Two new COVID-19 cases were found between Thursday and Friday from a total of 611 tests, bringing Malta’s total number of coronavirus cases up to 447.
A further 19 patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recovered patients up to 223.
One of the new patients is a 60-year-old Maltese woman who works as a carer in a home for the elderly. Her infection was discovered during routine screening of carers as she was asymptomatic. Authorities have been screening carers as they change shifts, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci said.
The second new patient is a Maltese man aged 43 who reported symptoms on April 23, including cough, fever and aches.
He went to work despite having symptoms and interacted with colleagues, Gauci said. Contact tracing among them is under way.
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Replying to questions, Gauci said that people visiting Mater Dei Hospital for appointments were being asked to put on masks to protect others.
Asked whether authorities were planning to expand the use of face masks to other settings, Gauci did not reply, saying only that a decision about whether or not to wear masks was based on a risk assessment.
Germany this week became the latest in a string of countries to encourage the use of masks in public places, with authorities there noting that masks could help limit the spread of the virus by asymptomatic carriers who do not know they are infected.
Plasma testing under way
Local researchers are looking into the use of blood plasma therapy to treat coronavirus patients, Gauci confirmed, and Malta is part of an international trial into the treatment.
Plasma therapy is the use of blood from recovered patients to treat patients who are infected.
The vast majority of Malta's coronavirus cases, she noted, had not required hospital treatment and had recovered on their own.
Dwindling number of cases
It is the third consecutive day with a very low number of new coronavirus cases reported, with just one new case reported on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Over the past week, the number of recoveries has outpaced the growth in new COVID-19 cases.
Gauci said on Thursday that the virus’ reproductive rate in Malta had fallen below 1, meaning each infected person is now infecting an average of less than one person each. Health Minister Chris Fearne said this week that some pandemic restrictions could be lifted in the "coming days".
Speaking on Friday, she warned that while the number of new cases appeared low, the risk of new infections remained and the public health emergency in place would remain in place for the time being.
Warm weather and immunity
Gauci told reporters that it was too early to say with any certainty whether the virus subsided in warmer weather. Research into that claim is still under way.
The same is true of claims that people who have recovered from the virus can be reinfected, she said.
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