COVID-19: High infection numbers down to aggressive testing regime, Fearne says

On Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi, health minister says vaccination programme does not mean public safety measures can be ignored

Chris Fearne (right) on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi
Chris Fearne (right) on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi
COVID-19: High infection numbers down to aggressive testing regime, Fearne says

The health minister is insisting Malta’s higher COVID infection numbers are attributable to a more aggressive testing regime.

Deputy prime minister Chris Fearne said on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi on Friday that he was confident the light was at the end of the tunnel, despite the raging pandemic and the incidence of COVID-19 variants.

“We have to constantly monitor for variants and this could require the need for boosters as was the case with influenzas,” Fearne said.

He admitted however that vaccination did not mean that public safety measures should be ignored by the public.

The two weeks will see the 65-75 age groups vaccinated. “Vaccination is a success story and will save lives, especially of those who were vulnerable.”

He said the number of patients in the ITU was decreasing and there was only one person over 80 years suffering from COVID last week in the ITU. “The ITU should be proud of its record, it’s one of the best in Europe. Those who entered ITU for COVID had had a higher survival rate than 50%,” he said of the serious infectious cases.

Fearne also said long COVID had affected only 10% of COVID-19 patients.

He rebutted claims about the lack of effectiveness of certain vaccines, quoting from the Scottish experience where 94% of six million vaccinated with their first dose did not show any COVID symptoms. He insisted that those who take the vaccine were protected and the vast majority would not contract COVID-19.

Fearne praised the contact-tracing programme and said that it will never be 100% effective, but it was the best in the circumstances.

But he disagreed with an increase in public safety measures taken and said that in spite of the pandemic, health authorities continued to offer the best service for other medical ailments. He also disagreed with doctors’ union MAM that visitors who were vaccinated should not be allowed to see their loved ones in old people’s homes. “I cannot agree with continuing to isolate elderly from family members,” he said.

Malta is using three different vaccines and will now see the delivery of a quarter of million doses from the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “If Malta ends up with extra vaccines in sock, we will use them to support third countries which still need support for vaccination.”

Fearne said the COVID-19 pandemic will definitely leave its mark on lifestyles, saying online meetings will replace even ministerial conferences in the EU.