The Malta Independent 20 January 2022, Thursday

Almost one out of every five Covid-19 tests are positive, as Malta’s positivity rate skyrockets

Albert Galea Sunday, 2 January 2022, 09:00 Last update: about 17 days ago

Almost one out of every five Covid-19 tests are returning as positive results, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to tear through the country.

In the past week, Malta’s positivity rate – meaning the percentage of tests carried out which return a positive result – has, much like the case numbers themselves, sky-rocketed to record highs.

In fact, it has been over 16% since Tuesday 28 December, and on Friday crept up to 17.87%.

Increases in Covid-19 cases have usually been correlated with a significant increase in testing for the virus, which has subsequently kept the positivity rate reasonably low.

In fact, the weekly positivity rate in previous spikes only at around 5% in March 2020, and around 8% in March 2021 and August 2021.  That is because while the number of Covid-19 cases being found did increase, the number of tests being administered increase by much more.

Data shared by the Superintendence of Public Health shows that while the number of swab tests has increased to record numbers – with just over 8,000 swab tests being administered each day – the sheer volume of cases being found means that the positivity rate has increased significantly as well.

In the first 14 days of December, the positivity rate stood around the 3% mark, with the only exception being 3 December when 133 cases were reported from 3,254 tests – equating to a positivity rate of 4.08%.

However, that rate began to increase on 15 December, when cases started to creep upwards. 

By 21 December, 386 cases had been reported from 5,186 tests – meaning a positivity rate of 7.44%.  582 cases were reported on the following day from 5,861 tests – meaning a positivity rate of 9.93%.

Testing subsequently went up a notch, but the positivity rate by 24 December stood at 12%, after 955 cases were found from 7,955 tests.

And while around 8,000 tests seem to be the maximum number of tests that health authorities can administer every day, the positivity rate has continued to creep upwards, exceeding 16% every day since Tuesday.

The peak positivity rate was registered on Friday – the last day analysed in this data set – when 1,403 cases were found from 7,849 tests.  That’s a positivity rate of 17.87%.

The numbers support the theory that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has truly taken hold of the pandemic situation in Malta.  Only two cases had been reported by health authorities in their last Covid-19 press conference, however Health Minister Chris Fearne had himself said that the likelihood was that the majority of cases being found were of that variant.

The Omicron variant is less likely to land people in hospital than the Delta variant, but it is far more transmissible, according to studies from around the world. In fact, while the number of cases has continued to skyrocket, the number of cases in hospital – particularly in intensive care – has remained comparatively low.


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