Watch: PM announces relaxation of measures as from Friday

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

As from Friday, Malta will start returning to normal. Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that starting from Friday, businesses will reopen their doors after having closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Prime Minister stated that this decision was taken based on the improvement of the Maltese quality of life.

During a press conference this evening, also addressed by Health Minister Chris Fearne and Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci, Abela said that the Maltese have been making sacrifices for the past two months, but today he is proud to announce that having faced the pandemic in an admirable way, Malta can start relaxing some of its measures, further paving the way towards a new normal.

This is being done, according to the Prime Minister, based on the low number of coronavirus cases in Malta, as well as on the way Malta prepared for a strong outbreak by, for instance, preparing a large number of beds which now remain vacant.

Detailing the relaxation of these measures, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that:

  • Health services unrelated to coronavirus will be increased: cardiology clinics, well-baby clinics to reopen, as well as health clinics in several towns and villages; mental health services to be offered in these clinics;
  • In Mater Dei: more outpatients clinics, more imaging services, increase in non-urgent operations being done, such as day cases; IVF service to be offered again in MDH; partner of woman giving birth will be allowed in; screening of large intestine to be offered once again;
  • Groups of 6 now allowed in public places as from Friday, instead of 4;
  • Open-air cinemas to be allowed to operate whilst still maintaining social distancing;
  • Individual sports to be allowed as from Friday, such as tennis; training can be done outside as long as the group is not larger than 6;
  • Funeral mass to be allowed as from Friday with certain restrictions;
  • Restaurants to reopen with maximum of 6 tables, as well as measures to ensure distance between tables; restaurants with tables outside to use this facility;
  • Hairdressers, barbers, beauticians and nail technicians to reopen whilst following restrictive measures.

Prof. Charmaine Gauci said that this relaxation of measures is being done based on the risk assessment done by the health authorities to determine what is deemed safe and what is not. She stressed that people must follow the guidelines set by the authorities.

The Superintendent said that at the hairdressers’ for instance, people must still maintain a 2 metres distance between them. When this cannot be done, perspex should be installed to eliminate contact. She also mentioned the opening of outdoor swimming pools, where half the normal number of people will be permitted. Prof. Gauci said that people will now be allowed to visit hotels, and open-air markets will also open.

Prime Minister Abela said that the next relaxation of measures, if the situation permits, will see to the opening of childcare centres. Gyms and bars will not be opening either.

The Prime Minister started the press conference by commenting on why he is smiling, saying that Malta’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been praised by international entities, including the World Health Organisation, and this gives the Government courage to take the next step forward.

Abela said that these decisions are not a result of a compromise between economy and health, but the scientific proof shows that the next rational step is the reopening of businesses announced today. He advised those watching to not let their actions be clouded by fear. However, he said that his advice and message to the people is being given with caution.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said that the health authorities had to turn the threat of a tsunami which overcame other countries into a river, and 9 weeks later, it seems like they managed. He commented on how Malta entered this pandemic in an adequate, researched way, and steps were taken accordingly. Minister Fearne said that more accidents can happen when going down the mountain than when climbing it, so Malta needs to be even more cautious now.

Asked if the health workers were consulted about this relaxation of measures, Minister Fearne said that this is not a competition between the health and the economy, but these two go together. He insisted that should the situation get worse because of these decisions, they will retract the decisions announced today as the priority remains people’s health.

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that by the end of this week, restaurants and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen.

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