The COVID-19 situation is stable and the prospects of people continuing to enjoy a normal life are looking good, Charmaine Gauci, superintendent of public health, told Times of Malta on Wednesday.
She told the Ask Charmaine programme that the number of patients in hospital remains low, with fewer than half of them actually admitted because of the virus.
The positivity rate from tests has declined from a peak of 21% to 8.3%.
46 patients having the virus are in hospital but just over half of them – 57% – were actually admitted for other reasons. Of the 46 patients in hospitals, only 20 were actually admitted because of the virus. Two patients are in intensive care.
Asked about the expiry date of vaccination certificates, Gauci said validity is 270 days across the EU. People can then take a booster dose, which does not have an expiry date. Those who do not take the new booster can produce a negative test if they wish to travel. Children under six do not need to take a test when travelling.
The second booster – only when and if necessary
On the second booster (or fourth dose), currently being offered to people over 65, Gauci said the jab is being offered to give additional immunity.
Uptake so far had been ‘very good’. In old people’s homes uptake was over 85% and ongoing she said. In total over 15,000 second booster shots have been administered, the process still in its early stages. It was being recommended that people who had contracted the virus should wait for four weeks before taking the new jab.
The people who benefit most are people over 65, she said, and the second booster is therefore not yet being offered to other people unless they are classified as vulnerable.
“We follow the evidence across Europe and will offer the jabs when and if they are needed,” Gauci said.
Asked about excess deaths for Malta in the two years of COVID-19, Gauci said some people died as a direct consequence of the virus and in others COVID exacerbated the existing condition of a patient.
Before vaccinations started the percentage of deaths caused directly by COVID-19 was 89%. It was now 51%. The lives of some 900 people had been saved because of vaccinations, according to studies.
Summer schools and bubbles
Asked if ‘bubbles’ in summer schools and childcare centres will still be enforced in summer, Gauci said risk was much less since activities were mostly outside. A review is underway.
Asked about the requirement of mask-wearing on planes, she said the requirement was still under discussion within EU medical fora.
What are the chances of measures returning?
Asked if there was a possibility of COVID-19 measures returning, Gauci said the measures were only applied where necessary to contain the spread and especially to safeguard the situation in hospitals and old people’s homes.
“We do not know what will happen,” Gauci said, “but the World Health Organisation is saying that the new variants of the virus are milder, can be handled, and do not escape immunity. So the prospects of continuing to live a normal life are good, as long as we exercise caution.”
Biggest success, and biggest regret
Questioned on her biggest success and biggest regret in the past two years, Gauci said the biggest success of the past two years was the very good uptake of vaccines.
She regretted however that because of the virus emergency, the authorities did not have more time to deal with other issues such as obesity.
The programme was presented by Diana Cacciottolo. This was the final edition of Ask Charmaine, which has been running for almost two years. The ending of the programme coincides with the lifting of most of Malta’s remaining COVID-19 measures.
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