Three new coronavirus cases were confirmed between Sunday and Monday, bringing Malta’s total number of cases up to 480.
The new cases were discovered from a total of 731 swab tests.
A further seven patients have recovered from the virus, meaning 399 COVID-19 cases have been successfully dealt with. Health authorities now have 77 active cases to oversee.
Just 14 patients are being treated in hospital, with seven at Boffa Hospital, five at St Thomas, and two at Mater Dei Hospital: one in intensive care, who is stable, and one in the infectious diseases unit. All other patients are recovering at home.
All three new cases are of people who reported symptoms to the 111 helpline.
Case 1 is of a Maltese man aged 33 who reported symptoms on April 29. He was in contact with another person who tested positive previously.
Case 2 is of a Maltese woman aged 50 who exhibited symptoms on May 2. She is the relative of a woman who had contact with an infected person last week.
Case 3 is of a male healthcare worker aged 26 who showed symptoms on May 3. He last worked one day before exhibiting symptoms. A risk assessment is under way to find colleagues of his who were in contact with him and to see whether any patients were exposed.
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Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci made a pointed plea to people to stay indoors where possible and warned that relaxed containment measures, which came into force on Monday, “do not mean that people can keep going out”.
Non-essential retail shops were allowed to open as of Monday, provided they abide by certain mitigation measures.
“If people keep going out then we risk losing all that we worked so hard to achieve,” Gauci said.
Vulnerable groups – those aged over 65, pregnant women and those suffering from one of a number of medical conditions – should stay at home even if their workplace has reopened, Gauci said.
“Vulnerable people should stay at home and it’s important that anyone entering shops or getting on a bus wears a mask”.
Authorities had previously followed World Health Organization guidelines and advised the public that there was no need to wear masks, saying these should be reserved for healthcare workers and those in medical settings.
The government has now reversed its stance and said anyone entering a shop or bus must wear a mask or face shield. No fine applies for any law-breakers, though Gauci said that a breach of this would be a breach of the public health act and would result in court proceedings.
Bus drivers have the right to refuse to allow any passenger not wearing a face mask to board, she added.
Children aged under 3 do not need to wear a mask when inside shops or buses.
Asked why the government had changed its approach, Gauci argued that the face-mask measure had to be seen in the broader context of a decision to relax containment measures.
While community transmission had lessened significantly in the past weeks, the increased presence of people in public spaces could cause community transmission to spike again.
She noted that many other governments had adopted similar approaches and made mask-wearing mandatory as they gradually eased measures and allowed people to mingle.
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