VALLETTA (Reuters) - Malta has had no new case of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours for the first time since the crisis began, and will start rolling back some of the restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus in the coming days, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Sunday.
“Decisions on lifting measures will be taken on the basis of science and numbers,” he told a news conference.
Malta, with around half a million people, detected its first COVID-19 case on March 7 and since then has reported almost 450 cases. Four elderly patients with a number of medical complications have died.
The country closed schools, banned gatherings of more than three people, closed the airport and non-essential shops, but it never ordered a total lock-down, with factories, building sites and beaches remaining open.
The Mediterranean island has been praised by the World Health Organization for having one of the most widespread testing and contact-tracing networks. Media reported that with an average of 38.74 tests per 1,000 people, Malta was only superseded by Luxembourg and Iceland.
The daily number of new cases had fallen in recent days into the single digits before reaching zero.
“We now have to be careful that any second wave is turned into a ripple,” Fearne said.
Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Peter Graff