[WATCH] Fourth death, one new case but recoveries push active cases down

448 COVID-19 cases have been identified so far in Malta, of which four have died

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci
Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci

An elderly woman who died of complications from infection with the COVID-19 coronavirus is the virus’ latest Maltese victim.

Superintendent for Public Health, Prof. Charmaine Gauci, delivered the news in her daily press briefing, saying that the 96-year-old woman had become the fourth coronavirus patient to die in Malta. 

The woman died overnight in hospital, after developing complications during treatment at Mater Dei Hospital the Health Ministry said in a statement. She had tested positive for the virus on April 16.

The Authorities offered the woman’s family their condolences and urged people to follow public health guidelines to keep COVID-19 contained. 

Malta registered its first coronavirus death on 8 April, when a 92-year-old woman became the first virus casualty. A second patient, aged 79, died the next day. An 84-year-old man became the third casualty on April 11.

Gauci said today that just one additional positive case of COVID-19 had been registered in the past 24 hours, out of 559 tests. 

The patient is a 52 year-old man who had been complaining of pain in his joints and headaches since 23 April. Contact tracing had to take place as the man had been in contact with family members.

Gauci announced a further 26 persons as having recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 249. The majority of the cases did not require hospitalisation, she pointed out.

There are currently 195 active cases of COVID-19 in Malta, she added.

448 COVID-19 cases have been identified so far. Four patients have died, 249 have recovered and 220 are still infected.

Taking questions from journalists, Gauci gave details on Malta’s dynamic healthcare response to the pandemic.

“We have several teams working. Some on the public health response, others on the helpline, others on discharging, still others on IT and communications, hospital teams and a primary care team.” Parliament had set up an inter-ministerial committee and another committee had been set up by the Principal Permanent Secretary to deal with the crisis. This was in addition to various management structures that were brought into existence as a response to the outbreak.

Gauci responded to concerns about privacy after Health Minister Chris Fearne announced plans for a contact-tracing mobile phone app, saying that the team in question was working with European partners in a manner compliant with GDPR.

Various studies are underway on antibody response, said the professor, noting that Malta had been mentioned in international response as having one of the highest per capita rates of testing for the disease. Testing dictated the response, she said. 

She had words of praise for the Central Procurement Unit for its role in securing a large cargo shipment of PPE for healthcare workers, which arrived in Malta yesterday. Gauci pointed out that the whole world was competing for limited stocks of PPE.

Asked about reports of problems with testing kits, Gauci said Malta uses PCR swab tests, which detect the virus particles for diagnostic purposes. “It is the gold standard of testing.” All the tests used by Malta were reliable, she explained, adding that at the moment antibody studies are needed to see the immune status of persons in the community. “We obtained a number of kits for this, some of which weren’t found to be reliable and aren’t going to be used, but others are being validation-tested.” On the basis of this validation, the Maltese health authorities will see how to carry out this sero-prevalence study.