[WATCH] Four die of COVID-19 as new cases drop to 57

COVID-19 update for 5 February | 4 dead for a total of 277 • 57 new cases, 134 recoveries • 2,464 active cases • Swab tests past 24 hours 3,237 • Vaccine doses administered till Thursday 33,477 of which 6,457 were second doses

Public health superintendent Charmaine Gauci
Public health superintendent Charmaine Gauci

Malta has registered 57 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest since Christmas and the second day in a row that cases have decreased substantially.

However, overnight, Malta also registered four new deaths from coronavirus for a total of 277 since the start of the pandemic.

In her weekly briefing on Friday, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said the seven-day moving average now stood at 141 new cases per day. The majority of cases in the past week were people aged between 25 and 44. The R-factor now stood at between 1 and 1.5.

"It appears that we have exited the peak in the aftermath of the Christmas holidays but it all depends on our behaviour," Gauci said.

The past week also saw a number of secondary school students who tested positive after contracting the virus at a sport activity. Gauci said it was important that preventive measures are respected in all places.

Gauci said whether the new cases continued to drop depended on everyone's behaviour throughout the vaccine rollout. It remained important, she said, for people to continue wearing masks, respect social distancing and avoid gatherings. She insisted the time was not yet ripe to allow spectators to return to sporting activities since the risk of transmission remained high.

There are 166 patients currently recovering in hospitals, including 20 who are in intensive therapy. There are 14 patients at Mount Carmel Hospital and eight at Gozo General Hospital.

Since genetic sequencing of positive cases started last December, Malta has registered 15 cases of the UK variant, which is more infectious. Gauci said Malta was meeting European guidelines to genetically test up to 5% of known positive cases to determine the spread of the variants.

There are currently 7,788 people in quarantine, either because they have tested positive, or because they have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Giving an overview of the vaccination process, Gauci said the second cohort of frontliners, including the police, army and civil protection, and those aged between 80 and 84 started receiving their vaccine. From next week, all vulnerable people will start receiving their appointment.

She said some 25,000 people were classified as vulnerable and this cohort would take longer to vaccinate.

Until Thursday, Malta administered 33,477 vaccines, of which 6,457 were second doses.

On Sunday Malta is expected to receive its first consignment of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will help the inoculation programme move forward by two weeks. 

AstraZeneca vaccine is only being recommended for people between the ages of 18 and 55.