Heath authorities identified 20 new coronavirus cases between Friday and Saturday, taking Malta’s total tally of confirmed cases to 370. 

Ten of the newly-identified cases were among residents of the Ħal Far tent village, which was placed on lockdown on Sunday after eight residents tested there. 

Ħal Far residents who tested positive are all men. They are now in isolation.

The 20 new cases were identified from 1,288 tests carried out over the past 24 hours – a record daily number which now brings the total number of tests carried out up to 16,016. 

Lockdown 

Gauci said she was dismayed to see photos of people gathered at beaches on Good Friday, and warned that even if people were only there with their immediate family, they had no way of knowing if others around them were infected. 

“You do not know who the people next to you are, so this is an added risk,” she said. 

Asked whether it was time to order a complete lockdown to stop such behaviour, Gauci said authorities were evaluating the situation day-by-day. 

"Measures being rolled out are proportionate to the circumstances," she said. "But it is crucial that people cooperate."

Carers

Gauci noted that the relatively high number of carers who have tested positive for the virus could be due to the fact that carers are being more intensely tested than others. Carers are being provided with personal protective equipment but given that they worked within the community, the chance of infection always existed, she said. 

Ħal Far

Asked whether she was concerned about the situation at the Ħal Far open centre, Gauci noted that the centre was currently sealed off and that residents tended to be young and healthy, meaning there is less risk of complications emerging among patients living there. The Red Cross is helping authorities there, she said. 

Hong Kong model

Gauci revealed that local health authorities are basing their local projections on the Hong Kong model. Hong Kong, like Malta, is relatively small and densely populated.

Hong Kong had as of Saturday reported 1,001 confirmed cases and four deaths.

The Chinese city has been heralded as a model for how to successfully beat back the coronavirus pandemic, but in recent days has had to contend with a fresh wave of infections – in large part due to travellers entering from overseas. The city announced tougher travel restrictions in March. 

Nevertheless, despite a population of almost 7.5 million people, Hong Kong had as of Friday recorded eight consecutive days of less than 30 new cases every day. 

Gauci urged caution when looking at projections and models, noting that all models were based on certain assumptions which could prove to be right or wrong. 

A projection for Malta devised by researchers in the USA and which assumes full social distancing has predicted that Malta will experience its virus peak on April 22. 

Case details

An Albanian 31-year-old woman who lives in Gozo and works as a cleaner at the Gozo General Hospital. She reported a cough on April 6. 

A Gozitan woman, aged 30, who works as a carer at Gozo General Hospital. She had no symptoms and was tested as part of widespread screening taking place. 

A 42-year-old carer at Karin Grech Hospital who reported sneezing on April 5. 

A 32-year-old woman who reported a runny nose on April 7. She works as a care worker in the community. 

A 63-year-old woman, who reported symptoms including fever and sneezing on April 8. She was not working. 

A 33-year-old man who was showing no symptoms. 

A 61-year-old man who complained of sore throat on April 8 and tested positive.

A 21-year-old woman who visited a store where a COVID-19 case was previously identified. She reported a runny nose and visited an elderly person while symptomatic.

A 33-year-old man who was abroad and returned on March 3. He also visited the previously-mentioned store. His symptoms intensified on April 6. 

An 84-year-old man who was taken to hospital after complaining of shortness of breath. His condition steadily deteriorated and he died on Saturday morning. 

The other 10 cases are all of men who live at the Ħal Far open centre. Of those 10, seven tested positive following random testing. The remaining three had been in contact with previously-infected people and were in quarantine.

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