[WATCH] First Malta COVID-19 death is Gozo woman, 92

Malta has recorded its first death from the COVID-19 pandemic • Elderly woman had several underlying conditions that made her vulnerable

Malta has recorded its first death from the COVID-19 pandemic, a 92-year-old woman from Gozo.

The news comes on the day that a one-month-old baby was diagnosed as one of six new cases of COVID-19 registered in Malta overnight.

The woman died at around 6pm at the Gozo General Hospital were she was recovering. She had significant underlying conditions that included diabetes and a heart condition.

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne announced the death this evening. While offering the government's sympathy with the family, Fearne said that the woman was in a very vulnerable state, which was made worse by the coronavirus.

"Unfortunately, this will not be the first and last death. We can see what is happening across the world and Malta is no exception," he said, urging people to respect social distancing rules.

"We have to protect the most vulnerable amongst us... we ask you to stand with us in this challenge because together we can win. The coming weekend is normally an occasion for families to meet at home to celebrate Easter, but I ask you this year, to forego these celebrations. By and large, people are obeying the directives not gather in public but we also have to avoid family gatherings," he cautioned.

The coming weekend is normally an occasion for families to meet at home to celebrate Easter, but I ask you this year, to forego these celebrations Chris Fearne

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said all healthcare workers stood in silence when the woman's death was notified. "Although this would have been something we could have expected given the woman's underlying conditions, it shocks you," she said.

Gauci could not say from where the woman could have contracted the virus. "She had contact with visitors and like we have said, people may have the virus without showing any symptoms," she said.

The total number of cases of COVID-19 has now risen to 299, including the dead woman. Five have fully recovered. Overnight, a record 993 tests were carried out. One of the new cases was that of a 56-year-old healthcare worker, who had no contact with patients.

Gauci said routine testing of patients who were to undergo an operation have uncovered more cases of people who register positive without showing symptoms. This was worrying from a public health perspective, she told a press conference earlier in the day.

“It worries us because we may have people out there who have the virus but are unaware that they can transmit it to others. This is why the recommendations for social and physical distancing are important because no one can tell whether a person is positive,” Gauci insisted.

She urged caution on the low number of new cases that came on the back of 52 cases recorded on Tuesday, the highest number of new cases so far. “We are still at the start of the curve and we expect it to get worse... if everybody obeys the recommendations to stay inside as much as possible and maintain social distancing we will be able to reduce the rate of spread,” she said, urging people to cooperate.

PN statement 

In a statement late on Wednesday evening, the nationalist party extended its “deepest condolences” to the relatives of the victim.

“More than ever, we must also express our utmost solidarity as one people and unreservedly call on all people to follow the directives and recommendations made by the health authorities,” the PN said.  

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