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

Coronavirus, the sixth victim in Malta is a “brilliant” surgeon

Malta has registered its sixth coronavirus victim. The local health authorities this morning confirmed that Professor Aaron Cashaaged 53 lost his life after contracting coronavirus on May, 9th. 

The Ministry for Health announced that the man was certified dead last night and that he was suffering from other health conditions and was being treated at Mater Dei Hospital. he was being treated at Mater Dei Hospital prior to contracting the virus.

Casha was a surgeon and an academic who specialized in heart disease. Family and friends have paid tribute to Casha on social media who has been described as a brilliant surgeon and a top academic. 

Six new cases were registered in the last 48 hours. So far, Malta has registered a total of 508 positive cases. 66 are still active.


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Source: medNews

Maltese ambassador draws comparison between Merkel and Hitler

The Maltese government confirmed that Maltese Ambassador to Finland, enterpreneur Michael Zammit Tabone has resigned after comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a post on Facebook.
The Maltese Foreign Ministry stated that Zammit Tabona’s comments does not represent the friendship and mutual respect between Malta and Germany. Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo reiterated the commitment of the Maltese government to deepen the strong and longstanding bilateral relations between the two countries.
Zammit Tabone often shares content showing Italian far right Northern League Leader Matteo Salvini. He wrote: “75 years ago we stopped Hitler. Who will stop Angela Merkel? She has fulfilled Hitler’s dream! To control Europe.”
The Nationalist Opposition condemned Zammit Tabona’s behaviour describing it “most incorrect”. The Maltese Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry welcomed the resignation and declared that such comments do only harm to Malta’s reputation.
Michael Zammit Tabona served as Malta’s Ambassador (non-resident) to Finland for these last six years.
Photo by Roderick Agius

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Source: medNews

Turkey lifts ban on export of medical equipment

Turkey has lifted ban on export of medical equipment and restrictions on the export of medical supplies to fight Coronavirus.The Trade Ministry lifted the restrictions on the sale abroad of ventilators, respirators, intubators and disinfectants such as ethanol, according to a decree published in the Official Gazette on May 2. Previously the sale of such supplies was either prohibited or subject to a requirement to obtain authorization from the Turkish government, with permission given sparingly.It is also expected easing of controls on facemask and medical workwear exports soon. Source: Hürriyet Daily News.


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Source: medNews

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