[WATCH] COVID-19: 154 new cases, over 19,000 received second vaccine dose

COVID-19 update for 19 February | 154 new cases • 148 recoveries • 2,435 active cases • Swab tests past 24 hours 3,282  • Vaccine doses administered till Thursday 59,702 of which 19,199 second doses

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci
Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci

Malta registered 154 new COVID-19 cases overnight and no deaths, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said during her weekly briefing on the pandemic.

She said the moving average for the past seven days now stands at 152 cases per day with households and social gatherings representing the main clusters of infection.

There are 149 patients recovering in hospitals, including 16 at the intensive therapy unit at Mater Dei Hospital.

Gauci said the vaccine drive among elderly residents in care homes has resulted in a significant drop in cases in these institutions.

She noted that the UK variant of the virus spreads at a much higher rate than the original virus, emphasising the need to continue with COVID prevention measures such as social distancing, mask-wearing and regular hand hygiene.

Malta has so far detected 52 cases of the UK variant and one of the South African variant. She said the efficacy of existing vaccines against the South African variant is much lower.

Change in quarantine protocol

Gauci confirmed a change in protocol in the way infected people can exit quarantine. She said that someone who tests positive will be able to exit quarantine after 14 days without the need to have a negative test if the individual has no symptoms. She said that people living with the person will also be able to exit quarantine along with the infected person if they are symptom-free.

Vaccine strategy

Gauci said the vaccine strategy was going well with roughly 2,000 jabs administered everyday. Malta has administered 59,702 vaccine doses, including 19,199 who received a second dose and so are fully vaccinated.

She said persons aged between 80-85 are being vaccinated, as are non-medical front liners such as CPD, police and AFM.

Vaccinations have also started among vulnerable groups, such as insulin-dependent diabetics, those undergoing chemotherapy or have undergone such therapy within the last six months. Persons suffering respiratory problems, cardiac disease and cerebral palsy will also be eligible for the vaccine under this cohort.

Gauci said in those cases where the vulnerable person was under 16 and so ineligible for the vaccine – only people aged 16 and over can receive the COVID-19 vaccine – the parents will be vaccinated to lower the risk of transmission.

Gozitans who received a vaccination appointment in Malta were told to ignore the letter since they will be receiving another appointment to receive the vaccine in Gozo.

Vaccinations will also start within the school sector.