Over 100,000 swab tests have been carried out in Malta ever since COVID-19 landed on our shores earlier this year… but how many different people were actually tested? Well, as should’ve been expected, that number is less.
Answering a parliamentary question by Claudette Buttigieg yesterday, Health Minister Chris Fearne broke down Malta’s total of swab tests, which till then stood at 102,394.
Out of the total 102,394 swabs, the number of different individuals who have been tested is actually 75,852… which means a fourth of all tests were people returning for another test.
In fact, 10,027 people – about one in every 10 – were swabbed twice.
Meanwhile, 2,513 people were swabbed three times, 870 were swabbed four times, 429 were swabbed five times, 228 were swabbed six times, 158 were swabbed seven times, 60 were swabbed eight times and 44 were swabbed nine times.
Finally, 47 people were swabbed 10 times or more.
And while no specific details on who these people are were given, it is to be expected that some of these repeated swabs were for vulnerable people, those who had vulnerable people living with them, people who had to continue going to their workplace during the pandemic, people who needed to travel around or out of Malta, and of course healthcare workers.
While still an impressive feat – some 15% of the country’s population has now been tested – these figures are a reminder of the important distinction between total number of tests and total number of people tested.
Malta’s total number of COVID-19 swab tests has long been a point of debate for many people, with endless online arguments waging war about whether the island has done enough to curb the spread of the pandemic from its arrival.
Ratio-wise, Malta managed to outperform most countries in tests per capita despite its comparatively low active cases, leading to a great deal of praise from the likes of the European Union and the World Health Organisation.
However, amidst all these achievements, some still lamented the mixed messages and statistics being quoted by certain officials, with the total number of tests often being reported as the total number of people tested.
It is perhaps this fact which led to yesterday’s parliamentary question being asked, with a clearer picture on the two different numbers being given exactly four months after Malta’s first case of COVID-19.