Bars and entertainment venues are set to remain closed, with the legal notice regulating their closure being extended “for the coming weeks”, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Wednesday.

Abela said that following consultation with Health Minister Chris Fearne, bars will not be reopening in December.

“This was a very difficult decision but given the current situation we feel it is more prudent that these establishments remain closed for the time being,” Abela said.

“We remain sympathetic and supportive of everyone impacted by these difficult measures but safeguarding public health remains a priority.”

The Prime Minister said that the current COVID-19 situation was “stable and under control” and with a ready vaccine “a few weeks away” it was crucial that health services, particularly at Mater Dei Hospital, remained stable.

Bars and social clubs were ordered closed at the end of October as the number of COVID-19 cases grew. The ban was due to end at the beginning of December.

The superintendent of public health, Charmaine Gauci, said the decision had been taken for clubs and bars to stay closed throughout December.

Speaking on Ask Charmaine, presented by Times of Malta, she said that while the virus situation is stable in Malta, community transmission was continuing and modelling indicated that the situation would get worse.

"It was for this reason that it had been decided that bars and clubs will remain closed throughout December," she said. 

Post-Christmas third wave 

Earlier on Wednesday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warned European countries not to ease coronavirus restrictions too quickly, stressing the risk of a post-Christmas third wave.

Some European nations are slowly relaxing measures including stay-at-home orders put in place to fight the pandemic, as they gear up for end-of-year holidays.

But von der Leyen told EU lawmakers: "We must learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes, relaxing too fast."

French President Emmanuel Macron announced late on Tuesday that shops could reopen on Saturday and nationwide stay-at-home orders would be lifted from December 15, though a nighttime curfew would be reintroduced.

Elsewhere in Europe, 16 German states agreed guidelines for Christmas that were less strict than those proposed for the rest of December, even as virus cases near one million.

State leaders agreed to cap gatherings to 10 people over the December 23 to January 1 holiday - double the limit for the rest of December.

The latest bulletin by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued early this week classes most of the European Union countries, including France and Germany, as being of "serious concern".

"Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," von der Leyen said.

"Weeks ago, I said that this Christmas will be different. And yes, it will be quieter." 

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