[WATCH] No new COVID-19 cases registered overnight, 33 more recoveries

Zero additional coronavirus cases have been registered in the past 24-hours, with the rate of recovery now surpassing that of new infections, Chris Fearne says

No new cases of COVID-19 have been registered overnight, Chris Fearne said.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister said that an additional 33 patients have recovered.

The number of active COVID-19 cases is 162.

Fearne said that Malta had managed to flatten the curve and drastically reduce the rate of new infections. "Many more patients are recovering from the virus than are being newly infected," he said.

He said that the country was nearing the moment when some - but not all - restrictions will start being lifted.

He emphasised that it was crucial that those restrictions which will remain in place be observed, or else what was gained in the past week could all be lost.

"The measures will be relaxed in a controlled and gradual fashion, and in a way which won't affected all sectors at once. Some measures, if removed, would lead to a higher risk than others," he said.

"Those measures which will remain in place must be observed rigourously."

Fearne said that it was possible that new cases of community spread of the virus could emerge in the coming days, and he urged anyone suffering from symptoms to call 111 and get tested.

Asked by MaltaToday on the danger of a second wave of the virus appearing if measures are relaxed - for instance, if shops and restaurans are re-opened - Fearne said that in other countries, where measures which were high-risk were relaxed, the number of cases had spiked again.

"We don't want to come to a situation were we have more sick people than the country's health care resources can cope with. So we have to relaxed measures intelligently and gradually," he stressed.

"If we remain observnt, we are not predicting a major second wave. But it could happen if we don't remain disciplined and don't observe the measures which will remain in place."

Fearne did not specify which measures would be removed in the coming days, insisting that Malta had not yet passed the 15-day period of low numbers of registered cases following which lockdown procedures can be re-assessed.

"We will not announce any new measures today - we're not yet at the 15-day period. I'm not in a position to confirm which measures will be relaxed," he said, when asked by the press whether schools would be amongst the first to re-open.

All travel to Gozo being vetted

This newsroom also asked Fearne whether there had been any change in the procedure applied to people attempting to travel on the Gozo Channel in terms of whether passenger were no longer being asked the reason for their travel. Travel to Gozo has been restricted to only essential trips.

While the Deputy Prime Minister said he would not be commenting on any specific measures, Gozo Channel chairman Joe Cordina later told MaltaToday that it was "absolutely not true" that passengers were not being vetted before being allowed to board the ferry.

"We are not allowing any passengers to board who don't convince us that they have a valid reason to travel," Cordina said, "All non-essential travel is being blocked."

App on COVID-19 symptoms to launch soon

In the coming days, a new app will be launched which will allow users to gauge any symptoms they may be expriencing and advise them on their risk of having been infected and whether they should get tested. 

Fearne said that this would be an app to help with determining whether a person should be tested, not be a contact-tracing app. Malta, he underlind, was not yet ready to introduce a contact-tracing app, since various privacy concerns with such applications had not yet been conclusively addressed.

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"We are not in a position to introduce contact tracing apps yet. We are taking part in European research on this. Once we have peace of mind that there is an app which does not invade people's privacy and isn't some sort of Big Brother, then we can introduce such a tool," he said.

Most COVID-19 cases were mild

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that most cases of COVID-19 to date had been mild, with only one patient having required a ventilator.

Gauci, who gave short epidemiological report on the situation, said that around 60% of cases had been in men, mirroring the situation in other countries.

Moreover, most patients were aged 20 to 35, she said. "This is important, since we haven't seen many cases in the elderly - this shows we've protected the vulnerable."

Gauci added that the Nothern Harbour was the region were the highest number of coronavirus were registered.