Nine new COVID-19 cases have been reported overnight, the superintendent of public health, Charmaine Gauci, said on Tuesday.

This was the third straight day that new confirmed cases were in single figures. Six new cases were reported on Monday and eight on Sunday. But there were 20 cases on Saturday, 13 on Friday and 38 on Thursday.

The total number of confirmed cases is now 393.

Health officials have repeatedly cautioned against a false sense of optimism and relaxation of precautions, warning that Malta is still in its early stages of dealing with the pandemic.

Gauci said 1,051 tests were carried out over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 19,121.

The new cases

  • A Maltese man, 71, reported first symptoms on April 11 with fever and headache. He is retired and was only in contact with his family.

  • A woman 50, who did not go to work since experiencing symptoms.

  • A man, 48, who last worked on April 9 and had symptoms on April 11.

  • An Indian woman, 34, who works as a carer at an old people's home. This home is under lockdown, meaning there is a shift where the carers work for some time and then are off. The carer in question was tested just before starting her shift. The case is contained and she wasn't at the home days before she tested positive.

  • A Maltese man, 30, had symptoms on April 11. Contact tracing is being made at his workplace to investigate whether his colleagues were at risk.

  • A woman, 23, a Briton who works and lives in Malta. The woman went to work on April 5, a day before she started showing symptoms. Contact tracing is under way.

  • The last three cases are of migrants at Hal Far - three men from Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Sudan. They tested positive through random screening. 

Two patients are at the Intensive Treatment Unit - a person on a ventilator who is in a stable condition, and another under observation.

Replying to questions, Gauci said that in many of the new cases, one cannot really trace where they got the virus from. "We must continue to be vigilant," she stressed.

On the reported criminalisation of the wilful spreading of COVID-19, with liability of a prison term of nine years on conviction, she said this legal notice was still being drafted. 

Is the curve being flattened?

Asked if the new figures meant that Malta was managing to 'flatten the curve' Gauci said there were days when numbers had been high and others when they were low. In such a small population, numbers could vary. The trend line was still upward, at a rate which was good so far.

Current measures needed to be kept up because there was no indication that the peak had been reached. 

On construction works, Gauci said the authorities had not seen a need to halt activity but workers needed to observe practice social distancing, even on construction sites.

Asked about tests for antibodies, Gauci explained that while authorities had obtained test kits for this purpose, there were questions as to how effective and reliable they are. 

Antibody tests are used to determine whether a person has developed antibodies to combat COVID-19. They are expected to be useful when countries try to determine what percentage of a population has developed immunity to the virus. 

The Financial Times reported last week that the UK had ordered millions of antibody tests but discovered that they did not work.

19 healthcare workers at Mater Dei test positive so far

Gauci confirmed that 19 healthcare workers from Mater Dei Hospital have tested positive. 

She insisted at the end of the press conference that people must continue to  follow directives issued by the health authorities. The 'R factor' - the virus transmission rate from one person to another - was still more than one, she said.

Local modelling indicated that the R0 locally stands at around 1.5.

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