December was the darkest month when it comes to families having to come to terms with Covid-related deaths of loved ones in Malta, as the highest number of mortalities to date was registered.
The reality contrasts with the hope sparked by the arrival of the Coronavirus vaccine, the significance of which was compared by Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci to the arrival of the Santa Maria convoy.
According to an analysis by The Shift of public data published by the Health Directorate, a total of 82 individuals died in December – an increase of seven deaths when compared to November, where 75 individuals passed away, and a sharp contrast with October, where 27 COVID-related deaths were registered.
As the rest of the world, it was senior citizens who were most likely to succumb to the virus in Malta, especially as clusters were discovered within elderly homes.
The figures portray a steady, then sudden increase in deaths following the arrival of the second wave at the end of summer, the possibility of which had initially been played down by Prime Minister Robert Abela when he infamously said “the waves are in the sea”.
During the first wave in March, the total number of deaths was nine. With seven people having so far succumbed to the virus in January, the total number of deaths in Malta so far is 226.
Vaccine roll-out criticised
At the end of December, the Pfizer and Biotech vaccines were rolled out in Malta, alongside other EU member states, regarded by most worldwide as a light at the end of a tunnel. With vaccinations having started on 27 December in Malta, some 1,400 people have so far been vaccinated.
However, on Monday, while praising the authorities for the procurement of vaccines, the Malta Medical Association (MAM) criticised the government’s targets for the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, arguing that the targets are “very low”. The associations said that only one in 10 healthcare workers in Malta has so far been vaccinated, while “about 19,000 vaccines remain idle in the freezers”.
The government has said that the number of people vaccinated is expected to increase to 2,000 per week in the coming days, and then, exponentially, to 5,000 a week with plans to achieve herd immunity by summer.
These figures were disputed by the MAM which said that, according to their calculations, in order to achieve herd immunity by summer, 26,131 vaccinations need to be given per week, which would vaccinate 70% of the population.
On Tuesday, Fearne referred to shortcomings in arrivals hindering vaccinations to increase to 10,000 per day – the number which Malta is logistically capable of handling.