Bars will not reopen as planned on Monday, Prime Minister Robert Abela has confirmed, as rules in place are set to be once again extended as part of efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Abela also said that said new measures targeting the carnival weekend would soon be announced, but declined to provide details about them. 

He however ruled out a total lockdown, imposing a curfew on open establishments, or closing down schools. 

New measures

Abela said that the new, as yet unannounced measures would apply throughout the month of February and would then be relaxed entering into March. 

"We want to ensure that we do not see a rise in infections - we want to reduce infections if possible," Abela said. 

The prime minister said the measures would in particular target carnival weekend, which begins on February 12. 

Robert Abela says new measures will be announced for February. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

He said events in the Netherlands, where violent rioters protesting a COVID-19 curfew rampaged through major cities for two successive days, vindicated his government's decision not to resort to such measures.  

Abela said that he was also against closing down schools as he agreed with Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci's position "that with schools open the number of cases goes down." 

Bars to stay closed 

Bars and social clubs were shuttered in October when the number of new infections started spiking. They were set to reopen on December 1 but the measures were extended for another two months until the end of January. That extended legal notice is due to lapse on Monday. 

Speaking on Tuesday, Abela said that bars "will remain closed" throughout February. The government has said that it will be announcing extended aid packages aimed at helping bar owners who have had to keep their business shut for months. 

The prime minister gave comments after participating in an MCESD meeting where he was part of a discussion on good governance and the rule of law. 

On Monday, Times of Malta reported that a study by the University of Oxford found Malta is one of the least strict countries when it comes to COVID-19 measures.

The report comes just days after doctors called for a 9pm curfew to slow down the spread of the virus, saying that hospitals were approaching "breaking point". 

As of Friday, there were 178 COVID-19 patients hospitalised across Malta and Gozo. 

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