The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

If COVID-19 case numbers are sustained in coming days, we are in second wave – Vince Marmara

Albert Galea Sunday, 17 May 2020, 08:30 Last update: about 5 months ago

If the daily number of new Covid-19 cases in Malta remains sustained over the coming days, then it would mean that the country is in a second wave of the virus, statistician Vincent Marmara told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Speaking in his weekly exclusive video blog with the newspaper, Marmara noted the increase in cases this past week when compared to the new cases over the past three weeks.

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After three weeks of relatively low numbers of new cases, the numbers began to rise once more towards the end of this week – with a total of 38 new cases being found between Thursday and Saturday.

The 14 new cases registered on Thursday was the first time since 21 April that the number rose to double figures, and the highest single day tally since 11 April, when 20 new cases were found.

The increase comes towards the end of the second week since some restrictive measures were lifted by the government.  Non-essential retail outlets were re-opened, travel between Malta and Gozo was permitted again, and certain medical procedures were continued. Mitigation measures, such as the mandatory wearing of facemasks or visors in public places, were also implemented.

Over the course of next week, Marmara said, we will begin to understand whether the increase is sustained or not.  If it is sustained, he added, then the increase in cases is not merely a spike, but signifies a second wave of the virus.

This is important to take note of when analysing the reproduction rate of the virus in Malta, Marmara said.

The reproduction ratio of the virus is one of the key figures which countries across the world have been trying to reduce ever since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The aim for countries has been to reduce the ratio to a level of 1 – which would mean that one person would transmit the virus to one other person.

Marmara said that if the 70-day period since the virus first appeared in Malta had to be taken as a whole, then the effective reproduction number as things stand would be below 1.

However, if only the last three weeks are considered in the mathematical model, then it shows a reproduction ratio which is above 1.  Therefore, he said, one must analyse whether this increase in cases will be sustained in order to understand whether this is indeed a second wave or not.

He noted that a second wave can still be kept flat, adding that these numbers must continue to be studied in the coming days in order to understand the effect on the potential relaxation of restrictive measures and social distancing measures in the country.

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