Twelve Covid-19 patients are currently in intensive care, including one who is younger than 40, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has revealed.
The ITU patients also include a person in their 40s and one in their 50s.
In her weekly briefing on the pandemic, Gauci revealed that 83 Covid-19 patients are presently receiving hospital care, of which 39 are at Mater Dei Hospital, including 5 at the Infectious Diseases Unit and 22 in other wards equipped especially for Covid-19 cases.
Another 25 patients are being treated at Boffa Hospital while 17 are staying at St Thomas Hospital. The remaining two patients are at Karin Grech Hospital and Mount Carmel Hospital.
At present, there are 1,770 active cases of Covid-19 – a new record for Malta – and Gauci confirmed that these include 44 Gozo residents. These cases include a lawyer who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, forcing the abrupt closure of the Gozo Courts earlier today.
The R factor is approximately 1.5, which means that on average, a Covid-19 patient infects 1.5 others. Left unchecked, an R factor greater than 1 translates to an exponential growth in cases.
But not before appealing to the public to take all the necessary precautions in the face of rising numbers: particularly the elderly and the vulnerable.
No more questions are asked, so Gauci is bringing the briefing to a close.
The R factor is around 1.5, according to Gauci. This means that on average, every patient infects 1.5 others: a situation that, left unchecked, would lead to an exponential growth in cases.
The patients at ITU include a person in their 30s, one in their 40s, one in their 50s, 4 in their 60s and 5 in their 70s.
NET News' correspondent asks a number of questions, including on the R factor and on the situation for asylum seekers.
Yet again, she appeals to employers to facilitate teleworking wherever possible.
When it comes to workers testing positive for Covid-19, Gauci states that the response varies on a case-by-case basis, to determine which colleagues should isolate as a precaution.
There have been over 66,000 inspections on quarantined people, with over 200 fines issued.
– are most common, followed by gastrointestinal symptoms.
Generally, symptomatic patients stop showing symptoms after a week, but many claim to feel more tired than usual afterwards.
Gauci highlights that respiratory symptoms – such as coughing
He also asks on enforcement, noting that there has long been a dearth of information on the fines being issued to those who flout regulations.
TVM's correspondent asks Gauci to elaborate on the symptoms showed by patients.
She notes that higher rates have been reported in Europe. Malta's rate of new cases is the 11th highest according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Gauci argues that the situation echoes that in Europe, where cases have also been rising.
L-Orizzont's correspondent asks how the number of new cases in Malta now averages more than 100 a day, and how this compares with Europe.
Gauci nevertheless urges parents to be cautious, and to avoid sending children with any symptoms to school.
As for schools, while a number of staff have tested positive for Covid-19, no transmission has been witnessed among students.
It was with this in mind that an 11pm closing time has been mandated.
Gauci adds that no such problems have been witnessed in restaurants, suggesting that keeping restaurants open was not a high-risk endeavour. But bars were a different issue, requiring greater controls.
Consequently, enforcement efforts had been boosted.
In reply to another question on bars, Gauci recognises that the proposal for bars to operate like restaurants – with patrons remaining seated – had not worked.
But she adds that the pace is picking up, not least through an increase of staff devoted to such efforts.
The correspondent had also cited a case suggesting contact tracing efforts were found wanting, and Gauci acknowledges that the team responsible has been overwhelmed by demand.
She recognises that masks alone are not sufficient, but they contribute to controlling the spread of the disease.
Gauci observes that a lot of mitigation measures are in place "for every place we could think of," and that these work in synergy with each other.
MaltaToday's correspondent quotes a statement by the Malta College of Pathologists, who warned that masks alone would not suffice if high-risk places such as bars and gyms remain open.
While the present nasopharyngeal swab test will remain the "gold standard," rapid tests could identify positive results far quicker as they would not need to be sent to a laboratory – though such positive cases would need to be confirmed through the traditional method.
But the new rapid testing, for which procurement is ongoing, would help in screening efforts.
Gauci elaborates on the development of rapid testing, slated to be introduced by the end of the month.
It's question time now, and One News is first with a question on testing infrastructure.
Gauci now switches to English for the benefit of non-Maltese speakers.
Gauci said that 129 positive cases have inputted the code into the app, thus helping inform potential contacts, as she appealed to more people to download it.
But she declares himself pleased with the take-up of the app so far.
There have been 78,189 downloads of the Covid Alert Malta app, representing 16% of the population.
It was very important for those who test positive to remain home, as should anyone living with them, and Gauci appealed to such individuals to help contact tracing efforts by keeping details of who they had met in the previous days.
Gauci reminds people who show symptoms of Covid-19 to call 111 – she recognises that people were facing delays at the hotline, but adds that this is being addressed – to get tested.
She describes this initiative as a success, noting that testing at the airport from amber list countries has identified 43 Covid-19 cases and ensured they would be isolated from the community.
Gauci reminds that the "amber list" of countries, from which travellers are required to present a negative Covid-19 test, is being revised.
People may also remove their masks to speak to someone who relies on lip-reading.
The Institute of Maltese Journalists has just condemned Prime Minister Robert Abela for failing to keep this distance in a press event earlier today.
PM flouting law on COVID measures – IĠM
She notes that while there is an exemption for public speaking, one should ensure that others are at least 2m away.
Gauci highlights that a lot of people have asked whether they should wear masks while walking, and states that this is the case.
People may also be exempted for health reasons – including mental health reasons – but in this case, they would require a certificate that they should keep in hand at all times.
Gauci emphasises that the latter exemption should not be abused by people simply wanting to avoid wearing a mask.
The superintendent mentions how children under 3 are also exempted, since it was not practical to expect them to stick to the precautions.
Gauci now goes over the exemptions, including in private homes and cars: though she recommends that in the latter case, masks should be worn if there are passengers from outside one's own "bubble."
Additionally, one should not touch their facemasks unnecessarily, and the masks should be replaced frequently.
Gauci now advises on proper use of facemasks. Mouth and nose should be covered, and masks should be tight-fitting, so visors won't do.
In any case, social gatherings remain restricted to no more than 10 people in public places.
"The virus can't tell whether you're related to the others you're with," Gauci highlights.
Such precautions are also important in social gatherings, even intimate ones.
Going back to workplaces, Gauci emphasises the importance of wearing masks – just as the measure becomes mandatory.
In the face of rising numbers, Gauci reminds that it is well known how the virus spreads as she encourages the general public to take the necessary precautions.
Gauci reminds that the pandemic has claimed 4 lives over the past week, and observes that overall, the most-affected age group is people aged 85 to 94.
The average age of Covid-19 patients now stands at 38.
On a more positive note, she observes that the situation in care homes is now under control. While isolated cases emerge, there are no widespread outbreaks.
Gauci notes that the age group most likely to contract Covid-19 is the 25-34 age group, once more highlighting how social gatherings were contributing to the spread of Covid-19.
There are 44 active cases among Gozo residents.
The superintendent highlights that social gatherings remain an issue.
She encourages employers to allow teleworking wherever possible.
She also emphasises the importance of social distancing at the workplace to limit the spread of the virus.
Gauci emphasises the importance of detecting cases early to avoid hospitalisation as more and more patients are receiving hospital treatment.
The 7-day moving average of new Covid-19 cases is 140, a record high for Malta.
An additional 25 patients are in Boffa Hospital and 17 at St Thomas Hospital, while Karin Grech Hospital and Mount Carmel Hospital count a single patient each.
There are 12 patients at the ITU, another five at the Infectious Diseases Unit and 22 in other wards at Mater Dei Hospital.
And we're live, with Charmaine Gauci starting by going over the latest figures.