Malta is testing more people for COVID-19 per capita than all but two other countries worldwide, a global statistics site has shown.
Popular statistics website ourworldindata.org ranks Malta third in terms of daily tests carried out per 1,000 people, with a rate of 4.81 as of 17th August.
Only the Gulf nations of UAE and Bahrain score better, registering rates of 6.04 and 5.84 respectively, while New Zealand, the United States and the UK are ranked fourth, fifth and sixth.
Luxembourg is ranked seventh with a rate of 1.97, meaning Malta’s current testing rate is more than double that of any other EU member state.
However, Malta scores worse when it comes to the number of tests carried out per confirmed case, coming in 27th place with an infection rate of 72.7.
To put it in perspective, New Zealand is ranked first, with 1,873 tests carried out for every positive case, while Myanmar and Latvia are second and third, with scores of 927 and 608.
Prime Minister Robert Abela referred to the testing rate statistics during an interview last Sunday but back then, Malta’s testing rate was hovering at around 3.5.
“It’s a fact that the more tests you carry out, the more cases you will find,” he said. “We are seeking out these positive cases whereas other countries, for reasons of convenience or otherwise, are keeping their testing rates low. We’re not going to embark on a strategy of reducing tests but we will keep the rate high and perhaps even increase it.”
However, questions have been raised over whether it is fair for countries to blacklist Malta as a travel destination seeing as its recent surge in COVID-19 cases came hand in hand with a significant increase in testing.
Labour Party president Daniel Micallef said Malta is being punished for its high testing rate, arguing that it is carrying out nine times as many tests as Italy on a per capita basis.
Meanwhile, prominent businessman Michael Zammit Tabona went a step further, claiming that “the virus isn’t killing us, testing is”.
Malta has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with yesterday bringing about 47 new cases (from a total of 2,261 tests) along with 18 new recoveries, but no COVID-19 related deaths have been confirmed since 29th May.
The government has imposed a number of social distancing restrictions to contain the spread and has enforced the wearing of masks in a number of locations but the country hasn’t gone into quasi-lockdown as it did at the start of the pandemic last March. Meanwhile, several countries, including the UK, have forced people returning from Malta to go into quarantine, a major blow to the island’s tourism industry.
Cover photo: Left: The COVID-19 testing centre in Pembroke, Right: Health Minister Chris Fearne launching the newest COVID-19 testing centre in Burmarrad