Malta registered six newly-identified cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total number of confirmed cases up to 299.
Among the new patients is a one-month-old baby, who is now Malta’s youngest COVID-19 patient. The baby was already in hospital and was tested after exhibiting symptoms.
Five of the newly-identified cases are believed to have been locally transmitted, with the sixth linked to travel overseas.
The six new cases are the lowest daily total since March 30, when five new cases were confirmed, and come just one day after a record number of 52 cases were identified.
A record 993 swab tests were administered on Tuesday.
‘No sign of peak yet’
Gauci acknowledged that the number of confirmed cases was low, especially when compared to the widespread testing, but urged people to not pay too much attention to the daily total. What mattered, she reiterated, was the overall trend.
“There is no indication that we have reached the peak, it is still very early days,” she said.
“Until we see a sustained reduction in cases, it is important to keep a close hold on public health restrictions.”
No details on asymptomatic cases
She admitted that it was “very worrying” to see cases of asymptomatic patients – people who test positive despite not exhibiting any symptoms. This was why it was important to practice social distancing, she said.
But Gauci avoided a question about how many such asymptomatic cases had been identified and also declined to say what the virus’ current R factor – its reproduction rate – is believed to be.
Instead, she said that the number of asymptomatic cases identified is “much lower” than the number of cases in which patients exhibited symptoms.
A Times of Malta question about what experts calculate the current R factor to be was also ignored.
Authorities are now introducing an SMS alert system which will allow people who have been tested to receive their results directly by a text message. Only those who test negative will receive an SMS. Positive patients will be contacted directly.
Gauci urged people to attend their hospital appointments and reassured them that they should not give in to fear. The hospital has been split, with coronavirus cases in a separate section of the hospital. One of the issues which other countries had faced, she said, was the problem of people with medical conditions not getting the treatment they needed, and dying as a result.
Gauci confirmed that a staff member at a local supermarket had tested positive. But unlike a previous such case, the person in question worked in the supermarket’s store and had no contact with customers.
Five of the six cases identified between Tuesday and Wednesday are believed to have been locally transmitted. The sixth has been linked to overseas travel.
Case 1 is a Maltese man aged 63 who is in good condition. He reported a sore throat on April 4 and was only in contact with his family.
Case 2 is a Maltese 47-year-old woman who reported an earache and joint pain. Authorities are contact tracing.
Case 3 is 56-year-old Maltese male healthcare worker who reported a blocked nose. He had no contact with patients.
Case 4 is a Maltese 57-year-old woman identified through routine testing. She last went to work on March 17.
Case 5 is a one-month-old baby which had a cough and shortness of breath. Authorities are contact tracing among family and healthcare staff.
Case 6 is a Maltese man aged 52 who returned to Malta from the UK on April 2. His case is being treated as one of overseas transmission.
Correction April 8: Only those who test negative for the virus will receive an SMS.
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