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MALTATODAY 10 July 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 10 JULY 2022 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Apart from the Infectious Diseases Unit and an obstec- trics ward (OBS-1), the surgi- cal admissions ward (SAU-2), medical wards M1-4 and M6, and a urology ward (URO-2), are now handling COVID pa- tients. With each ward handling 20- 24 patients, various sectors of Mater Dei Hospital have seem their specialities dispersed in other wards as rising cases split the general hospital be- tween COVID and non-COV- ID wards. After COVID patients are discharged following five days under monitoring, they could be placed in either of the ma- jor incident unit wards – MIU 1-6 – which, nursing staff told MaltaToday, are corridors, the medical library, and the staff canteen. "What were first intended as temporary areas for COV- ID patients, have now become permanent, and it is certainly not ideal, because we haven't had new wards opened in eight years," nursing union boss Paul Pace told MaltaToday. "With nothing to increase ca- pacity, for a population that to- day includes a growing foreign cohort of 100,000 people, what we're seeing here is a big issue in the community that the gov- ernment is not talking about." Pace said such ward conges- tions tend to be the norm at the start of winter. "Instead it is happening at the start of sum- mer!" he said. "Government seems to be giving the impression that it is business as usual, but it's hos- pitals that are taking the flak.... the canteen is certainly not up to any standard in health prac- tices to be able to host acutely ill patients." Yesterday Malta registered 471 new COVID-19 infections, and two deaths. The number of COVID-19 deaths stands at 756. In all, 108,283 COVID-19 cas- es have been recorded in Malta since the pandemic broke in March 2020. There have been 99,241 people who recovered. The number of active cases has dipped slightly to 7,890. But the health ministry has stopped publishing daily bul- letins on social media which show details about the pan- demic in Malta. Data is still being published by the Health Ministry's COV- ID-19 Public Health Response Team on an open source da- tabase although certain details such as the number of positive COVID-19 cases in hospital and the details about people who had died are not included in the dataset. LUKE VELLA PUBLIC Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci yesterday said that leading fulfilling lives, meet- ing people and socialising were of utmost importance for peo- ple, in comments addressing the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Interviewed on 103FM on Saturday, Prof. Gauci said that the number of cases being re- ported was not the real extent of the wave of the COVID in- fections. "We only catch the tip of the iceberg. Out there, there are much more cases. However we still observe the trends as they provide us with an insight to the real situation." COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in recent weeks, averaging 550 cases in the last seven days. Gauci explained that the pos- itivity rate in January, at the peak of the Omicron wave, was 16%, going up to 21% in April and then to 28% in the previous week. As per today, it stands at 25%. "The prediction is that if cas- es go down, they will go down slower. There are currently new variants, with BA.2 show- ing prominence in Malta. Since it's summer and more people are going abroad and going out, it's easier for the virus to get transmitted." Gauci said that every new variant of Omicron is showing more transmission than the previous strains. She did however say that dur- ing the Delta wave, the infec- tions were more complicated and the symptoms were more severe. "We are currently in a situation where we have a higher vaccine coverage rate, and the second booster is being administered to those over 65. There is a massive difference in hospital admissions and ITU cases, in comparison to the Delta wave," Gauci said. She highlighted the impor- tance of adapting people's lives, whilst COVID was still a reali- ty. "Our lives must still go on. People need to go out and meet with others – the elderly need to socialise. For a short period we could afford to stay indoors, but now we have to create the right balance." Gauci explained that although vaccines help against infec- tions, they are more effective against serious complications and severe COVID symptoms. Asked whether masks should be obligatory on public trans- port, Gauci said that vulnera- ble people should wear an FFP2 mask. She added that the sec- ond booster roll out was highly successful, with 50% of those eligible taking it. "The average in Europe is only at 12%. Our population trusts the health authorities." Prof. Charmaine Gauci 'We can only catch the tip of the COVID iceberg' Summer wave of COVID cases 'a big issue in the community' "What were first intended as temporary areas for COVID patients, have now become permanent, and it is certainly not ideal, because we haven't had new wards opened in eight years"

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