An 84-year-old who has tested positive for Covid-19 is in poor health, while another 14 are being treated in Maltese hospitals, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci confirmed this afternoon.
Gauci was delivering her first media briefing on the pandemic in two months in the wake of a strong resurgence of Covid-19 cases, with 49 new cases confirmed by the health authorities overnight.
She said that the low rate of hospitalisation was, in part, due to the fact that many patients were relatively young, and thus less at risk of developing complications.
Though she sought to assure the public that the situation was under control, she also warned that the newest measures introduced by the authorities – including a capping on the number of people which can attend any event – would not immediately impact the numbers, suggesting that similarly high numbers may continue to be reported at least over the next few days.
We thank you for following our live blog.
With all the journalists' questions answered, the briefing ends here.
She also states that since the testing rate in Malta was one of the highest in Europe, the number of cases reported would reflect the number of the community accurately.
Gauci was also asked whether she felt the reopening the airport was a mistake, and states that in light of a pandemic whose end is not yet in sight, once could not create undue hardship for an indefinite period.
She highlights that the two new testing hubs being planned would ensure that demand is met.
As far as the waiting list for tests was concerned, she explains that the superintendence was prioritising certain cases – such as symptomatic people – over others.
Gauci acknowledges the hiccups, but notes that the situation at the helpline was now under control.
LovinMalta mentions the long waiting times experienced by people calling the 111 helpline.
She also warns that the latest measures would not impact figures in the coming days, in light of the virus' incubation period.
Gauci observes that the methodology used to assess the situation had changed over the coming months.
He also asks Gauci to elaborate on the situation in Gozo.
Newsbook's correspondent compares present figures with those when a state of emergency had been declared.
Gauci observes that the risk of transmission was higher indoors, prompting more stringent limits indoors.
In reference to the MAM, noting that she is also a doctor, she emphasises that the policy was based on scientific methods. But discussions would be ongoing.
MaltaToday's correspondent questions the rationale behind the limits on the capacity of events, and whether a "soft lockdown" would be considered for vulnerable people.
He also asks Gauci to comment on the PM's statement that the position of the Medical Association of Malta was at odds with hers.
The l-Orizzont correspondent seeks more detail on the new restrictions governing homes for the elderly.
She highlights that various entities were involved in enforcing regulation, including the Superintendence, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Malta Police Force.
Gauci states that the 49 cases include some which were reported late at night, and that more information would be forthcoming. But not all cases were linked to existing clusters, she confirms.
She also questions whether the authorities have the means to enforce regulations across the country.
The TVM correspondent asks for more details about today's 49 cases, including whether any were linked to clusters.
Gauci, once more, confirms that the situation is constantly being monitored. As far as the vulnerable are concerned, the authorities seek to protect wherever possible, whilst those living in the community are advised about the potential risks they may face.
The Times of Malta correspondent also follows up on the state of emergency, recalling that the second-highest number of cases in the community was reported today. She also asks on the enforcement of face mask regulations.
Gauci adds that the authorities were aware of what could happen, and that in light of this, a number of precautions were introduced to limit the number of children in close proximity to each other.
She also confirms that a child who tested positive for Covid-19 had attended SkolaSajf, though it was not clear whether she contracted the virus at the summer school.
TMI also asked on a case reported at a home for the elderly, with Gauci confirming that the patient is at the Infectious Diseases Unit.
If this is deemed necessary, she confirms, it is a step that may be taken once more.
Gauci states that the health authorities were monitoring the situation, and that the declaration of a state of emergency served to provide them with additional tools to do so.
The Malta Independent asks Gauci whether she believed that Malta is now once more in a state of public health emergency.
Unfortunately, she adds, a number of people have incurred this fine.
The question also touched into isolation, and Gauci recalls that a legal notice issued at the outset – imposing steep fines on those who break quarantine – remains active.
In reply a question by the One News correspondent, Gauci notes that most patients can stay in their own home, followed up by public health, including through telemedicine.
But in response, the superintendence has strengthened its contact tracing team, including with the help of volunteers.
Gauci acknowledges that contact tracing was easier when people went out far less frequently.
She recalls that the pandemic has claimed 9 lives in Malta so far, and that all had other health complications which were aggravated by Covid-19.
As for protecting the vulnerable, she highlighted that they should not attend events where crowds may gather in any case.
Gauci echoes an argument the Prime Minister made earlier in the day; that no one knew how long the pandemic would last, and as such, one had to strike a balance.
She also questions the 300-person limits in mass events, wondering whether this may be too high, particularly since vulnerable people were not limited to homes for the elderly.
Additionally, she highlights studies suggesting that Covid-19 may be linked to heart damage, and that contact tracing would have become more difficult as people went out more frequently.
The NET News correspondent goes first, noting that the rate of transmission has gone up.
As she prepares to answer journalists' question, her final appeal is for people to act responsibly and stay safe.
Gauci adds that it was important for anyone who showed any symptoms to call 111 to get tested, and to stay home until the test is carried out.
"My face mask protects you, and your face masks protects me," she observes.
Gauci now states that research continuously highlighted the importance of using face masks, confirming that a new legal notice would place the onus on each individual.
She also addresses a separate, related, appeal to event organises.
But enforcement is crucial, Gauci adds, appealing to the public to cooperate with the Superintendence's officers.
She highlights mitigation measures that can be used to minimise the risk of viral transmission in events, including temperature checks and attendance records to facilitate contact tracing.
It was also very important to note that dancefloors are prohibited for the time being.
After recalling the restrictions introduced some days ago – including a limit of 1 person per 4sqm – the authorities now saw fit to go further, by capping indoor events to 100 people and outdoor ones to 300 people.
Gauci now speaks on the holding of events, and states that while she opposes mass events, there was still room to hold certain social gatherings.
Moving on to the need to protect the elderly, she observes that new restrictions have been introduced on visits to residential homes. She acknowledges that these measures were not pleasant, but necessary.
Gauci states that mitigation measures introduced in shops have had their desired effect, allowing people to enter such outlets with confidence.
After noting that two new centres are being set up, she highlights that laboratory capacity was also important.
She notes how testing has evolved over the past few months, from doctors making house calls to the establishment of new swabbing centres.
Gauci notes many of the new patients were of a young age, and that this was one reason why the number of hospital admissions remained low.
With this in mind, it was important to look into testing the community, as there might be undetected cases around.
But many sporadic cases remain, with Gauci noting that while some may be traced to others, others could not.
The process is a very tedious one, she admits, but also crucial.
As always, she highlights, it is important to isolate patients and carry out contact tracing.
The Superintendent also highlights that a number of language school students and children in summer schools have contracted the virus.
Elaborating on the reported Paceville cluster, Gauci states that it could not be linked to an individual venue, but the result of many people congregating in the same case.
In contrast to Prime Minister Robert Abela and Health Minister Chris Fearne at a press conference, who removed their face mask whenever they spoke, Gauci is keeping hers on.
Gauci emphasises that this was an undesired turn of events, prompting a revision of policy.
But she notes that once many people met together – particularly in mass events, as highlighted by the existing clusters – there was a strong increase.
She highlights that as restrictions are loosened, an increase in cases is to be expected.
Gauci goes over the history of the pandemic in Malta, noting how it had plateaued, dropped and increased yet again.
Seven patients are being treated at Boffa Hospital, and another four at the privately-owned St Thomas Hospital.
15 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospital at the moment, including 4 cases at the Infectious Disease Unit at Mater Dei Hospital. One of these patients is an 84-year-old with health complications, who is doing poorly.
Gauci highlights the numbers announced earlier this afternoon, with 49 new cases and 5 recoveries.
Good afternoon, and welcome to our live blog. We're waiting for Prof. Gauci to open her briefing.