The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

Malta to get new swab tests which can identify Covid-19 variants

Thursday, 4 March 2021, 17:13 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta has acquired new PCR swab testing kits which will be able to identify whether a patient is positive for Covid-19 and, if so, with what variant of the virus the patient is positive with, Minister of Health Chris Fearne said during a press conference on Thursday.

Fearne said that Mater Dei Hospital will be “one of the first hospitals in the world” to acquire these PCR testing kits.

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As with previous PCR swabs, the tests will show if one has tested positive or negative for Covid-19, however they will have the added capability of confirming if the individual is carrying the UK variant or not.

“We will probably start using the kits by the end of this week and we will be able to tell in real time how many patients are positive with the variant”, Fearne said.

Fearne announced the measure during a press conference where the government announced a slew of new measures in order to combat Covid-19.

The Health Minister said that as things stand, the only way of identifying the extent of the variant thus far in Malta has been through genome sequencing: a process where health professionals can detect mutations and strains in diseases.

These tests are run weekly and the results of this week’s genome sequencing will be made available to authorities on Thursday night.

Fearne also said that the UK variant is becoming more widespread in Malta and is a chief factor behind the increase in cases seen as of late.

The variant is 70% more transmissible than the original Covid-19 variant, even amongst children.

While the number of variant cases was not disclosed during the press conference, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said during her weekly briefing last Friday that 61 cases of the UK variant are present in Malta, with an estimation that 8% of all positive Covid variants in Malta originated from the UK variant.

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