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Hindsight Is 2020: Looking Back At A Year Of COVID-19 Statistics In Malta

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On Saturday 7th March 2020, Malta woke up to the dreaded but inevitable news of its first COVID-19 case. The 12-year-old Italian girl who had become the island’s first virus case overnight was followed by 365 days of brave but tough decisions, semi-miraculous accomplishments and staggering fuck-ups.

Now, on the eve of 7th March 2021, it’s time to look back on it all from the one angle that doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings: statistics.

It feels like everything that needed to be said in the past year has been said already. But now that a full year has passed and the future is finally looking marginally brighter than before, it’s important to look back on what has just transpired. And now more than ever, it’s also important to not recklessly rush ahead without being mindful of the patterns we’ve just gone through. Thankfully, there’s a lot that can be achieved with a healthy dose of mathematics.

In the last 365 days, Malta has seen a total of 23,871 COVID-19 cases. That comes up to an average of 65 cases every single day for a whole year.

Of course, averaging everything out misses a very vital point to Malta’s situation: the current record-breaking wave of new cases that we’re still battling every single day.

In fact, the last month alone saw 5,486 new cases. This means that, even though the last month is only a twelfth of the time that COVID-19 has been in Malta, it’s amounted to a fifth of all the cases since 7th March 2020.

With over 1,000 people being infected in 120 hours just last week and the following days seeing the all-time daily case record being broken three times, you’d think people wouldn’t really need any more proof that we’re currently going through an incomparably devastating wave of infections. But here we are.

To top off the grim numbers, Malta’s total fatalities exceeded 300 just last month, with the total of 328 coming up shy of an average of one COVID-19 death per day for all of last year.

If you look at the time it’s been since Malta’s first COVID-19 death – a 92-year-old Gozitan woman who passed away on 7th April – it comes up to even worse: 328 deaths in 334 days.

Of course, it is worth noting that recoveries among COVID-19 patients are still extremely high, with 20,291 people – or 85% of the total infected population – having already recovered. Then again, maybe it’s better to avoid people getting infected in the first place when you’re dealing with a global pandemic?

But amidst all these not-so-ideal numbers, there’s also a ray of hope in the form of Malta’s current vaccination roll-out. More specifically, its speed.

On 27th December, Infectious Disease Unit nurse Rachel Grech became the first person in Malta to be inoculated against COVID-19. 21 days later, on 17th January, she became the first person to be fully vaccinated with the two required doses. By two days later, Malta had vaccinated around 13,000 other people.

Today marks 69 days since that first vaccine dose. With 89,946 total vaccines being given out, that amounts to over 1,303 doses being administered every day. 

Of course, the reality is more promising than this; as more vaccines continue to get approved for use, Malta has bolstered up its daily vaccinations, frequently approaching 2,000 doses per day as of late.

Meanwhile, 31,034 people are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Malta. This amounts to 7% of the population.

Considering this at face value could prove to be worrying at first. The current estimates suggest that roughly 50 to 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated for any country to truly reach its herd immunity threshold.

If we take somewhere in the middle ground and look at 70% and remember that it took just under 70 days to vaccinate just over 7% of Malta’s population, hitting anything close to 70% of the population being vaccinated can be estimated to take about 700 more days. That’s nearly two years into the future… or sometime in February 2023.

Thankfully, however, this is one statistic we’ll happily see not make sense soon enough, as it’s set to continue increasing nearly exponentially on a very regular basis. 

In just over two months, three different vaccines have been approved for use in Malta, with a potentially game-changing fourth one just over the horizon. In that time, vaccinations have also increased, with the initial 1,000 odd daily doses being effectively doubled in the last weeks. Health Minister Chris Fearne has even gone on record to say that number can only be expected to increase soon enough, and with the imminent addition of family doctors to our inoculation troops, it’s very easy to see how.

In fact, just yesterday, new EU-wide calculations predicted 70% of the population being vaccinated by October, a more hopeful forecast which should only get closer once other vaccines like Russia’s Sputnik V are eventually considered for European approval.

In the meantime, the island’s vaccine roll-out continues to storm ahead, beating pretty much every single country in the continent and only coming up short of a handful of countries worldwide… like the UK, USA, and the insane success story of Israel.

So what can we take away from one whole year of statistics? What have 365 days of numbers coming in from every direction taught us?

A lesson you’d expect we’d starting learning on Day One. The same lesson some haven’t quite grasped yet.

This started out as a pandemic no one quite understood, and while the general hysteria has diminished as the information continued rolling out, we’ve learnt more and more about what it takes to control an infectious virus and what the implications of certain numbers are.

As the world enters what everyone hopes is the final phase of this long and tiring battle against COVID-19, we’ve had worrying waves, disturbing figures, and proud moments of resilience. On more than one occasion, this tiny island has managed to defy an endless list of expectations. At the same time, however, many will argue that a number of half-hearted measures and an all-too-relaxed Mediterranean attitude have led us to the worst point of this pandemic – now, a whole year later, at the point that we should’ve learnt most of the lessons worth learning, not forgotten them.

Nothing in life is black or white… much less a global pandemic.

And while Malta has had commendable spells of positive plans and applaudable actions, this is not the time to get lost in patting ourselves on the back, sugarcoating the truth or flat-out concealing the full picture. That time will come, later, when the country truly manages to get out of this mess by giving the positive and negative numbers the same level of attention.

Because nobody out there wants to be talking about this in another 365 days’ time.

What do you make of this? Let us know in the comments below. 

READ NEXT: WATCH: Leading Women In Malta Reflect On Women’s Role In Tackling COVID-19

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

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