People will only be allowed to meet with one other household in their home from Wednesday, Charmaine Gauci has announced.

It means the previous rule, limiting four households from gathering in a private residence has been slashed to two.

The Superintendent of Public Health revealed the new restriction when answering questions from Times of Malta readers on the fortnightly Ask Charmaine programme. A legal notice enforcing the restriction was published on Wednesday afternoon.

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“We have evaluated the situation and we have seen the majority of cases are still coming from households,” Gauci said.

She said a legal notice will be issued today limiting meetings in private houses to two households.

This, she said, will be law, and the authorities will investigate reports they receive. She however urged everyone to be responsible, for their own sake and that of others. 

The rule will not apply to anyone carrying out works at home, for example, two workers and the home owner. And situations where care is needed, for instance two nurses treating a patient at home, will also be exempt. 

Fearne: we need to be vigilant 

Health Minister Chris Fearne told Times of Malta that the new measure would further limit social contact and delay the virus' spread until a larger proportion of the population had been vaccinated. 

"We need to remain vigilant and limit spread to as little as possible," Fearne said, adding that "up to 75 per cent of new positive COVID cases are now being attributable to a more infectious UK variant and there is a long holiday weekend coming up." 

The limit of people from four households was announced earlier this month when a raft of new measures, including the closure of restaurants, were introduced as virus cases peaked.

There had been criticism that while groups in public spaces could not be more than four people, people from up to four households could meet in private residences. 

No choice in type of vaccines - all are safe and effective

Replying to another question, Gauci stressed that all available vaccines in Malta are very effective. A person’s vulnerability does not impact on the type of vaccine which a person gets. 

People, she said, cannot choose which vaccine to take. The only distinction is that those aged over 70 do not take AstraZeneca because no data for older people exists so far.

Closure of schools

Asked if schools will remain closed after the Easter holidays if case numbers remain high, Gauci said restrictions continue to be monitored on the basis of case numbers and the situation at hospital. 

"It is too early to say, there are a number of variables to consider before adding or easing measures," she said. 

People dying at home

Asked about people dying at home, Gauci said this could be a result of patient's vulnerabilities, rapid progression of the virus and poor communication with the health authorities.

It was important that patients communicated with the health authorities when they noticed symptoms such as shortness of breath she said.

She said it was positive that the number of hospitalisations involving people aged over 80 had declined, showing that the vaccines were working.

She said the vaccination programme is currently focused on those between 60 and 79 years old, a large group from which people are being invited in batches. People should not phone yet if they have not received their invitation. 

Two vaccination programmes are underway, she said, with those aged over 70 getting Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and the younger ones getting AstraZenica. There are currently over 40 vaccination centres.

Gauci stressed that the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation had stated once more, that vaccination using AstraZenica should continue. 

"We have not have had any major issues with the vaccinations," she said. The number of reported blood clots abroad was 'very very low' she said, and the repercussions of not taking the vaccine was 'very very high'.

Sports activities - ban on organised, not individual sport

On sports activities, she explained that all organised sport has been stopped but individual sport activities can continue. People can practice sports together within the limits on the number of people who can meet together.  

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