Watch: Events limited to 100 people indoors, 300 outdoors

Il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela flimkien mad-Deputat Prim Ministru Chris Fearne jindirizzaw lill-midja dwar l-eżitu tal-laqgħa tal-Kunsill Malti għall-Iżvilupp Ekonomiku u Soċjali

Il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela flimkien mad-Deputat Prim Ministru Chris Fearne jindirizzaw lill-midja dwar l-eżitu tal-laqgħa tal-Kunsill Malti għall-Iżvilupp Ekonomiku u Soċjali

Posted by MaltaGov on Friday, August 7, 2020

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The government has banned larger events in the wake of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, setting a limit of 300 people in outdoor locations and 100 people in indoor ones.

At a press conference held with Prime Minister Robert Abela, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that previously-announced limitations, including the need for premises to have an area of 4sqm per guest, would be retained. Additionally, dancefloors will be prohibited, as maintaining social distancing within them has been deemed impossible.

Fearne also announced that the government is also restricting visits to homes for the elderly, which will once more be done through a Perspex screen.

Abela refused to take any blame for the spike in Covid-19 cases, and insisted that Malta could not afford to curtail tourism or other economic activity.

He also insisted that its recommendations now followed those made by Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci, who had last week signalled her disagreement with the government’s position in favour of holding mass events.

12:24 And with this, the press conference now ends, and so does our live blog.

We'll be opening another live blog shortly, however, when Prof. Gauci is set to brief the media for the first time in over 2 months.
John Paul Cordina
12:23 As for community testing, Fearne argues that the two new hubs should provide sufficient capacity for now.

The situation may change in the future, however, particularly when the flu virus starts spreading once more after the summer months.
John Paul Cordina
12:21 Abela states that the measures announced were intended to avoid the need for further measures in the future.

However, one would be presumptuous to rule them out, as the situation was fluid. To adjust from time to time was no sin; one had to be humble and review one's position.
John Paul Cordina
12:20 The TVM correspondents questions whether the government is considering other measures should the prevalence of Covid-19 continues to rise.

He also asks whether testing in the community would be considered, and on the logistical considerations behind enforcement.
John Paul Cordina
12:19 This, he adds, highlighted the importance of maintaining a stable economy. Otherwise, faced with the need to extend wage supplements, the government would be unable to.
John Paul Cordina
12:18 Abela states that the wage supplement was crucial in maintaining people's standard of living and keeping businesses afloat.
John Paul Cordina
12:17 Fearne states that it is too early to determine whether schools will reopen next month, though that was what the government was hoping for.
John Paul Cordina
12:16 The Times of Malta's correspondent asks on the reopening of schools and on the wage supplement, wondering whether the government could afford to extend it.
John Paul Cordina
12:15 Abela now insists that the additional testing centres show the government's commitment to safeguard the people's health.

He also makes an economic argument for this: stating that it helps ensure Malta remains on other countries' green lists.
John Paul Cordina
12:14 The minister recalls that two additional testing centres would be set up.

He also insists that there were no issues with lab testing, stating the laboratory was processing tests within hours.
John Paul Cordina
12:13 He notes that the number of calls reaching the 111 helpline increased dramatically, but the situation was now largely under control, with 97% of calls being answered.
John Paul Cordina
12:13 Fearne answers the question on testing, and attributes Malta's success in handling the pandemic to its testing capabilities.
John Paul Cordina
12:11 He recalls that there were couples who were going to marry this evening, and questions whether the plans they had made for years should be disrupted with such short notice.
John Paul Cordina
12:11 The PM expresses full conference in Fearne and Gauci, and pledges to follow their advice.
John Paul Cordina
12:09 Abela starts by answering the second question, insisting that the measures were in line with those made by Prof. Gauci. He does state that Gauci had to strike a balance between health and economy concerns, however.
John Paul Cordina
12:08 Newsbook's own Christoph Schwaiger asks two question, starting with the capacity of testing.

He also questions why weddings would still be allowed when other mass events are restricted, highlighting that the virus would not distinguish between the two.
John Paul Cordina
12:08 Fearne also recalls that no country has enforced mandatory testing on arrivals, though some are considering it.

He states that one had to determine how the logistical feasbility of the process, and that Malta may also consider introducing the measure if it was.
John Paul Cordina
12:06 The L-Orizzont correspondent questions whether tourists should be tested on arrival.

Fearne states that so far, there has been no change in policy on this, while only tourists from countries considered to be safe are allowed entry.
John Paul Cordina
12:05 Abela also walks back, slightly, on his assertion that he blamed asylum seekers for the resurgence, insisting that he simply pointed out that they accounted for a sizeable proportion of cases.
John Paul Cordina
12:04 The TMI correspondent also questions whether the situation is under control, and Abela, recalling that the beds equipped for Covid-19 still lay empty, insists that it is.
John Paul Cordina
12:03 The Malta Independent's correspondent also recalls Abela's remark that the only wave could be found at sea, and questions whether such discourse could have given the mistaken impression that the situation had passed.
John Paul Cordina
12:03 Fearne states that he is confident that the MAM would ultimately rise to the occasion.
John Paul Cordina
12:00 Abela insists that he would not attack a union, recalling that he had served as the MAM's lawyer.

However, he felt that everyone should work together in a holistic manner, and not simply look at the issue from their own angle.
John Paul Cordina
11:59 The Labour Party's One News correspondent argues that MAM was leaving patients to suffer.
John Paul Cordina
11:58 He states that a general mechanism for the waiving of any fines, denying that an amnesty had been given to those fined for congregating in groups.
John Paul Cordina
11:57 Abela now accuses the Nationalist Party of acting irresponsibly by calling for a leadership election in the midst of the pandemic.
John Paul Cordina
11:56 He claims that the health authorities took all the credit, while he took all the blame, and that he was fine with this.
John Paul Cordina
11:56 He insists that he would never shirk responsibility, and that while the government was not perfect, it did its utmost to tell the truth.
John Paul Cordina
11:55 Abela dismisses claims that the government and the Superintendent of Public Health were in disagreement, and insists that the MAM was the lone holdout.
John Paul Cordina
11:55 She also questions whether any amnesty on fines would be considered – as Abela had announced on the fines handed out to those congregating in large groups at the early stage of the pandemic.
John Paul Cordina
11:53 The NET News correspondent recalls Abela's controversial assertion that the only waves could be found at sea. She also quotes the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine's statement, issued earlier today, that the resurgence was due to government policy.
John Paul Cordina
11:52 The PM insists that not opening the airport was the comfortable option, but not one he could afford to make.
John Paul Cordina
11:51 Abela also insists that no request made by the health authorities was denied for financial reasons, insisting that this was only possible because the economy was kept afloat.
John Paul Cordina
11:50 The PM denies seeking to appease certain businesses, once more highlighting the estimated €25 million that the four cancelled festivals would have generated.
John Paul Cordina
11:49 Abela now recalls the criticism he received for not wearing a mask, and states that he sought the advice of the health authorities.

At that point, he said, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was not recommending this at the time.
John Paul Cordina
11:49 The present scenario, he reiterates, was of an increase in cases that was not matched by an increase in serious ones.
John Paul Cordina
11:47 He emphasises that it is particularly difficult to strike a balance when one has no idea when the pandemic will end.

The pandemic may last a few months, but it may also last years, and thus a balance between the economy and health needed to be struck.
John Paul Cordina
11:47 But Abela deflects this, stating that the worst one can do at this stage is lay blame on one another.
John Paul Cordina
11:46 Question time starts, and the MaltaToday reporter questions whether the government accepts any fault for the resurgence in cases.

He also asks whether the government sought to appease certain businesses.
John Paul Cordina
11:46 Fearne appeals to those who are not vulnerable to be considerate of those who are and take all necessary precautions.
John Paul Cordina
11:44 Consequently, carers working in homes for the elderly will have to be tested regularly, and visitors will have to meet their loved ones from behind a perspex screen.

Visitor hours will be reduced to 1 hour a day, with a limit of one person per resident.
John Paul Cordina
11:43 The biggest concern, according to Fearne, is vulnerable people who live in residential facilities, such as homes for the elderly.
John Paul Cordina
11:43 The minister now confirms news that two additional testing hubs will be set up, though further details are to be announced at a later date.
John Paul Cordina
11:42 Fearne also confirms that all dance floors have been closed, as it would be impossible to stick to social distancing requirements.
John Paul Cordina
11:42 But these measures needed to be backed by strong enforcement, Fearne acknowledges, stating that the police and other authorities would be involved to ensure that these rules are followed "by everyone, everywhere, at all times."
John Paul Cordina
11:40 He confirms that the government is now limiting indoor events to a maximum of 100 people, and outdoor ones to 300 people, as long as they have an area of at least 4 square metres per person.
John Paul Cordina
11:39 The minister recalls the measures implemented last week to ensure social distancing in mass events, before adding that the government was now going further.
John Paul Cordina
11:38 Though so far, he adds, the vulnerable remain protected.
John Paul Cordina
11:38 But Fearne acknowledges that in recent weeks, these principles were not always being followed.
John Paul Cordina
11:37 The third is to protect those who would be particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
John Paul Cordina
11:36 The second is to isolate positive cases, which also required quick detection of cases and contact tracing.
John Paul Cordina
11:36 He notes that the containment of the pandemic had to be based on three main points, with the first being social distancing.
John Paul Cordina
11:35 Fearne now takes the mic, insisting that the government always acted on the evidence available.

As he had promised, Abela puts on his face mask, while Fearne removes his.
John Paul Cordina
11:35 He argues that restrictive measures would reduce people's quality of life, and that the public should be allowed to enjoy their lives, with the necessary precautions.
John Paul Cordina
11:34 Work needs to continue, tourism needs to continue, Abela insists.
John Paul Cordina
11:33 One had to be cautious, but people should not be extreme and argue that the situation was a catastrophe, the PM adds.
John Paul Cordina
11:33 He reiterates that the beds allocated to Covid-19 patients remain empty, and that in light of this, one should avoid paralysing the economy for the time being.
John Paul Cordina
11:32 People should not be alarmed by the situation, the PM insisted, as Malta now could build on months of experience in dealing with the pandemic.
John Paul Cordina
11:31 The four festivals would have generated some €25 million in revenue, Abela laments, but he insists that prudence was required.
John Paul Cordina
11:31 He notes that in response to the MAM's plea to cancel four huge festivals, the government not only cancelled these events but also all others.
John Paul Cordina
11:30 He emphasises the need to wear face masks, and that a fine would be levied on those who fail to respect the rules.
John Paul Cordina
11:29 The government's strategy was a marathon, not a sprint, Abela states. The marathon could very well be an endless one, with people having to learn to coexist with the virus.
John Paul Cordina
11:28 Citing a reduction in unemployment figures after the initial spike, he emphasised the need for a sustainable strategy.
John Paul Cordina
11:26 But he insists that the government has continued to protect the people's health, and that there was no compromise between health and the economy.
John Paul Cordina
11:25 He argues that it was obvious that the number of cases would increase with the reopening of the airport, recalling that over 118,000 arrivals and 90,000 departures have been recorded since.
John Paul Cordina
11:24 The situation in Malta's health system was well under control, according to the PM.
John Paul Cordina
11:23 Abela states that while the number of cases increased, the number of serious cases had not.
John Paul Cordina
11:22 He welcomes the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses' agreement with the decisions made, leading to the suspension of its own industrial action.
John Paul Cordina
11:21 The PM says that when it came to holding weddings, the MAM's position contrasted with that of the Superintendent of Public Health.
John Paul Cordina
11:20 He insists that the outcome of the MCESD meeting was a very positive one, in spite of the disagreement expressed by the doctors' union, the Medical Association of Malta.
John Paul Cordina
11:20 Abela opens, informing journalists that he was only eschewing a face mask for as long as he would be speaking.
John Paul Cordina
11:16 We're now awaiting the entrance of Abela and Fearne.
John Paul Cordina
11:11 Good morning, and welcome to our live blog.

Right now, the journalists are waiting to be allowed inside the hall where the press conference is being held.
John Paul Cordina

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