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

Maltese PM declares Malta as COVID safe but doctors disagree

Restaurants, hairdressers and beauty parlours are amongst other businesses that will re-open in the coming days. This was confirmed by the Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela who declared that “Malta and Gozo are COVID-19 safe”.
Malta still have 96 active coronavirus cases. A total of 50,000 swab tests have been carried out so far. 456 patients have recovered and six other have lost their life. According to the Health authorities, Malta has not reached the second wave of the pandemic.
However, the Medical Association of Malta, MAM, and the union respresenting the nurses, MUMN, showed their disappointed that the government is putting economic interests before health and appeals to the Maltese public to remain very alert and cautious and to keep social distancing and avoid any form of crowding in public places as much as possible. At the moment a total of 287 healthcare workers at Mater Dei hospital are currently in quarantine.
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) has warned that if Malta does not open its airport in time for summer, the country will face a situation of mass unemployment.
However, the Medical Association. “As a result the global world meter scale for COVID-19 cases, Malta has moved up to the top twenty nations, having twice the number of daily cases per population when compared to Italy, Spain and Germany. The country may have lost 8 weeks because Malta now have the numbers of two months ago. This is most unfortunate as to date Malta has had the lowest death rate in the European Union”,
The doctors’ union remarked that the high number of cases registered last week for four consecutive days has occurred exactly two weeks after the first easing measures by the Maltese government.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Abela hinted that restaurants and hairdressers will re-open this week and that people should enjoy beaches while maintaining social distancing. In view of this, the bishops of Malta and Gozo will be meeting Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne to discuss the way forward on whether Churches are to re-open.
The Maltese Prime Minister is encouraging people to get out of their residences and make use of the services available. “If we re-open restaurants, I will be the first one to go, to send a message that it is safe.” However the unions representing the doctors and nurses are appealing the public that staying at home remains the safest option. On Sunday, 71 persons were fined €100 each for being in groups of more than four, while another two were found breaching mandatory quarantine.
Regarding the re-opening of restaurants, the Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci said that people will feel safe to go if the necessary measures will be in place. Prof. Gauci said that the decision for restaurants to re-open was based on a risk-assessment study.

Source: medNews

Malta asks Italy to disembark 50 migrants in Lampedusa

A group of 50 migrants were rescued by a fishing vessel in a rescue operation coordinated by the Maltese authorities. It was also reported that water was entering the boat and the weather conditions were very dangerous.

According to the NGO Alarm Phone, Malta has asked Italian authorities to issue the necessary permits to allow the migrants to disembark at the nearest port in Lampedusa.

On Sunday, the NGO Alarm Phone reported that a group of 50 migrants who fled from Libya, contacted the NGO that they were in the Italian SAR Zone and Alarm Phone reported they were a few miles away from Lampedusa. It then corrected the migrants’ position that they were actually in the Maltese SAR zone.

According to Alarm Phone, the Maltese and the Italian authorities did not provide them with information on whether they will rescue the migrants or not. The NGO also said that the cargo vessel, Fuji Bay has been on the scene for several hours.


Source: medNews

Coronavirus, Malta is heading towards phase 2

On Monday, the Maltese government is expected to announce the removal of various restrictions which were put in place last March to combat the transmission of COVID-19. This was confirmed by the Tourism Minister, Julia Farrugia while addressing 1,500 operators in the tourism sector during a virtual meeting.

Farrugia said that “there will be a summer and the first step will be to re-launch the internal tourism between Malta and Gozo.” The Minister said that “clear protocols” on the opening of certain sectors, like restaurants, hotels and beaches, will also be announced by the Maltese Prime Minister.

The death rate in Malta stands at 1%, way below the global average which stands at 8%.  546 coronavirus cases have been registered in Malta. A total of 450 individuals have recovered, six patients have lost their life while the total number of active cases stands at 90. Till today, 49,231 swab tests were carried out. The average rate of transmission has remained below 1.

Meanwhile, the Maltese economy is being hit very hard. According to a study by EY auditors, local operators in the tourism sector says that they expect a meaningful recovery to take between two to five years before returning to 2019 levels. They expect 2020 to be significantly loss-making. All reservations until the end of June 2020 were either cancelled or deferred. Bookings for the rest of the season are being cancelled or postponed gradually. The majority expect the crisis to prolong into 2021.

Among the tourism operators there are significant concerns that the recovery will be slow and difficult, while uncertainty around the duration of the pandemic, availability of a vaccine, and changes in consumer behaviour will make the matter worse.

The operators think that Malta needs to re-assess its tourism product in the light of the ongoing challenge and the need to have a long-term vision for government support measures. They did welcome the measures so far.

Meanwhile, the Maltese government is in talks with nine countries to open safe travel corridors. These countries are Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Israel. All ports are closed and the only operations taking place are the repatriation flights and transportation of accompanied cargo under strict health control conditions by Virtu Ferries to Sicily.

The Maltese Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne remarked that this is the most difficult time. “We cannot keep everything closed off. But we are aware that by opening up, we know that there is a price. One may contract the virus. One needs to be caution that if there is a spike in coronavirus cases registered in Malta, no one would want to come to the island. But it is about the easing off measures. However we cannot keep everything closed forever.”

Chris Fearne said that the travel corridors would allow for some flights to operate and these are being done to mitigate the effect on the economy. “The predictions are showing that there will be a global recession after the pandemic and those who will manage the outbreak well, will emerge economically strong.” He remarked that no one would want to travel to countries with a high number of active cases.

Fearne added “we cannot keep everything closed forever. We need to learn how to live with the virus. There will be a war for the vaccine. Unless a vaccine is developed, the virus will remain around. A country with a covid-19 vaccine would gain competitive edge and can restart its economy.”

Local shops which have reopened in the last two weeks are reporting very slow business. According to the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, most of the shop owners are at a defict due to lack of business and expenses related to rent, water and energy bills.

According to an indipendent international study carried out by Columbia economics Professor Ceyhun Elgin, Malta placed first out of 165 countries when it comes to the economic measures taken and supplements given by the government to address the  economic and social turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela announced a €1.81 billion financial package for Maltese businesses; 12.9% of Malta’s Gross Domestic Product. The package includes tax deferrals of up to €700 million, loan guarantees of €900 million and a wage supplement scheme of €70 million a month until June for 90,000 workers.

The Maltese Deputy Prime Minister said that at the beginning of the outbreak he was convinced that Malta was well prepared to take on the coronavirus once it hit the country. He described the transition period as the most difficult, an uncharted territory, where one had to take crucial decisions based on the information at hand. “There is the need to find a balance between the economy and public health. Summer will offer a limited window of opportunity for businesses.”

The death rate in Malta stands at 1%, way below the global average which stands at 8%.  546 coronavirus cases have been registered in Malta. A total of 450 individuals have recovered, six patients have lost their life while the total number of active cases stands at 90. Till today, 49,231 swab tests were carried out. The average rate of transmission has remained below 1.

Source: medNews

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