Despite a new measure banning the mixing of more than four households at private events, no mixing is recommended during this phase of the pandemic, Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said on Friday.
On Thursday, the government announced new rules, which include a ban on the mixing of people coming from more than four households. Any reports will be investigated, Prime Minister Robert Abela, but it is mostly up to the public to observe this rule.
Speaking during her weekly briefing, Professor Gauci said that, ideally, during this stage of the pandemic, people should not invite family or friends over to their house.
She also noted that mass activities are still banned, and public gathering are still limited to groups of six.
Gauci announced that 283 new cases of Covid-19 were found on Friday, 5 March 2021 bringing the total active cases to 3,252. The total number of cases so far is 23,871.
Three more patients have died. These were two males, aged 47 and 69, and a female aged 76. All three died at Mater Dei Hospital.
There were 156 new recoveries, for a total of 20,291. 3,799 tests were performed over the past 24 hours, for a total of 717,281.
Until Thursday, 89,946 vaccines had been administered. 31,034 people have received their second dose.
Gauci said there are currently 150 hospital cases, which includes those in acute care at Mater Dei and others who are being kept in isolation at other facilities.
There are 19 patients at Mater Dei’s ITU, 11 at the IDU and 66 in other wards.
There are 19 patients at the Gozo General Hospital, including 4 in ITU.
There are 5 patients at Boffa Hospital, 24 at St Thomas, 2 at Karin Grech, and 23 at the Good Samaritan Facility. There are currently no active cases at Mount Carmel.
Gauci spoke about the need for people to be vigilant in view of the more transmissible Covid-19 strain. In some countries, she said, up to 40% if new cases are related to the new strain.
She said that testing and mitigation measures at care homes are ongoing, but many elderly persons have already been vaccinated and this is making a difference.
Several of the new cases were related to social gatherings and restaurants. Others were related to workplaces. The best way to reduce the risk of transmission, she said, is for people to remain in their own bubble.
Gauci said the authorities are moving ahead with the vaccination strategy, with vulnerable people suffering from various chronic conditions currently receiving the jab.
Anyone over 80 who has not received the vaccination letter yet should call the authorities.
Gauci said more information is now available on the Astra Zenica vaccine, which has a very high efficacy, even among elderly people. The age for people who can be given this particular vaccine is now being increased to 70.
The next cohort, Gauci said, includes people aged 60 and over.
Gauci noted that this is a large group and people will start receiving their letters soon, however it will take some time for everyone in this group to be reached.
Speaking about contact sports, Gauci said these were banned for people aged 16 and under because of the risk of transmission.
She explained that the average age of people getting infected is going down because many elderly people have now been vaccinated.
There have been no changes to the amber list, she added.
Taking questions, Gauci said eating out was identified as one of the possible factors behind transmissions, according to data gathered from people who tested positive and from the respective contact tracing carried out among their clusters.
Asked about the fact that some relatively young patients have died, Gauci said most patients who died had chronic medical conditions, such as respiratory, heard and renal complications.
The number of cases of UK variant that have been identified so far was 61 and, according to currently available date, around 8% of new cases are related to the variant. Testing is ongoing, however, and the percentage in other countries is much higher, she said.
Asked about outdoor activities, such as camping, Gauci said only weddings and religious events are allowed. Data has shown that where there was transmission during weddings, the numbers were limited, which means that the mitigation measures are working. With regard to other activities, she reminded that people cannot gather in groups of more than six.
Asked why the 40-household rule was introduced when this cannot be followed at schools, Gauci said that the classroom acts as another form of bubble, and students are not mixing with children from other classes.
She acknowledged that the 145 freephone was struggling to cope and urged people not to phone just to ask when their vaccination appointment is. They will receive a letter and information is always given during the weekly briefings.
Asked why restaurants were closed now, despite high numbers in previous weeks, Gauci said decisions always reflect the situation in the community. Currently, there are over 7,000 people in quarantine, which includes the active cases and those being treated in hospital.
Regarding hospital visits, she explained that expectant fathers can visit their partners during the final phase of childbirth.
This newsroom pointed out that some vulnerable people have not yet received their vaccination letters, despite the Health Minister claiming that all these people have been vaccinated. Gauci clarified that the vaccination of this group of people – which amounts to some 20,000 people – is still ongoing.