time to explore with esplora

Decrease in COVID-19 cases since restrictions: explained

Today, the 29 of March, saw no more than 63 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 332 recoveries, in the last 24 hours. Could this be a one-off? A fluke? Many of us refuse to read too much into lower numbers for fear of being disappointed and disheartened should the numbers spike again in a couple of weeks.

That being said, we think it is important to note that for the last week, Malta has recorded increasingly low numbers of new COVID-19 cases, when compared to the weeks prior that is.

Just for some context, here’s how the Islands have fared in terms of new cases in the last three weeks:

  • 23-29 march

    619 new cases and 2,075 recoveries

  • 16-22 March

    1,571 new cases and 1,975 recoveries

  • 9-15 March

    2,329 new cases and 2,298 recoveries

How have the restrictions affected the cases?

Let’s brush up on the restrictions that were announced throughout the month of March. On 10 March, the government announced the closure of schools, restaurants and all non-essential shops, in response to a somewhat shocking spike in new cases, almost two thirds of which were attributable to the variant first reported in the UK.

Prime Minister Robert Abela announced the restrictions during a press conference after new infections hit 510 in 24 hours, setting a new record for the fourth time in two weeks.

Abela announced that the measures would be in force until 11 April and included the closure of all non-essential shops, and those providing non-essential services, such as beauticians and hairdressers. He added that group gatherings in public were limited to a maximum of four people, all organised sports were stopped and pools, gymnasiums, museums, theatres and cinemas also had to close their doors. Travelling to Gozo was also restricted to people who either own property on our sister island, or have to go for work.

“The aim of these measures is first and foremost to ease the pressure on the health services, reduce the spread of infection and increase the rate of vaccination,” said the Prime Minister.

More measures announced

Fast forward to 26 March, two weeks shy of 11 April, the ministry announced that people gathering in public spaces is set to decrease from four to two. The measure comes into effect on 31 March, in hopes of limiting the spread of infection during the Easter period. Furthermore, as of today, the list of countries in the amber zone will be revised further, so that all green-listed countries will be added to the amber list.

In this way, “any traveler arriving in Malta from any other country will be required to submit a negative PCR COVID-19 test performed no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in Malta. Persons who fail to produce this test may be subjected to testing in Malta and may be subject to quarantine,” the ministry statement reads. Flights from countries in the red zone will remain prohibited, except for repatriation trips.

What about the vaccine?

Many are wondering whether the vaccine roll-out is the primary contributor to the decreased number of cases as of late. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that having two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine cuts down a person’s chances of developing an infection that can be transmitted by 86%. Another medical study in Israel found an 89.4% reduction.

Though it may be too early to tell in Malta’s case, it could very well be that those who are vaccinated, are not only not contracting the virus but have less of a chance of passing it on. As a result, less people are falling ill, leading to less people calling the Public Health Authorities and booking a COVID-19 test.

Could the lower numbers be a result of the vaccine roll-out combined with the recent restrictive measures? What are your thoughts?