Malta to open its borders to 19 countries from July

Malta embarked on a new phase, with Prime Minister Robert Abela declaring that the country can now leave coronavirus behind and lead to normality once again. On Monday evening, the Maltese Prime Minister announced the relaxation of more measures against coronavirus which will come into effect on Friday 5th June including the opening of child care centers, bars and the law courts. The measures are based on social distancing, wearing of masks, and hand hygiene. Masses in churches will resume from mid-June, but mass events will not be permitted and schools will remain closed until September.

The Maltese Prime Minister confirmed that as from the 1st of July the Malta International Airport will re-open and seaports will also reopen too. Malta will open its borders to 19 countries considered safe. However, two crucial markets for Malta’s tourism sector, the United Kingdom and Italy, excluding Sardegna u Sicily, are not included in the list of first countries to visit.  The other countries include: Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland. Traveling will be subjected to simple protocols which would not people off from going abroad but will ensure health and safety.

Associations representing the medical professions are showing great concern that the government’s decisions go against the advice of Public Health experts and are without the necessary scientific basis. They are urging him to publish the strategy and risk assessment as the reason behind the lifting of regulations, to show that the Maltese government is following the advice of health experts.  Last week, Malta registered three deaths and according to health professionals there is still community transmission. The total number of active cases is 73 and the number of recoveries stands at 537.

However, during Monday’s press conference, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne said that the war against coronavirus “was won”. He highlighted that the rate of transmission went down to 0.5.

On Monday 8th June, the Maltese government will announce a budget to respond to the crisis imposed by the pandemic, described by the Prime Minister as a multi-million budget. “This budget will address all strata of society and is aimed at increasing consumption and to reignite the country’s economy to the full.”

The Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises stated  that businesses are doing worse than when they were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Chamber noted that despite months have now passed and that the situation does not seem to improve. Some restrictive coronavirus measures were lifted in May, with bars and restaurants were allowed to open subjected to a number of conditions.

Source: medNews

In Malta eighth victim from Covid, towards airport reopening

The health authorities in Malta has announced that a 56-year-old man has died of coronavirus.The man was confirmed positive to the virus on the 17th of May.The Ministry for Health explained that the man, who has been certified dead last night, was suffering from other chronic conditions. While Malta registered the eighth coronovirus death, no positive cases were registered overnight. Yesterday four positive cases were confirmed: a Maltese aged 37 who was in contact with a positive case, two health carers at Karin Grech Hospital and both were in contact with another two carers and  Maltese female aged 53. The total number of active cases is 94 while 514 patients have recovered so far. Meanwhile, Malta is expected to reopen gradually to tourism this summer. The Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela is expected to announce this development in the coming days. Operators in the tourist sector are putting pressure on the government to confirm the opening of the airport as soon as possible which is closed until June, 15th.
The Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci declared that the authorities will have to ensure that the Malta International airport will take all the measures once the airport will reopen. According to the National Statistics Office, up to April, the deficit in the consolidated fund had already exceeded €607 million. During the same period last year, the Government deficit was €144 million. This means that the deficit increased by more than €463 million. The Maltese government income went down by €220 million, while the recurring expenditure increased by €170 million, because of the measures taken to combat the effects of the pandemic. This consisted of direct financial aid as well as the postponement of the collection of tax due to the Government. The statistics show that in the first four months of this year, the Government increased its expenditure by more than €77 million. During the same period, the Government debt increased by more than €433 million although the interest on the debt went down by over €4 million.

Source: medNews

Malta and Libya sign an agreement to fight human trafficking

Malta and Libya signeda Memorandum of Understanding which establishes the setting up of two coordinating centres to combat human trafficking. The Prime Minister of Malta Robert Abela together with Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri have returned from Libya late Thursday afternoon. The Maltese delegation left Malta early this morning. Duringthe official visit to Libya, Prime Minister Robert Abela met Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj and discussed the unprecedented challenges and disproportionate pressures which irregular migration is creating in the Mediterranean.  Abela reiterated Malta’s firm position on the need to address and stop human trafficking, stating that Malta is facing unprecedented and disproportionate flows and burdens. Fayez al-Sarraj said that 800,000 illegal migrants arriving from other countries are currently in Libya and an effective long-term and holistic approach is very important. Both leaders spoke about the need to strengthen cooperation to ensure that lives are not lost at sea and to combat human traffickers on the ground and at sea. Maltese Prime Minister Abela stressed that, with its limited resources, Malta has always respected its international obligations on a humanitarian basis. Yet, Malta cannot carry the burden alone and will work with its European partners to support countries in the Mediterranean with the necessary resources to face this challenge. Abela said that the solution clearly lies in concrete action on Libyan shores and its southern borderPrincipally, through addressing and stopping human trafficking, rather than focusing just on relocation of migrants to other countries. Signing a memorandum of understanding, Malta and Libya agreed to set up a coordination unit in each country to assist in operations against illegal migration. These centres are expected to resume operations within the coming weeks. The agreement also stipulates that Malta is to support Libya in the EU for the provision of financial assistance to Libya through the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework, among other things.

Source: medNews

Malta registers the seventh death due to coronavirus

Malta registered the seventh victim of coronavirus. A 97-year-old male who was tested positive for COVID-19 on May, 9th was certified dead last night. The Ministry of Health announced that the man was being treated at Karin Grech Hospitaland he was suffering from other health conditions.

So far, the number of active cases in Malta is 114 while 491 patients have recovered. In the last 48 hours, only one case was confirmed positive; a male patient aged 71, who was receiving treatment at a mental health hospital. The Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci said that the health authorities are conducting contact tracing amongst other patients in the same ward and amongst medical staff.

While addressing the Maltese Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne confirmed that the sixth person reported as a victim of coronavirus had in fact died of complications related to the intestinesFearne said that in the sixth case, coronavirus was not a contributing factor which led to the death of the patient.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne said that Malta headed in the right direction from the very start in order to contain the spread of the virus.Minister Fearne has also appealed again to the public to stay careful and continue following the measures to avoid the spread of coronavirus.The Superintendent for Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci said this afternoon that the situation is currently under control and if the situation remains stable authorities will continue to consider lifting measures.

Meanwhile, the Police in Malta are investigating last Monday’s incidentregarding a crowd which gathered in Floriana after the Malta Football Association (MFA) declared Floriana FC winners of the Maltese Premier League. The Police acted to disperse the crowd which gathered spontaneously to celebrate the win of the Premier League. Eventually the activity was stopped. Social partners and professionals condemned the gathering, claiming that this was an insult towards health care workers and all those who have been carefully maintaining social distancing and following the authorities’ regulations. Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci said that the health authorities were worried, when they heard of the mass gathering at Floriana. She urged everyone who was present to go get tested immediately. The health authorities confirmed that they were contacted by many of those who were present for the celebrations.


Source: medNews

Migration, Malta denies pushback allegations made by Alarm Phone

The Maltese government is contesting reports and video evidence gathered by the non-governmental organisation ‘Alarmphone’ where it is being alleged that during the Easter weekend, the Armed Forces of Malta provided equipment to a group of migrants to reach the Italian shores, instead of rescuing them to the safest harbour. According to ‘Alarmphone’ the Armed Forces of Malta first threatened migrants onboard the boat in Malta’s search and rescue zone that they will take them back to Libya, then they gave them petrol and an engine to go to Italy. The Maltese government and the Maltese Home Affairs Minister have not issued any public statements to deny these allegations.
‘Alarmphone’ describes the Easter weekend “as violent and deadly in the Mediterranean Sea.” Shortly after Italy and Malta declared their harbours ‘unsafe’ and closed for migrant landings due to restrictive measures to contain COVID-19, migrant boats were left adrift in European Search and Rescue zones while being surveilled by European authorities from the air. According to the NGO, several migrants in distress were left to die, starving or drowning while beling closely watched by Malta and Frontex; the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency.
According to ‘Alarmphone’, between 10 and 13 April 2020, four boats loaded with migrants reached out for assistance.
One boat with 47 people on board was left adrift in the Maltese Search and Reascue zone for several days. Only due to the intervention of the NGO Aita Mari, the migrants were rescued on 13 April.
A second boat with 77 migrants onboard arrived autonomously in Portopalo di Capopassero, Sicily, on 13 April.
A third boat with 63 migrants on board was illegally pushed back to Libya on 14/15 April. Alarmphone reported that 12 migrants died due to Malta’s failure to assist and to bring them to a place of safety.
A fourth boat with 101 migrants onboard reached Pozzallo, Sicily on 12 April. The migrants who were in distress had reported that there were 85 people onboard when they reached out to the NGO Alarmphone. With regards to the fourth boat, the NGO stated that many wondered how a flimsy, overcrowded and unseaworthy rubber boat had been able to navigate about 500 kilometres from Zliten, east of Tripoli in Libya, all the way to Pozzallo, south of Sicily in Italy. But according to survivors, those who facilitated the arrival of the boat to Italy were the Armed Forces of Malta. A few weeks after their arrival in Italy, on May, 3 some of the 101 survivors re-connected with Alarmphone and shed light on what happened to them during their journey across the sea. The video evidence they shared as well as their testimonies raise grave concerns about the behaviour of the Armed Forces of Malta. After failing to assist, and even directly endangering and threatening the people in distress, the survivor testimonies highlight how the Armed Forces of Malta provided fuel, an engine, and GPS coordinates to the distressed and instructed them to continue to Italy – practices commonly associated with smuggling operations.
Meanwhile, Italian Home Affairs minister Luciana Lamorgese has asked the Maltese government for an explanation over the recent stories purportedly showing that the Armed Forces of Malta pushed migrants towards Italy when the rescue was in Maltese territorial waters. While being interviewed in a current affairs programme ‘Che tempo che fa’ on RAI 2, Lamorgese said that on seeing the images, her reaction was strong as well as immediate. “I saw the video and immediately sent it to the Maltese Home Affairs minister. It seems absurd to me that this country is embroiled in such a situation. The Minister told me that matters were not exactly as the video was showing. I flagged the matter up to the EU Commission.”
In another development, around 300 migrants were rescued in the past days by the Maltese authorities, but they were not granted permission to desembark. The migrants are onboard chartered tourist harbour cruise boats outside the Maltese territorial waters. According to local reports, the Maltese government is paying €3,000 every day for three boats to the owner of the cruise boats. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), have called on Malta and the other European States to speed efforts to bring the rescued migrants to safety.
The Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela has told the European Union that since Malta’s airport amd harbours have been closed to tourists, the authorities will not open to migrants. The Maltese government is also insisting with the European Union, that it will keep the rescued migrants outside the territorial waters until an agreement is reached on relocation to other European countries. However, the Maltese government confirmed that last Friday, a group of 19 migrants have been brought to Malta for humanitarian reasons. The group included children, their parents and pregnant women.
The Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said that Malta’s migration centers are holding twice the number of people they were designed for. “We want to protect the rights of people seeking protection, but we can only do so much,” Bartolo said, referring to the EU. “We are being left alone. Words of sympathy are not enough, we need practical help.” According to Bartolo, only 8% of migrant arrivals had been distributed to the EU over the years. Of 1,500 this year, only France and Portugal had pledged to take migrants, just 36.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian NGO Alarmphone has lost contact with another boat carrying 78 migrants. Amongst these migrants, there are two women and four children. According to Alarmphone, the boat is currently in the Maltese search and rescue zone and the Maltese authorities are refusing to provide further information.


Source: medNews

Covid-19, Malta to relax further restrictions

The authorities in Malta will be relaxing further measures, including the opening of child care centres and summer schools. This was confirmed by the Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela who said that the government is planning to lift more restrications related to COVID-19. Healthcare workers and medical professionals, including workers’ unions in the sector are opposing the new plans. However, the Maltese Prime Minister declared that it was no longer the time to stay at home but to go out to work. In recent days, civil servants had received a circular in which they were forced to return to work. Restaurants and bars were allowed to re-open as from last Friday subject to a number of regulations. The restaurants have reported revenues equivalent to 10% of previous levels. Meanwhile, the Malta International Airport will remain closed at least until mid-June. Representatives of the medical professions has urged Prime Minister Robert Abela to not reconsider opening the airport for travel between countries considered to be safe. However, the Superintendent for Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci said that discussions are underway. So far, Malta has 120 active cases of COVID-19 while 485 patients have recovered.

Source: medNews

Maltese businesses to reopen but unemployment has increased

COVID-19, Maltese businesses to reopen but unemployment has increased As from today restaurants, hairdressers, barbershops, nail and beauty salons can re-open as announced early this week by the Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela after having closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. So far, Malta has registered a total of 469 recoveries from coronavirus and 125 cases are still active. In the last 48 hours 16 new cases were confirmed by the health authorities. Meanwhile, official statistics, confirmed an increase in registered unemployed people. In April, the number of persons registering for work stood at 3,979, increasing by 2,231 persons when compared to the same month in 2019. The National Statistics Office stated that these statistics should be interpreted in context to the unprecedented developments and restrictions related to COVID-19. According to the statistics registered unemployment levels increased across all age groups. With the re-opening of a number of businesses, the public will have to follow guidelines set by the Maltese authorities. Even re-opened businesses will have to adhere to the guidelines and regulations issued by the government so as to avoid the spread of coronavirus. The Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci explained that the relaxation of measures is being done based on the risk assessment conducted by the health authorities to determine what is deemed safe and what is not. At least 157 catering establishments are ready to reopen as from today. The Malta Tourism Authority said that these establishments asked the authority to send inspectors to certify that they are complying with COVID-19-related measures. Those certified to be compliant will be issued with a COVID-19 compliance sticker. Also, restaurants failing to follow the new regulations as they open again will have their licence to operate revoked. The President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) Tony Zahra still believes that the airport should open, A few days ago, the MHRA appealed to the Maltese Government to open the airport, because otherwise, the tourism sector will continue to suffer and thousands of people could lose their jobs. Meanwhile, as from today, funeral masses can now be celebrated at the cemetery, on the parvis of the church or else inside the church with a limited number of people. The churches in which a funeral mass can be celebrated need to be larger than 500 square meters and only 20 people will be allowed to enter, however, it is being recommended that the mass is to be celebrated outdoors. Once the funeral mass is over the church will be disinfected.


Source: medNews

Malta registers an increase in Covid-19 cases

Malta has 113 active cases of coronavirus, with 26 new cases registered in the last 48 hours. 16 of the 26 cases were asymptomatic. The Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci explained that the risk of spreading the virus from cases showing no symptoms has decreased but insisted that the number of tests has been increasing in order to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible. Prof. Charmaine Gauci stated that the virus is still within the community which means the public must stay vigilant while the health directives must be followed in order to keep the situation under control.

Following the statements made on Monday Evening by Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and by the Superintendent for Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci, the Medical Association of Malta said that the current data indicate there has been a spike in coronavirus cases during the past week and the situation is not stable as stated.

However, the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, David Xuereb stated that “Malta cannot remain in a state of emergency, Malta needs to start building again’. His comments followed the decision announced by the Maltese government regarding the opening of reastaurants, hotels and beauty parlours as from next Friday. Xuereb who was meeting the Leader of the Opposition, Adrain Delia, said that the current economic disruption is resulting in great hardships for businesses and citizens alike.

The doctors’ association said that the relaxing of measures may in the short term have economic benefits, but on the other hand, one cannot deny the presence of significant health risks where health care professional may be the ones to suffer most. MAM said that the serious medical risks arising from such measures can only be prevented by honest and unbiased information, strict discipline on social distancing, and hygiene which is regulated and vigorously enforced with fines.

Meanwhile, the Minister for the Economy Silvio Schembri said that a number of initiatives to aid businesses are currently in the pipeline following the reopening of certain shops. He also said that the Maltese Government believes it is now time to start returning back to normal. “The Government’s help will be beneficial, and that it will stimulate the economy. The wage supplement scheme is still in place and will remain in place till June. Afterwards, an evaluation will conclude whether the scheme is still needed”.


Source: medNews

COVID-19, Malta will start returning to normal as from Friday

The Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that as from next Friday, businesses will reopen their doors after having closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Prime Minister who was addressing a press conference, said that the Maltese have been making sacrifices for the past two months and faced the pandemic in an admirable way.
Abela declared that Malta can start relaxing some of its measures, a decision taken by the government based on the low number of coronavirus cases, as well as on the way Malta prepared to control the coronavirus pandemic.
“Malta’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been praised by international entities, including the World Health Organisation”, remarked the Prime Minister.
Restaurants will reopen with maximum of 6 tables including measures to ensure social distance, and it is being recommended to the owners to put tables outside. Hairdressers, barbers and nail technicians will reopen with restrictive measures and open air markets will also be allowed to reopen. Hotels may reopen, under certain social distancing protocols, but the airport will stay shut.
As from Friday, the government will introduce new social measures; groups of 6 people will be allowed to gather in public instead of 4, open-air cinemas will be allowed to operate whilst still maintaining social distancing, individual sports such as tennis will be allowed too, training can be done outside as long as the group is not larger than 6.
Meanwhile, cardiology and well-baby clinics will re-open, as well as health clinics in the community where mental health services will be offered too. At Mater Dei hospital, more outpatients clinics will reopen and other services to increase the non-urgent operations will start again, IVF service to be offered again and partner of woman giving birth will be allowed in.
Following a meeting between the Maltese bishops and Minister for Health Chris Fearne and Superintendent for Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci, it was agreed that funeral masses will be allowed to be celebrated once again but with certain restrictions.
Child care centres, gyms and bars will remain closed.
The Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci who addressed the press conference too, said that these decisions followed a risk assessment 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 2 metres distance between them. When this cannot be done, perspex should be installed to eliminate contact. She added that appointments should be given to avoid large gatherings and the wearing of masks in shops is mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Maltese Prime Minister 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. However, Minister Fearne said that Malta needs to be even more cautious now.
The Medical Association of Malta and the union respresenting the nurses showed their disappointed that the government is putting economic interests before health and appeals to the Maltese public to remain very alert and cautious, insisting staying at home remains the safest option.
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association appealed to the government that now is time to steer the direction towards reigniting the economy through the tourism sector whilst ensuring reasonable safety measures.
The association also stated that if the government does not open the airport then we shall see mass unemployment.

Source: medNews

Coronavirus, Maltese Premier League officially ends

The Executive Committee of the Malta Football Association has decided that the Premier League and the FA Trophy for the 2019/20 season will come to an end. The Legal Notice which was imposed by the Department of Health, which prohibits all sporting activities is still in force. It appears that this reason was the main one for this decision taken by the football association.

The next step is to know whether there will be winners, promotions and relegations. These decisions are expected to be taken at the next MFA Council meeting. Local football has been suspended since March 13 and a few days later, the MFA Executive had suspended all football competitions until April 5. Then in late April, it was decided that all competitions except the Premier League and the FA Trophy would be terminated.

The position of the 14 Premier League clubs was clear. In a vote taken at a Premier League Standing Committee meeting a few weeks ago, Balzan, Gudja United, Hamrun Spartans, Hibernians, Mosta, Santa Lucia, Senglea Athletic, Sirens, Sliema Wanderers and Tarxien Rainbows were in favour to end the league. However, Birkirkara, Gżira United and Valletta were in favor of continuing the championship, with Floriana abstaining during the vote.

The standings in the Premier League with six games to go, Floriana are at the top with 41 points, three points over Valletta and four over Hibernians.  At the bottom, Tarxien Rainbows are mathematically relegated to the First Division.

On the participation of the clubs in European competitions, it is now evident that Floriana will play in the Champions League while Valletta, Hibernians and Sirens will play in the Europa League. UEFA has stated that participation for its competitions in the coming season must be on the sporting merit of the 2019/20 season. The MFA had until May 25 to inform UEFA about the future of the league and has until 20 July to send the list of clubs that will take part in all UEFA competitions next season.

Source: medNews

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