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.
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.
And with this, the press conference now ends, and so does our live blog.
The situation may change in the future, however, particularly when the flu virus starts spreading once more after the summer months.
As for community testing, Fearne argues that the two new hubs should provide sufficient capacity for now.
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.
Abela states that the measures announced were intended to avoid the need for further measures in the future.
He also asks whether testing in the community would be considered, and on the logistical considerations behind enforcement.
The TVM correspondents questions whether the government is considering other measures should the prevalence of Covid-19 continues to rise.
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.
Abela states that the wage supplement was crucial in maintaining people's standard of living and keeping businesses afloat.
Fearne states that it is too early to determine whether schools will reopen next month, though that was what the government was hoping for.
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.
He also makes an economic argument for this: stating that it helps ensure Malta remains on other countries' green lists.
Abela now insists that the additional testing centres show the government's commitment to safeguard the people's health.
He also insists that there were no issues with lab testing, stating the laboratory was processing tests within hours.
The minister recalls that two additional testing centres would be set up.
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.
Fearne answers the question on testing, and attributes Malta's success in handling the pandemic to its testing capabilities.
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.
The PM expresses full conference in Fearne and Gauci, and pledges to follow their advice.
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.
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.
Newsbook's own Christoph Schwaiger asks two question, starting with the capacity of testing.
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.
Fearne also recalls that no country has enforced mandatory testing on arrivals, though some are considering it.
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.
The L-Orizzont correspondent questions whether tourists should be tested on arrival.
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.
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.
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.
Fearne states that he is confident that the MAM would ultimately rise to the occasion.
However, he felt that everyone should work together in a holistic manner, and not simply look at the issue from their own angle.
Abela insists that he would not attack a union, recalling that he had served as the MAM's lawyer.
The Labour Party's One News correspondent argues that MAM was leaving patients to suffer.
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.
Abela now accuses the Nationalist Party of acting irresponsibly by calling for a leadership election in the midst of the pandemic.
He claims that the health authorities took all the credit, while he took all the blame, and that he was fine with this.
He insists that he would never shirk responsibility, and that while the government was not perfect, it did its utmost to tell the truth.
Abela dismisses claims that the government and the Superintendent of Public Health were in disagreement, and insists that the MAM was the lone holdout.
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.
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.
The PM insists that not opening the airport was the comfortable option, but not one he could afford to make.
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.
The PM denies seeking to appease certain businesses, once more highlighting the estimated €25 million that the four cancelled festivals would have generated.
At that point, he said, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was not recommending this at the time.
Abela now recalls the criticism he received for not wearing a mask, and states that he sought the advice of the health authorities.
The present scenario, he reiterates, was of an increase in cases that was not matched by an increase in serious ones.
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.
He emphasises that it is particularly difficult to strike a balance when one has no idea when the pandemic will end.
But Abela deflects this, stating that the worst one can do at this stage is lay blame on one another.
He also asks whether the government sought to appease certain businesses.
Question time starts, and the MaltaToday reporter questions whether the government accepts any fault for the resurgence in cases.
Fearne appeals to those who are not vulnerable to be considerate of those who are and take all necessary precautions.
Visitor hours will be reduced to 1 hour a day, with a limit of one person per resident.
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.
The biggest concern, according to Fearne, is vulnerable people who live in residential facilities, such as homes for the elderly.
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.
Fearne also confirms that all dance floors have been closed, as it would be impossible to stick to social distancing requirements.
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."
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.
The minister recalls the measures implemented last week to ensure social distancing in mass events, before adding that the government was now going further.
Though so far, he adds, the vulnerable remain protected.
But Fearne acknowledges that in recent weeks, these principles were not always being followed.
The third is to protect those who would be particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
The second is to isolate positive cases, which also required quick detection of cases and contact tracing.
He notes that the containment of the pandemic had to be based on three main points, with the first being social distancing.
As he had promised, Abela puts on his face mask, while Fearne removes his.
Fearne now takes the mic, insisting that the government always acted on the evidence available.
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.
Work needs to continue, tourism needs to continue, Abela insists.
One had to be cautious, but people should not be extreme and argue that the situation was a catastrophe, the PM adds.
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.
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.
The four festivals would have generated some €25 million in revenue, Abela laments, but he insists that prudence was required.
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.
He emphasises the need to wear face masks, and that a fine would be levied on those who fail to respect the rules.
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.
Citing a reduction in unemployment figures after the initial spike, he emphasised the need for a sustainable strategy.
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.
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.
The situation in Malta's health system was well under control, according to the PM.
Abela states that while the number of cases increased, the number of serious cases had not.
He welcomes the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses' agreement with the decisions made, leading to the suspension of its own industrial action.
The PM says that when it came to holding weddings, the MAM's position contrasted with that of the Superintendent of Public Health.
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.
Abela opens, informing journalists that he was only eschewing a face mask for as long as he would be speaking.
We're now awaiting the entrance of Abela and Fearne.
Right now, the journalists are waiting to be allowed inside the hall where the press conference is being held.
Good morning, and welcome to our live blog.