[WATCH] COVID-19: 283 new cases • 3 deaths, including 47-year-old man

COVID-19 update for 5 March | 3 deaths for a total of 328 • 283 new cases • 156 recoveries • 3,252 active cases • Swab tests past 24 hours 3,799 • Vaccine doses administered till Thursday 89,946 of which 31,034 are second doses • 150 patients in hospitals, including 23 in intensive therapy

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci
Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci

Malta has recorded 283 new cases of coronavirus and three deaths over the past 24 hours.

Two men aged 47 and 69 and a 76-year-old woman died at Mater Dei Hospital with COVID-19.

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci is giving her weekly briefing on the latest COVID-19 developments.

As Malta experiences a surge of cases, new restrictions were introduced yesterday. Restaurants and snack bars have now been restricted to take-away and delivery, while contact sports for young people aged 16 and under has been stopped. Household gatherings have also been limited to people from four households.

150 hospital admissions: 19 ITU • Infection Diseases Ward: 11 • Mater Dei Hospital other wards: 66 • General Gozo Hospital: 19 (4 ITU) • Sir Paul Boffa Hospital: 5 • Thomas Hospital: 24 • Karin Grech Hospital: 2.

Gauci reiterated that stopping contact sports for under-16s was done to protect the educational system. She said contact sports carry an added risk. "Stopping contact sports was done to make sure schools could remain open."

Gauci said that cases are going down among older age groups but that Malta was seeing a sharp increase among younger age groups.

The average age of persons contracting COVID-19 is 38-year-old. Gauci added that the average age of death was falling, now at 70-years-old. This, she said, was likely due to the vaccination programme. 

Gauci said that so far, there are 61 cases of the UK variant in Malta. 

Vaccination strategy

Gauci said that the AstraZeneca vaccine has now been approved for use in elderly people up to the age of 70, giving the authorities the space to start vaccinations among people aged 60 and over.

She said this cohort will start receiving their vaccination appointment over the coming weeks.

Gauci said that was a very large group of people so the invites will be sent out in batches and encouraged people not to call the COVId-19 helpline if they do not immediately receive an invite. 

She also made reference to the Janssen vaccine, which is expected to be approved by the European Medicine Agency next week. The Janssen vaccine is a single shot COVID-19 vaccine. Gauci said the approval of the Janssen vaccine would allow more people to be vaccinated. 

Gauci said that fever, redness, and tiredness had been reported in terms of side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. She explained that the side effects lasted between one and two days. Side effects have been reported for all vaccines. Gauci added that all medications or vaccinations have side effects.

Gauci said those below 80 and vulnerable groups should not call the 111 helpline for an appointment.

Gauci said that the vaccines process for 60 to 70-year-olds would run in parallel with the vaccination process for 75 to 80-year-olds. 

The spread of COVID-19

Gauci said the largest majority of cases were linked to households with 1,963 cases. 

There are currently 7,486 people in mandatory quarantine.

The second-largest cluster was social gatherings, accounting for some 835 cases, with 552 from workplaces, 180 through school and university, and 39 from sports. 

Gauci said people should limit household bubbles as much as possible. 

Gauci said that casinos and gaming parlours are regulated by protocols, however, more enforcement will be carried out. 

On the new measures announced 

Gauci said that due to the stopping of hospital visits, partners of pregnant women will only be allowed to be there during the birth.

Gauci said that no outdoor events can take place, except for weddings and religious actives. She said that no large clusters have been identified from weddings. Despite being exempt, these events must be sit-down only. 

Gauci said that many of the cases were due to children who attended contact sports, then went to school, and so ended up having to quarantine. “When a child is in quarantine, their parents also have to quarantine,” Gauci pointed out. She said stopping contact sports will cut down on cases without having to close schools.