Watch: Malta to start easing off coronavirus restrictions

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne and the Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci announced that Malta will be in a position to start easing off some of its coronavirus restrictions as from Monday.

In Brief

  • Some non-essential shops will reopen from Monday. These include: Lotto booths; VRT testing stations; clothes, handbag and shoe shops; jewellers; perfumeries and cosmetics shops; Home decor; discount shops; toy and hobby shops; Furniture outlets; and florists. 
  • Travel between the two islands for non-essential trips will resume from Monday. However, the ferries will not take large groups and individuals will be required to wear a mask.
  • Masks are needed to enter outlets and use public transport. Thermal screening will take place at malls.
  • The gathering of people in public has been raised to four. Those who defy the social distancing rules and gather in a large group will be subject to a €100 fine.
  • Two new coronavirus cases were detected in the last 24 hours.

During a press conference on Friday morning, Abela announced that retail outlets offering non-essential services will be allowed to reopen as from Monday. However, reopening will be subject to a number of restrictive measures.

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne announced that only two new cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours. He also explained how the measures will be rolled back gradually and according to the evidence at hand.

Professor Gauci explained how the new measures will be rolled back. She stressed on the importance of the public’s cooperation as those living in Malta will transit to a “new” normal.

12:29 Thank you for following this live blog.
Monique Agius
12:28 The last question concerns enforcement.

Prof. Gauci says that a new legal notice is being drafted to allow retail outlets to open subject to a number of provisions. Inspections will continue to take place.
Monique Agius
12:25 On the question concerning the taking back the once state hospitals which were privatised, Abela says that it was not fair that the Opposition moved such a motion during a pandemic.
He accuses the Opposition of wanting to create confusion.
Monique Agius
12:24 Abela appeals to the unions representing pilots and cabin crew. He says that litigation would not solve the issues at hand. We need a balance between safeguarding jobs and having a viable operational company, he says.
Monique Agius
12:20 Why don't you want to meet Air Malta cabin crew? Don't you think that it was insensitive to comment that jobs were retained when people have lost their jobs?

Abela says that he was surprised by the question. He said that 80,000 jobs were retained. Malta has weathered the storm better than neighboring countries, he says.
Monique Agius
12:17 Is the prefabricated hospital still a priority? At what point has the tendering process arrived?

Fearne says that for the health authorities was important to be well-prepared even if the worst does not happen. The Deputy Prime Minister explains that the authorities are hoping to keep the second wave under control. He highlights the importance of remaining prepared for the coronavirus since it was still around.

He warns that Malta might face two epidemics at the same time in Winter.
Monique Agius
12:15 Fearne says that the authorities were in touch with those producing or importing masks and visors. He says that there are enough masks and visors available.

Government entities are providing masks to those coming. For private enterprises, the government will not be providing free masks to those entering the shop. It will be entirely up to the businesses whether to provide or not masks.
Monique Agius
12:13 Abela says that the government will revise the programme but will not revoke it.
Monique Agius
12:10 Abela says that his stand on cash for passport scheme was clear. He claims that without the scheme the government would have not been able to launch the financial measures to retain jobs. He was replying to a question concerning the LIBE committee and comments made by the European Commissioner who urged Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus to revoke the scheme.
Monique Agius
12:03 Before the measures, masks were already out of stock, have you checked the availability?
Fearne says that the use of masks was discussed among health authorities worldwide. He says that masks for frontliners were available. As for other masks, the health authorities will announce which masks will be used. Masks or visors will be used.

To the PM: You've denied that Neville Gafa was coordinating pushbacks, what was he doing exactly?
'Again about migration. I will answer it because we have nothing to hide. I will stand by what I've said. Our ports are unsafe. I have a duty towards the Maltese. We can't collapse before pressure. We will not reopen the ports. Neville Gafa did not coordinate any search and rescue in Malta. I categorically deny any pushback. Malta coordinated a rescue operations [in its area of responsibility] and took the migrants to an open port,' Abela says.

Gafa used his Libyan contacts.
Monique Agius
11:59 Fourth question: What kind of masks should be used?
Prof Gauci says that there are masks which are used in the health care system. We're recommending the use of masks in establishments to curb the spread of the virus. The authorities will publish more details on mask use later on today.


When will bars, cafes, hairdresser salons, and restaurants will reopen?
Abela says that his wish is to see the reopening of businesses. This will be totally dependent on the public's cooperation. They will be considered later.

The government has urged Maltese nationals abroad to return to Malta. One of your MPs, Konrad Mizzi is away. Can you comment on this?
Abela says that Konrad Mizzi is away, he is abroad. If he decides upon returning, he will not be treated any different from Maltese who were repatriated to Malta.
Monique Agius
11:58 Prof. Gauci announces that guidelines will be announced in the coming days for establishments to follow.
Monique Agius
11:55 Third question: there are 57 migrants on board Europa II. What is the next stage for these migrants?

Abela says that today was a day to announce the rolling back measures and that the subject was not migration.
Monique Agius
11:55 The chartering of Captain Morgan's vessel will be financed through EU funds.
Monique Agius
11:52 On Neville Gafa, Abela says that the Maltese government did its best to save lives. He says that it was not true that Gafa coordinated the search and rescue region.

The government asked Gafa to contact his Libyan contacts to rescue migrants at sea. He stresses that Gafa's involvement was limited to just that.
Monique Agius
11:49 Second question: Malta is being accused of chartering private companies to pushback migrants. Don't you think this contravenes international law? Why is Neville Gafa being used?

Abela claims that the search and rescue convention provides for a state to coordinate an operation either using state assets or private assets.

He says that Malta's ports remains closed. He says that the decision was based taken by the Superintendent of Public Health.
Monique Agius
11:47 The first question; is telework still being recommended? and until when will the wage supplement will be given?

Prof. Gauci said telework was important and part of social distancing regulations. She noted that teleworking functioned.

Abela says that there was no date for when the wage supplement will be stopped but this is not the time to stop giving it out. It will be given until our businesses are up and running.
Monique Agius
11:47 Question time!
Monique Agius
11:46 1,184 tests were carried out in the last 24 hours.

Two cases – A Gozitan man who was asymptomatic and a resident at Hal Far open centre.

The total number of active cases stands at 96.
Monique Agius
11:46 She urges the full cooperation of the public as the measures will be rolled back.
Monique Agius
11:45 Prof. Gauci says that there may be asymptomatic individuals within the community and this was not the time for big public gatherings.
Monique Agius
11:44 Prof. Gauci says that masks will be used as the restrictions are eased off.

The amount of passengers allowed onto the Gozo ferry will be controlled. Masks will be worn on the ferry.
Monique Agius
11:42 'We're in a new normal,' Prof. Gauci says.

Any person who is sick has to remain home. Social distancing remains in place. The number of customers to be allowed in a retail outlet will be worked out according to the shop floor area.

Businesses will be required to work out their area and can only allow 1 person per 10 metres, Prof. Gauci says.
Monique Agius
11:42 Prof. Gauci says that at this point the number of active cases were low and therefore some health services could be provided.
Monique Agius
11:40 She explains how the authorities carried out their risk assessments in order to roll back the measures.
Monique Agius
11:40 It is too early to reopen the airport, Prof. Gauci says.
Monique Agius
11:39 She highlights that it was importance of transparency, the protection of vulnerable individuals, among others.
Monique Agius
11:38 14,000 individuals have tested the new symptom checker app, she says.
Monique Agius
11:38 The number of cases is stable and the rate of transmission is below 1, Prof. Gauci says.

In the same way we have introduced the measures slowly, we will roll them back slowly, she says.
Monique Agius
11:37 Prof. Gauci takes the floor. She says that monitoring and cooperation helped us arrive at this point.

Each measure was proportional to our reality when they were introduced, Prof. Gauci explained.
Monique Agius
11:36 He thanked all workers.
Monique Agius
11:35 Individuals considered to be vulnerable have been encouraged to remain home. Fearne warns that the virus is still within the community, these individuals should take care and refrain from non-essential outings.
Monique Agius
11:35 Measures will be reassessed over the coming three weeks.
Monique Agius
11:34 As from Monday, people may gathered in public in groups of four.

Fearne highlighted that while this measure was not enforced in our homes, one should make an effort to refrain from inviting people over.
Monique Agius
11:33 The court registry will be reopened as from Monday.
Monique Agius
11:33 As from Monday, restrictions on traveling between Malta and Gozo will be eased off. Passengers will be required to wear masks.
Monique Agius
11:32 No changing rooms will be used to curb transmission.
Monique Agius
11:31 2m markings will be placed for the public to know where to stand, Fearne says. This will be done in cooperation with local councils.

Before entering a shop, a hand sanitizer will be available.

Thermal screening will be obligatory at shopping malls.
Monique Agius
11:30 Masks will be mandatory when accessing these services, Fearne says.

Social distancing rules will remain in place.
Monique Agius
11:29 Fearne warns that if the rate of transmission spikes above 1, the restrictions may be rolled back.
Monique Agius
11:26 Retail outlets providing non-essential services which were closed down for the past seven weeks or so, will be allowed to open as from Monday.

The opening will be subjected to a number of restrictions.

As from Monday the following may reopen subject to a number of restrictions;

VRT testing centres
Jewelry shops
Clothes shop
Shoe shops
Opticians
Perfumery shops (Beauticians and hairdressers are not allowed to open yet)
Hobby shops
Shops selling furniture
Monique Agius
11:25 Endoscopy will resume from Monday.

CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds will be carried out at Mater Dei as from Monday.

Health services will be increased gradually, Fearne says.
Monique Agius
11:23 Fearne explains that some health services were reduced in order to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak in Malta.

All health centres will resume providing free vaccines to our children as from Monday, Fearne announces.

A new vaccine will be introduced from tomorrow.

Screening for cervical cancer will resume from Monday.
Monique Agius
11:22 Four sets of measures will be revised.

The first measure concerns the health services.
Monique Agius
11:22 Measures will be lifted off in a manner to avoid a second wave.
Monique Agius
11:21 The reproductive rate of the coronavirus is under 1. Fearne explains that it has been under the value of 1 for the last two weeks.
Monique Agius
11:21 Fearne announces that two coronavirus cases have been detected in the last 24 hours.
Monique Agius
11:20 Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne starts addressing the press conference. He remarks that we arrived at this point because of the full cooperation by the Maltese public. He says that in an evidence based manner the authorities will start easing off restrictions.
Monique Agius
11:19 He thanks all frontliners who are directly or indirectly involved. He also has words of gratitude towards those who cooperated fully with the authorities.
Monique Agius
11:18 'We thought it would be unfair that we announce the easing off of restrictions and take away the wage supplement immediately,' Abela says.

'The wage supplement will continue be given out to help our businesses,' he says.
Monique Agius
11:17 The wage supplement will continue be given despite the reopening of the commercial establishments, Abela says.
Monique Agius
11:17 He says that easing of restrictions will depend entirely on the coronavirus epidemic in Malta.
Monique Agius
11:15 The plan is to lift most of the restrictive measures within three weeks, Abela explains.

The airport will remain closed.
Monique Agius
11:14 Commercial establishments can reopen as from Monday, Abela announces. Details will be divulged by the Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne and Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci.
Monique Agius
11:14 The time has come to start easing off restrictions according to the scientific evidence at hand, Abela says.
Monique Agius
11:13 'We're starting on a path to a new reality. Success will depend on you're cooperation,' Abela says.
Monique Agius
11:13 'We've managed to retain jobs through the financial measures taken by the government,' Abela says.
Monique Agius
11:12 'Am proud to have resisted a call for a total lockdown,' Abela says. He explains that a total lockdown would have brought great suffering.
Monique Agius
11:11 'I've always believed in achieving a balance. We've introduced the measures in a scientific manner,' Abela says.
Monique Agius
11:10 He says that the restrictive measures implemented earlier on has helped in curbing the spread of the transmission of the coronavirus within the community.
Monique Agius
11:10 He says that once this pandemic is over, we would need to restart our economy.
Monique Agius
11:09 He remarks that the country has been through a challenging period due to the coronavirus outbreak in Malta.
Monique Agius
11:09 Prime Minister Robert Abela starts addressing the press conference. He wishes a Happy Workers' Day to all.
Monique Agius
11:04 Remember to download Newsbook.com.mt app and to subscribe to our WhatsApp alerts to stay updated with the latest news!
Monique Agius
10:44 Good morning and welcome to Newsbook.com.mt live blog. Prime Minister Robert Abela is expected to deliver a press conference at 11am.
Monique Agius

On Thursday, two new coronavirus cases were registered bring the total number of cases to 465. Another twelve individuals had successfully recovered, including a person who is over 90 years. The total number of people who have successfully recovered stands at 351. A total of 110 cases remain active.