Malta has registered its first cases of the UK-variant of Covid-19, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Wednesday morning, with Public Health Supertindent Charmaine Gauci confirming that three people had been found to have the variant.
In a tweet, Fearne said that the cases are isolated and their contacts have been quarantined.
He urged the public to stay vigilant, responsible, and safe.
In her weekly briefing on the Covid-19 situation on Wednesday afternoon, Charmaine Gauci said that when it became clear through the ECDC that the virus had spread beyond the UK probably before it had been identified, gene sequencing testing started to take place on cases who were already positive.
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.”
As of Wednesday, Malta has 1,392 active cases of Covid-19.
This particular variant of the virus was first identified in the United Kingdom, but it has been detected in a number of European countries such as France and Denmark.
UK #coronavirus variant registered in Malta. Cases are isolated and contacts quarantined. Stay vigilant, stay responsible, stay safe.
— Chris Fearne (@chrisfearne) December 30, 2020
Initial analysis on the variant have suggested that it is not more serious or lethal than what has been found to be the conventional variant of Covid-19, however studies point to the variant being more transmissable.
Pfizer have said that the vaccine – which has now been rolled out to the whole of Europe including Malta – does work on the new variant of the virus.
Many EU countries had reacted to the new variant by shutting their borders to the United Kingdom, with that causing problems especially on the UK’s commercial border with France in Dover.
Malta had eventually followed suit: the govenrment on 21 December initially said that flights would continue to and from the UK but that a mandatory 14-day period had to be observed for all travellers. A few hours later in that day, it was announced that flights had been suspended outright, save for Maltese in the UK who wanted to return to the country – who also had to observe a 14-day quarantine period.
In a press conference a week or so ago, Fearne had said that Malta would be using gene sequencing on cases which were positive at that time in order to identify whether they had the new variant of Covid-19 or not.