193 new cases of Covid-19 were found in the last 24 hours, again taking the number of active cases of the virus up to record heights.
With 143 recoveries and another death being reported, the number of active cases now stands at 2,643. 114 of those active cases are in Gozo.
An 89-year-old woman passed away earlier today, having tested positive for the virus on 4 January.
3,602 swab tests were carried out in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of swab tests up to 560,786 so far.
Malta has had 15,272 cases of Covid-19 so far. 12,393 of them have recovered while 236 have died.
In her weekly briefing on the Covid-19 situation, which can be viewed below, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that yesterday vaccinations begun on the elderly who are over 85 years of age and who live in the community. She said that half the stock is being kept so that the second dose of the vaccine can be administered later down the line.
She noted that by Monday, 2.57% of the population will be covered by the vaccine.
She revealed that updates on the vaccination programme will be given daily as of Monday within the infographic that health authorities publish showing how many new cases there are.
A total of 151 people are in various hospitals across the country.
16 people are receiving treatment in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU), while 7 are receiving treatment in the Infectious Diseases Unit (IDU) at Mater Dei Hospital.
35 people are in other wards at Mater Dei, 10 are in St. Thomas Hospital, 9 in Boffa Hospital, 8 in Gozo General Hospital, 3 in Mount Carmel Hospital, and 1 in Karin Grech Hospital.
Meanwhile, 62 people are receiving treatment at the Good Samaritan Long Term Care Facility.
The seven-day moving average for cases currently stands at 186, while the average age of cases from the past week currently stands at 39 years of age.
She said that six people died while positive for the virus, however noted that this is a reflection of the lower case numbers which the country had some weeks ago. She said that one can expect to see the effect of the increase in cases in the coming weeks.
Gauci said that together with the daily tests, there were also tests being done at the airport for people who travel to Malta from amber zones.
In the past week alone, 1,622 tests were carried out at the airport for incoming passengers and 11 passengers were found to be positive. The countries from where these passengers came are Italy, Turkey, Germany, Hungary and also France.
Gauci also confirmed that the United Kingdom is a red zone and that therefore only Maltese residents are allowed back to Malta together with essential workers.
The use of the contact tracing app has proven to be successful for the notification of individuals to self-quarantine. A total of 91,215 people have downloaded the app which amounts to almost 19% of the population.
Through the app, 505 codes were given to people who resulted positive and from these, 305 people have inputted the code into the app to anonymously alert other app users who might have been in contact with a positive person.
This puts Malta in second place in Europe with regards to the effectiveness of the app.
After the conference, Gauci opened the floor for questions from journalists.
This newsroom asked for Gauci’s comment on the comments made by MAM and MUMN who have said that the vaccination could be given out at a much faster pace than it is currently being given. This statement was confirmed by reports from health workers who stated that the vaccine roll out is much slower than what was planned originally.
Gauci responded by stating that the value of the vaccine is more than gold and, with this in mind, as a health authority they chose a path characterized by steady process which would limit wastage of vaccines and also give reassurance that a second dose will be reserved for everyone who takes the first. She went on to say that to this day, not a single vaccine has been wasted due to rushed preparation. The same could not be said for other countries, she noted.
When asked regarding the lack of restrictive measures present considering the number of cases in comparison to March when the country had gone into a partial lockdown, Gauci responded by saying that although the cases are currently high, they mostly originate from gatherings made during the holidays, when many people met others who were outside their bubble.
Unlike the cases in March, the community infection rate has gone down, this is why the relevant health authorities have not issued further mitigation measures, Gauci said.
Another topic discussed was that of the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine. On the 29 January, the AstraZeneca vaccine will face final scrutiny from the European Medicines Agency.
This approval will further improve the vaccination rate in Malta. Without the AstraZeneca vaccine, by the start of next week Malta around 13,000 vaccine doses will have been administered.
In a final comment, Gauci confirmed that together with other countries, the use of a Covid-19 passport was discussed.
The details of how this will be used are still being finalised but the use of such a passport will be vital in limiting the spread of the vaccine. This could be used for attending mass events, going abroad and much more.