The Malta Independent 9 March 2021, Tuesday

WATCH: One death, 124 new cases registered overnight

Jake Aquilina Wednesday, 30 December 2020, 12:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

One Covid-19 patient has passed away overnight, while another 124 cases of the virus have been found, authorities announced on Wednesday.

138 people meanwhile have recovered from the virus, which means that the number of active cases has decreased to 1,392.

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci's briefing on the situation can be found below.

The briefing came on the same day that Malta confirmed its first cases of the new variant of Covid-19 which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

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Gauci confirmed that the people who arrived from the UK as from 13th December were already requested to take a test as a preventative measure so that if there is a case where there is the UK variant, it would effectively stop the spread of it as much as possible. Indeed, 3 cases out of 8 which tested positive from these tests were identified to have the UK variant.

“We did the genetic sequencing and found 3 cases that were from the UK variants. Two of these cases were foreigners who came on 19th of December and another case is of a Maltese person who is 75 years old. We are still investigating the case and seeing who she had contact with. They are all in isolation and quarantine.” 

3,043 swab tests were carried out in the pasdt 24 hours, taking the total number up to 511,899 so far.

Malta has had 12,665 cases of the virus so far. 11,057 of those have recovered, while 216 have died. 

Regarding where the location of the cases, the Health Superintendent said that 1,320 are in Malta and 87 are in Gozo. Most of them are between the ages of 25-34 years old.

When the cases from between the 23rd and 29th of December are compared to the previous five days, there was a notable jump in confirmed positive cases. The average age of those cases is of 43.6 years

Since the previous briefing, Gauci noted that there had been 15 deaths. Three of them were between 70-79 years old, nine were 80-89 years old, and three were over 90 years old, some of which were from old people’s homes.

Regarding mortality related to Covid-19, males (141) have almost double the amount of that of females (75).

The places as to where people are hospitalised is as follows: 12 in ITU, 8 in IDU, 43 in general wards at Mater Dei Hospital, 14 in Boffa Hospital, 7 at St. Thomas Hospital, 73 at Good Samaritan Hospital, 2 in Mount Carmel Hospital, and 5 at the Gozo General Hospital. No cases were residing at Karen Grech Hospital.

The total moving average of cases stands at 90.

Gauci also noted that seven different elderly homes have cases with the virus.

In terms of clusters, households had the highest number with 152, direct contacts 64, workplaces with 63 and gatherings 37. “Like we expected and warned people to be vigilant about, there were cases from gatherings during the festive season. A cub-cluster of 8 people went to tombola, all elderly, and as a result 70 people ended up in quarantine,” Gauci remarked. 

 

The current plan as to how people will be vaccinated was also highlighted, starting from frontliners. “We have an agreement with the EU and they will be coming in lots regularly. We also have a strategy of prioritisation of inoculations. We started from those who are most in contact with Covid-19, like IDU and ITU. We are also going to tackle old people’s homes, and those over 85. We are satisfied with the rollout plan”

Gauci also confirmed that the legal notice for bars and clubs to remain closed will be extended till the first of February.

The current plan as to how people will be vaccinated was also highlighted, with vaccinations starting from healthcare frontliners. “We have an agreement with the EU and they will be coming in lots regularly. We also have a strategy of prioritisation of inoculations. We started from those who are most in contact with COVID-19, like IDU and ITU. We are also going to tackle old people’s homes, and those over 85. We are satisfied with the rollout plan”, Gauci said.

Asked about a nurse who tested positive in California after being given the first of two doses of the vaccine, Gauci said that there are diverse factors that one has to consider. “This virus has an incubation period of 2 weeks. This person could have come across the virus before she was vaccinated and she was already incubating the virus. Also, there are around 10 days until your body builds immunity, which means that this nurse would not have had enough immunity to battle the virus. There could also be the case that since she was given the 1st jab only, it only generated around 50% of immunity. Only when one takes the second jab, will one build up to 95% immunity.”

Asked by this newsroom what the difference between the UK strain and the conventional strain is, Gauci said: “It is affecting a certain part of the spike protein of the virus. It makes it easier to enter cells, so that is why it is easier for transmission to happen. This is what we know up till now. There is, so far, no evidence which shows that the cases are more severe or will affect the vaccination.”

Professor Gauci was also asked about possible side effects that the vaccines could have.

“If you look at other countries, such as in the UK and US, we can see that there are only minimal side effects, like redness on the part where the vaccine was jabbed, or weariness for one or two days. In Malta there was no one who reported side effects. In fact, most of my colleagues at Mater Dei hospital already had the vaccine and are working business as usual.”

The Health Superintendent still appealed for people to remain vigilant, especially during this festive period when people might be considering gathering.

“We are still at the start of vaccinating; we still need to prevent transmission. Until we inoculate enough of the population, it is important that we follow the protocols given by the Health Authorities. We learnt what happened when we don’t follow the measures. We know how to control it; by keeping distance, by using masks, and by practicing hand hygiene.” 

 

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