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MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

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NEWS 16 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 Starting next Monday, MaltaTo- day will be showcasing the best athletes in the country from a range of sporting disciplines. We sit down with the best sportsmen and women who have represented Malta on the world stage. From Commonwealth Games winners, to Olympians, athletes speak about their challenges, goals and how they strive to become the best of the best in their discipline. Water polo player Dino Zam- mit, judoka Katryna Exposito, tennis player Elaine Genovese, target shooter Eleonor Bezzina, badminton player Matthew Abe- la and athlete Janet Richard sit down with Karl Azzopardi to tell their story. Episodes will be aired every Monday at 5pm on the MaltaTo- day Facebook page. The project was carried out in collaboration with SportMalta. Showcasing the best of Malta's sporting talent KARL AZZOPARDI MALTA is experiencing an increase in respiratory viruses, which is higher when compared to pre-COVID winters. The seasonal cycle of respiratory virus- es is a well-known phenomenon where epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza are present in Eu- rope with clear annual seasonality. And while the Health Ministry said RSV infections are not unusual at this time of year, Malta – like other Euro- pean countries – is experiencing higher RSV activity that began earlier than in pre-COVID-19 seasons. Influenza this season has shown a re- turn in spread, after a low-level of circu- lation following the onset of the COV- ID-19 pandemic. This can be attributed to the number of restrictions like the wearing of a face-mask, limits on the number of people at gatherings, and sanitisation points at establishments. A European Centre for Disease Pre- vention and Control report released in December showed that based on histor- ical RSV surveillance data from 15 EU/ EEA countries, all RSV seasons from 2010/11 to 2015/16 had a similar tim- ing and epidemic course across Europe, with some variation within and between countries. Introduction of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) to control COV- ID-19 circulation caused a change to the regular seasonality of RSV activity in Europe. Soon after NPIs were intro- duced, in February-March 2020, the circulation of RSV stopped, and in the 2020/2021 season the RSV epidemics began several weeks later than usual, if at all. In the summer of 2021, out-of- season RSV activity was observed in several countries, however, the reasons have not been fully explored. Replying to questions by MaltaToday, the ministry said the COVID situation is still being monitored by the health authorities. "People admitted to Ma- ter Dei Hospital are still being swabbed and people can still get swabbed in the community," a spokesperson said. Questions into whether people should start wearing masks when in public were not answered by the health min- istry, who instead quoted legislation in saying that masks should be worn in hospitals, medical clinics and old peo- ple's homes. The health ministry said that since the beginning of the current vaccination campaign, 110,000 persons have been vaccinated with the flu or Omicron vac- cine. It did not provide a breakdown of the administered vaccines. Malta is not the only country to ex- perience an early rise in influenza cas- es, with hospital admissions due to the illness rising across the continent since October. Countries like Germany and Slovakia had already declared an epi- demic by late December, with Belgium following suit in the first week of Jan- uary. Health chiefs in the UK have also said the NHS was suffering a "twindemic" as hospital admissions for flu have in- creased and cases of COVID have risen. The number of patients in hospital with flu have risen sevenfold in a month, according to latest data in the UK. "The flu has already been back for some time in our country, but now all the criteria are met to be able to talk about a flu epidemic," Belgium's pub- lic health institute said, explaining that a "clear increase" in the number of in- fluenza cases had been observed among general practitioners as well as in labo- ratory tests and hospitalizations. Higher amounts of respiratory virus cases when compared to pre-COVID years

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