The Health Ministry has announced that 258 new cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Malta after 3,640 swab tests were carried out over the past 24 hours.
The Health Authorities also announced another 182 recoveries, which brings up to 19,087 the total number of persons who have recovered from the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Since March of last year, 21,982 persons have tested positive and there are still 2,582 active cases.
Up to yesterday 73,644 vaccinations have been administered of which 23,395 were second doses. During her weekly medical bulletin, Professor Charmaine Gauci said that the vaccination programme is proceeding as scheduled and is having a beneficial impact on the elderly in homes while she explained the rise in positive cases has resulted from the spread of the UK variant which amount to 8% of all positive cases.
A total of 130 persons are recovering in hospitals and 19 of these are in ITU, the eldest person there being 72 years old.
It was also announced that during the last 24 hours two persons died after testing positive, an 83-year-old woman and a 76-year-old man, both having passed away at Mater Dei. The total of deaths from the virus is now 313.
A total of 61 cases are of the UK variant which is now being transmitted locally and Professor Gauci said the transmission rate of this variant is 70% quicker than other types of Covid.
She said the first few cases were imported but with the progress of time more cases are spreading and are not connected to travel and are therefore being spread by the community. This is similar to the experiences of other European countries and many of their cases are now of the variant rather than the normal.
Professor Gauci said the Authorities are trying to control the spread of the variant by the investigation of positive cases, particularly where there are group transmissions. However, the symptoms of the variant are similar to the normal and it is difficult to distinguish between the two.
Besides the UK variant, one South Africa variant has also resulted.
The Health Superintendent said the inoculation programme i progressing as scheduled in the strategy and invitations will soon be sent out for those aged over 75 and inoculations will be administered from Government Dispensaries and Health Centres. This is expected to start from 8th March onward.
Inoculations by Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca are being administered and Professor Gauci said more studies are emerging as to their effectiveness. EU Health Authorities are evaluating another vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson and this is expected to be approved over the coming weeks and Malta has a batch ordered through the EU conjoint purchase agreement.
She said the beneficial impact of vaccination is being experienced in homes for the elderly and this week only four homes reported cases of four residents and three members of staff. At San Vinċenz de Paul there are currently 14 Covid patients and three wards are in quarantine.
Regarding restrictive measures in homes for the elderly, restrictions will be removed once at least 90% of residents have received their second dose and ten days passed since their second administration.
As for passports for those that have been vaccinated, the Professor said various discussions are underway on their use at European level. Information is already being gathered on this aspect. This will lead to issues of the vaccine passport and will be issued in Malta too.
Asked about what is determining recovery from Covid, the Professor said research shows that after ten days of the inoculation will decrease infections with Malta following ECDC recommendations.
In the case of a person who tested positive but has not experienced further symptoms, after 14 days they are deemed to be safe and may go out into the community and no further testing has to take place.
Professor Gauci said those testing positive from rapid tests do not need to take a swab test and are being included with the positive cases. She explained that 34 of the latest cases resulted from rapid tests.