests carried out during the past week being significantly lower than previous weeks, Gauci said this was because less people were calling up to be tested.
"There are less people who are seeing symptoms and asking to be tested. But it's important that people come forward if they have any symptoms," she said.
Six fully-vaccinated patients died of COVID-19
Asked about deaths among those aged over 80 despite the majority in this age group being vaccinated, Gauci said nobody has 100 per cent efficacy from the jab. That is why the most vulnerable must continue to follow measures until the spread of the virus is much less.
She later confirmed six patients had died from COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
But overall, she said, the majority of people vaccinated are protected.
Studies show that it takes several weeks for the body to develop resistance to COVID-19 after being vaccinated. Gauci did not provide any information about how much time had passed between the six getting vaccinated and their death.
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