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The Best In The Good Stats, The Worst In The Bad Ones? Comparing Malta’s Virus-Related Numbers With Europe And Beyond

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Amidst a very efficient vaccine roll-out and a record-breaking infection wave, Malta has found itself in a uniquely weird position. And that’s because whether you’re looking at a hopeful chart of vaccination speed or a gloomier one of new COVID-19 cases, you’re going to find the tiny Mediterranean island towards the very top of both.

Just last night, Health Minister Chris Fearne proudly reshared global statistics of vaccinations per 100 people… with Malta sitting comfortably in the top three.

This is not the first time that we managed to top this vital list, and as more vaccines keep getting approved, expect Malta to keep trailblazing when it comes to its inoculation roll-out.

As it stands, in fact, Malta has even managed to overtake the speedy United Kingdom and, even more impressively, the United States, with 0.79 doses per 100 people being given as opposed to the US’ 0.76.

Meanwhile, Israel has continued to steam ahead, with its one per 100 vaccination rate having to succumb only to Chile’s 1.46.

Testing in Malta has also gone up in recent weeks, and since this was always a statistic that the islands fared extremely well in – something which our health authorities have been reminding the nation for a full year now – that’s yet another chart which you’ll find the islands topping.

And while this is obviously all great news, let’s not forget the other, less ideal half of the story…

If you had to instead look at statistics on say, new infections per 100,000 people, or even new deaths per 100,000 people, much of the above chart would change.

Israel, for example, has the second-best vaccine roll-out in the world, and this is reflected in its drop of new cases and deaths, placing it in the lower half of the “negative” statistics on a global chart.

The United Kingdom has also seen a gradual and significant drop in new cases in the past weeks, so much so that it went from an average of 90 new infections per 100k in January to a current average of eight.

Thankfully for these countries, the trends of COVID-19 deaths follow quite closely to those of new infections.

Malta, however, has not seen this expected occurrence of inversely proportionate statistics. In fact, if you had to look at cases and deaths instead of vaccinations and swab tests, Malta is still on top. 

Whether you’re looking at the likes of the UK, the US, Israel and Chile again to keep the vaccination front-runners variable constant or you open it up to the whole world, Malta still ranks worryingly high here.

In fact, Malta’s current average of new COVID-19 infections per 100k people, for example, is double the European Union’s average, more than triple the US’, and more than seven times higher than the UK’s.

And while both the United States and the United Kingdom have been on a continuous downward trend of cases and deaths since mid-January, Malta’s current record-breaking spike has been going strong for over a month now and is still not showing any significant signs of slowing down yet.

New infections in the last month: Malta (in green) when compared to the major vaccine front-runners. The grey lines represent all the other countries in the world, with very tiny states that have even smaller populations than Malta appearing on both extreme ends of the spectrum.

New infections in the last month: Malta (in green) when compared to the major vaccine front-runners. The grey lines represent all the other countries in the world, with very tiny states that have even smaller populations than Malta appearing on both extreme ends of the spectrum.

New COVID-19 deaths in the last month, per 100k.

New COVID-19 deaths in the last month, per 100k.

But how can a country that’s doing so well in some fields also be doing so badly in others?

Of course, there’s a number of variables that contribute to this.

For starters, the number of vaccine doses a country gives out is much more controllable than the spread of an infectious virus… especially one that has a newer, even more infectious variant. The end result is simple: if you have a really efficient inoculation system at the same time as a hard-to-manage infection spike, you’re going to quickly hit records in both fields.

There are also three massive elephants in the room that need addressing; when you introduce restrictive measures, what restrictive measures they are, and how people actually respond to them (and let’s face it; good luck with impressing anyone on any of those three fronts if you’re Maltese).

Finally, we cannot forget that, whether it’s a good statistic or a bad one, there’s bound to be some sort of warping of the actual situation due to the population differences of the countries being compared.  We need to multiply our numbers at least four times to go from 100,000 people to our population, while most countries need to divide their numbers dozens of times to get anywhere near 100k. Ratios will always be just that, and most of the time in the chaotic era of spin, these stats become less about the big picture and more about which point you’re trying to prove.

Having said that, Malta’s size should always be an important consideration when looking at these numbers.

This is the tiny island that should be expected to vaccinate its entire population way before massive countries of tens of millions of people that need internal flights to get from one city to another. At the same time, this is the minuscule, 27-kilometre rock where an infectious virus can spread much, much quicker if not enough people are doing enough to stop it.

But of course, over a year later, you’d think everyone would know all of this by now.

What do you make of these statistics? Let us know in the comments below

READ NEXT: Marginally Better Than The World's Worst Infection Rate: Malta's Astronomical COVID Number Today, In Context

Sarcastically ironic, Dave is a recovering hipster musician with a penchant for chicken, women's clothes and Kanye.

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