Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne said that the number of Coronavirus cases registered in the last 24 hours jumped by 52, the highest ever daily increase ever to be recorded since the first case was discovered exactly one month ago.
This is a 21.5% increase over the number that Malta had until a day ago.
Addressing the media, Fearne said that this number is not a surprise; actually, such a jump was expected last week given the curve that they were predicting.
The total number of cases is now 293, he said. None of the cases registered today are related to the Hal Far open centre, where eight migrants tested positive over the weekend, Fearne said.
Of the number recorded in the last 24 hours, 33 are Maltese and four are Gozitans; the rest are foreigners. 13 cases were recorded throughout the day yesterday while the remaining 39 were recorded overnight. In the case of the former, Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci noted that the case management team and contact tracing team had already done their work, while for the latter, that work is still ongoing. she noted that certain cases were found in pre-op test at Mater Dei, showing that e symptoms were either extremely mild or had not emerged yet. This is why, she said, people need to stay inside as much as possible.
She said that they are focusing their work on finding people who have the virus as the more people are found, the more measures to isolate the virus can be taken. “The people who we do not find are more worrying for us, as they can be people who are spreading the virus”, she noted before once again reiterating her call for people to follow the health department’s guidelines.
Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that one of the cases registered today involved a woman who resides in an elderly people’s home. Gauci said that a contact tracing exercise is underway and the woman has now been placed in isolation.
She said that three of the patients who tested positive in the last 24 hours are being kept at the Gozo General Hospital, while another four require treatment at Mater Dei Hospital. In all, four patients are still in intensive care, with one patient needing intubation.
The 52 cases were found after a record 825 tests were carried out in one day, with Fearne noting that authorities are targetting reacing 1,000 tests every day between the four swabbing centres at Gozo, Pembroke, Luqa, and Mater Dei. He noted that more intensive tests are being carried out on healthcare workers and their families as a precuation. The total number of tests carried out has now reached 11,740 – keeping Malta at one of the highest levels of testing on a per capita basis.
He said that a database is soon to be built in order for people to register their skills and intention to volunteer, and appealed – once again – to employees to promote teleworking and ensure that, as much as possible, people work from home.
Asked by journalists about when they think the peak will be reached and whether authorities will, given the sudden spike in cases, now look to impose a lockdown, Fearne replied that the fact that there was a spike was not surprising, and that because it came a week later than expected, it is clear that the Maltese are cooperating with health guidelines. He explained that Malta is aiming on reducing its “r-factor” – the reproduction rate of the virus – to between 1.1 and 1.2.
The reproduction rate of the virus is essentially how much a person can transmit the virus to another person. Statistician Vincent Marmara had told The Malta Independent that Malta’s rate stood at 1.5 – noting that this is still somewhat high; even if other countries have registered a much higher rate.
With regards to a potential lockdown, Fearne said that the most important thing in this situation is not to increase measures but to emphasise to people the need to follow the measures already in place.
He said that the number of beds in the Intensive Therapy Unit at Mater Dei Hospital will be increasing to 200, while the number at Gozo General Hospital had already increased to 20. He said that if the country keeps following the current curve, that number should be enough to cope – but if people neglect to follow the rules in place, then those beds may not be enough. “Discipline is essential”, he said.
Asked by The Malta Independent whether the expectation was now to have a similar number of cases on a day-to-day basis, Fearne said that the figures of one day alone mean nothing, noting that what is most important is the trend line on the curve of cases and how that changes. He said that the numbers are now such that predictions can be made, adding that those predictions show that there will indeed be more cases, but that as long as they are kept under control that would mean that the country’s health services can cope with the demand.
Gauci meanwhile added that when looking at the cases it is important not to take a single statistic. She noted that they do expect the number of cases to keep increasing and that it is important for people to keep isolating themselves so as not to spread the virus.
Also asked by this newsroom about the pre-fabricated hospital and whether allegations surrounding it had caused unnecessary delays, Fearne said that these had been investigated but no wrongdoing had been found. Asked when the hospital was going to be operational, he said that the adjudication board is currently carrying out its work, and once a report is completed then things will move on from there.