Policy responses for Malta - HSRM

Malta


Policy responses for Malta

1.2 Physical distancing

Update 16 September 2020

Following a spike in cases, as of the 28th August 2020,  a number of public health restrictive measures were re-introduced, including restrictions on gatherings of more than 15 persons in public spaces (https://legislation.mt/eli/ln/2020/337/eng/pdf) ; mandatory use of masks in all closed public spaces except restaurants; restrictions on mass events (https://legislation.mt/eli/ln/2020/338/eng/pdf) such as weddings, with only seated events being permitted and with restrictions on the number of persons allowed (100 indoors and 300 outdoors) ; closure of nightclubs and bars ( except bars where restaurant style seating is provided (https://www.euronews.com/2020/08/17/coronavirus-malta-closes-all-bars-and-nightclubs); a ban on boat parties (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/fearne-gauci-to-announce-new-covid-19-measures-at-11am.812367).

Various Standards and Guidance documents were issued in line with these measures www.covid19health.gov.mt :
  • Standards on Use of Face Masks and Visors (24 August 2020)
  • Standards for Gatherings and Events (August 2020)
  • Standards for Bars, Clubs and Similar Establishments (19 August 2000)
  • Standards for Restaurants, Pools and Hotel Accommodation (24 August 2020)
  •     Standards for Transport Service Providers and for Passengers using Transport Services (August 2020)

Parties and events were also cancelled following several calls for banning of parties and mass events (https://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2020-07-27/local-news/Parties-and-festivals-cancelled-as-calls-for-mass-events-ban-increase-6736225537). Several medical associations and unions have, however, voiced their concern regarding the disregard for social distancing by individuals participating in mass events (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/new-measures-on-monday-to-limit-covid-19-spread.812271).

Update 02 July 2020

Over the last few weeks nearly all the measures and legal instruments through which the community wide social distancing measures, travel ban and closure of most retail outlets and other services have now been reversed.  As of the 30th June, the law declaring Public Health Emergency has been repealed (LN 243_2020 PUBLIC HEALTH ACT (CAP. 465)) together with all the other repealing legislations (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/legal-notice-enabling-travel-to-and-from-22-countries-published.798852).

The relaxation of these measures and re-opening of the economy and social mixing between people in community settings is based upon strict adherence to the COVID-19 mitigation measures which are based upon advice issued by the Public Health Authorities. A number of guidance documents which are context-specific, based upon the general principles of maintaining an adequate physical distance from others, meticulous hand and respiratory hygiene, enhanced cleaning procedures, the appropriate use of masks in the community were drafted for a variety of sectors and settings based upon current available evidence. A list of the guidance documents with the mitigation measures that should be adopted according to the setting can be found on [email protected].

Employment:

As of the 5th June, all workers including those considered vulnerable who had previously been exempt from carrying out work from their workplace were expected to return to their pre-COVID places of work in view of the repeal of the Vulnerable Persons Order (https://www.gov.mt/en/Government/DOI/Press%20Releases/Pages/2020/June/01/pr201038.aspx).

Legal services:

Law courts and local tribunals were also re-opened on 5th June after the legal notice which had them closed was repealed (see: LN 232_2020 PUBLIC HEALTH ACT (CAP. 465) Repealing Regulations, 2020).

Schools:

Childcare Centres for those aged under 3 years of age were opened as of the 5th June 2020 (https://www.gov.mt/en/Government/DOI/Press%20Releases/Pages/2020/June/01/pr201038.aspx). Summer schools are also permitted to reopen by repeal of the Closure of Schools (Amendment) Order which will come into force on the 30th June (http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lp&itemid=30211&l=1).

Retail:

All other retail establishments which remained closed, including bars, gymnasiums, spas/saunas, massage parlors, tattooists were also permitted to reopen (http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lp&itemid=30194&l=1).

Gatherings:

The restrictions on the gatherings in outdoor spaces was increased up till 75 on the 5th June with a repeal in the relevant legislations. However as of the 30th of June, the restrictions in the number of persons who can gather in public will be completely lifted and ban on organized public events would also be removed (LN 233_2020 Number of Persons in Public Spaces (Amendment) Order).

Religious activities and services:

All religious activities and services were re-opened in the presence of the faithful as announced by the Bishop as of 13th June 2020, provided that appropriate social distancing and mitigation measures are in place (https://church.mt/mass-to-resume-with-the-presence-of-the-faithful/).

Travel:

The travel ban was partially lifted on the 1st July. Certain travel will resume to and from specific safe ‘corridor countries’, based on epidemiological criteria, as of the 1st of July. Such travel will be allowed only for persons who have been living for at least 2 weeks in corridor countries. This also applies to travellers on the catamaran from Sicily. Travel to Malta from a non-corridor country or region transiting through a corridor country is not permitted unless the person travelling has spent the previous 2 weeks living in a corridor country on the list. The list of countries was published in Legal Notice (LN) 244 of 2020 the ‘Travel Ban (Extension to all Countries) (Amendment) Order, 2020,  LN 255 of 2020, Travel Ban (Extension to all Countries) (Amendment No 2) Order, 2020 and LN 280 of 2020, Travel Ban ( Extension to all Countries)  ( Amendment No 3) Order, 2020.  Swab tests prior to travelling and quarantine will not be applicable to those travelling through this process, but suspected persons will be requested to have a swab test.  The list of countries can also be found at https://www.visitmalta.com/en/reopening-airport and at https://reopen.europa.eu/en Systems will be in place to verify the origins of passengers arriving after the 1st July 2020 and travellers will be required to complete a passenger locator form and declaration form  to this effect. A false declaration on arrival is considered a criminal offence. Mitigation measures are in place at the airports and ports as the first tourists start to arrive in Malta (https://www.maltairport.com/covid19/).

Update 31 May 2020

On 18th May, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced more lockdown measures would be lifted from 22nd May, in light of a low rate of active cases and an increase in the country’s bed and resource capacity to manage COVID-19. These measures include:

  • Groups of up to 6 people can meet in public, not 4 as previously
  • Restaurants, snackbars and cafeterias can reopen, with set distances between tables and a maximum of 6 people per table
  • Hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, nail technicians can reopen, provided clients are kept 2 metres apart and do not queue inside premises
  • Open-air markets can reopen, with social distancing measures in place
  • Beaches are open, but people must stay 2 metres apart
  • Outdoor pools can open with half their registered capacity
  • Hotels can be used
  • Open-air cinemas can open, with people kept 2 metres apart
  • Individual, non-contact sports such as diving and tennis can resume and outdoor training for sports can take place for groups of up to 6 people
• Funeral masses can be held, with social distancing measures in place and a limited number of people

Obligatory conditions and guidelines for businesses, services and public transport to follow when reopening have been developed and can be viewed here: https://deputyprimeminister.gov.mt/en/health-promotion/Pages/Novel-coronavirus.aspx  

In addition, a number of non-urgent health services are to be resumed (see Section 3.3 Maintaining essential services).

There is currently no indication of when the Travel ban will be lifted. This will depend on public health evaluation of risk. According to the public health response team’s risk assessment exercise, travel abroad remains one of the riskiest activities and likely to be one of the last measures to be reversed.  Discussions with stakeholders and evaluations are underway regarding the possibility of safe travel corridors based on epidemiological and other criteria (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/airport-expected-to-reopen-by-mid-july.794798#).

Source: https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/102429/robert_abela_to_announce_lifting_of_more_covid19_restrictions_at_7pm1#.XsOm0S2ZN0s

Update 01 May 2020

On 1st May 2020 during a press conference addressed by the Prime Minister, Minister for Health and Superintendent of Public Health, a relaxation of some of the partial lock down measures were announced. As of Monday 4th May following two weeks with a Rt value <1, the following measures took effect:

• Some small retail outlets were permitted to re-open including within shopping malls, with mitigating measures in place to maintain physical distancing (such as one client per 10sqm), temperature screening, hand sanitisers at entrances and use of masks within these establishments. Changing rooms cannot be used
• Reopening of VRT stations, court registry, lotto booths
• Restrictions on internal ferry travel between Malta and Gozo were eased provided mitigating factors are in place, including restrictions on the number of passengers on board
• In public areas groups of 4 persons are permitted (from 3 which were previously permitted). A fine of €100 per person will remain applicable for groups of more than 4 people
• Some health services within primary and secondary care have resumed (see section 3.3: maintaining essential services)

Descisions on relaxing lockdown measures are taken following scientific advice: https://www.gov.mt/en/Government/DOI/Press%20Releases/Documents/ISSUE51_ENG_01052020.pdf

Legal notices enforcing these measures can be viewed here: http://justiceservices.gov.mt

The first imported case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Malta on the 7th March 2020. Below are the physical distancing measures that have been taken since that time in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.

  • 10th March 2020, then subsequently banned on 22nd March 2020: Restrictions of mass gatherings. Initially mass outdoor events were curtailed to a limited number (2000 outdoors and 750 indoors) but these were completely banned after a few days. Measures were taken to disperse gatherings of more than 5 persons
  • 13th March 2020: Closure of educational institutions (LN 77 of 2020)
  • 14th March 2020: Teleworking/ Remote working. Head of Civil Service encourages workers to use teleworking means
  • 15th March 2020: Ban on religious services. All religious services were suspended. Burials to take place with a blessing ceremony in the presence of close relatives only. Sunday Mass obligation was lifted.
  • 18th March 2020: Closure of public places open to the public (LN76 of 2020)
  • 21st March 2020: Travel ban (LN 92 of 2020)
  • 23rd March 2020: Closure of Non-essential Retail outlets (LN 95 of 2020)
  • 23rd March 2020: Suspension of the Courts of Justice (LN97 of 2020)
  • 28th March 2020: Lock down for older people and the vulnerable. As of this date all those aged over 65 years, pregnant or suffering from a chronic condition listed will be asked not to leave their household with an aim to limit potential contagion to the most vulnerable.
  • 30th March 2020: Groups of more than 3 persons are prohibited in public spaces (LN 112 of 2020)

All legal notices in Malta can be viewed here: http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lp&itemid=30026&l=1 

Malta recorded its first two COVID-19 related deaths on 8th and 9th April, in a female aged 92 years and a male aged 79 years respectively (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/second-maltese-victim-succumbs-to-covid-19.784403). Both individuals had comorbidities. As of 14th April, there were 393 recorded cases of COVID-19 on Malta (346 active cases and 44 recovered cases).

As a result of 8 confirmed cases amongst migrants living in an open centre, a cordon sanitaire was created around an open centre where a community of migrants reside. Confirmed cases were isolated from the remaining community where individuals were provided with culturally competent information relating to preventative measures that can be taken to minimise risk of contagion, physical distancing and cleansing and general hygiene of their facilities. In coordination with NGOs, medical care is provided within this facility and all migrants are screened daily for any COVID symptom and fast-tracked for nasopharyngeal swabbing. In view of the overcrowded conditions in which such groups live, these measures were taken to avoid the spread within the migrant community, provide the medical assistance necessary and contain the spread of the infection (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/tight-security-around-hal-far-open-centre-as-residents-placed-under.783740).  Further collaborative work has been carried out together with NGOs in order to provide migrants with information in various languages about COVID-19, its prevention and quarantine measures (www.covid19health.gov.mt).

On 9th April, visiting hours were temporarily suspended at Malta’s main public hospital Mater Dei (https://deputyprimeminister.gov.mt/en/MDH/Pages/Home.aspx).