Over the past year, Prime Minister Robert Abela has frequently and loudly compared Malta’s COVID-19 statistics to that of Europe and beyond, happily scaling up ratios where it would show the tiny islands steaming ahead of their peers worldwide. But if we had to apply that same reasoning to Malta’s current daily infections, and different and worrying reality quickly emerges.
Barely two days after Malta blew every previous national record out of the water with 336 new infections, that record was broken today 48 hours later, with a meteoric 362 cases. But how do these numbers stack up when compared to the three European countries worst hit by this latest wave of infections?
As it stands, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have seen the highest numbers in recent weeks, with averages in the last month of 21,000, 17,000 and 12,000 daily cases respectively.
But as Prime Minister Abela has proved time and time again when for example touting Malta’s high swabbing rate, it’s not just about these statistics in their raw form, but what happens when you use ratios to put everyone on a level playing field.
Adjusting the populations of each country helps set an important context to what over 350 cases in a tiny island like Malta would look like in a larger European country… and it’s not looking too great.
France’s latest average of daily cases amounts to 0.018% of its population. In Italy, it’s 0.028%. The Czech Republic, meanwhile, is at a worrying average of 0.11% of its population getting infected every single day.
Malta’s number today of 362? 0.082%… or in Reuters’ own words, “at peak and rising”.
This means that Malta’s new infections today are equivalent to over 53,000 cases in France (significantly more than double of what they currently are) and more than 49,000 cases in Italy – nearly three times the current rate there.
Meanwhile, Malta’s 0.082% translates to about 8,792 cases in the Czech Republic, which is less than the central European country’s 12,000. Then again, we’re only talking about a difference of 0.028%… and just two days ago, the Czech Republic officially skyrocketed to the world’s highest infection rate, some 11 times higher than European countries like Germany. So maybe this shouldn’t be the moment we celebrate statistical superiority.
And even if you had to take an average of the last week instead of just today’s number, we’re still looking at an average of 266 daily cases, or 0.06% of the country being infected per day in Malta… which is still significantly worse than France and Italy.
So what does it look like in these other countries that Malta is either worse off or nearly just as bad?
Two weeks ago, Italy imposed a new lockdown to tackle the new outbreak, which up till then was the worst in Europe (you know, the one that comes up to nearly a third of Malta’s current numbers).
The Czech Republic is currently a bit of a mess – condemned for slipping into a COVID disaster after introducing measures “too little, too late”, the relatively small European country has just tightened its lockdown, with a three-week order limiting free movement, shutting many schools, only adding exemptions for work-related travel.
Meanwhile, both Prime Minister Robert Abela and Health Minister Chris Fearne have categorically ruled out “draconian measures” like a lockdown in Malta, announcing instead a number of new restrictions earlier today. These include closing all restaurants, kiosks and snack bars, limiting them to takeaway, and limiting events in private houses to a maximum of four households’ worth of people. Fines have also been increased, with certain business fines doubled from €3,000 to €6,000.