Malta registered 109 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the highest number since the end of March, and another 101 on Sunday, as the country slips into a sudden summer spike.  

Numbers shot up from just 11 cases on Tuesday to 96 on Friday. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, the first triple digits since the island started easing restrictive measures in spring, comes amid anger from travellers both in and out of the country after the government last Friday announced a new set of rules.  

From Wednesday, all travellers arriving in Malta must present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate to make their trip. Children accompanying their parents will have to present a recent negative PCR test to be allowed in.

Unaccompanied children will not be allowed into the country. 

The change will also impact unvaccinated residents planning trips abroad. 

Several would-be travellers on Saturday voiced their anger and frustration at the new rules.

“You have just ruined my vacation, thank you Malta very much!” Tomas Filk wrote on the Visit Malta Facebook wall. 

Mark Weingard appealed to the health authorities for understanding to be able to see his two sons who live in Spain, but who still are not eligible for a vaccination. 

“Why, when the situation re: deaths and vaccinations is better than any time in the last 15 months, are you introducing this draconian measure?” he wrote on Facebook.

The Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) and the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) meanwhile welcomed the new measures restricting arrivals, saying they were a necessary step.

ACE said it was important that all those who are reluctant to get jabbed assume their responsibilities. It urged all to respect the health ministry’s guidelines, saying that while the recent second restaurant shutdown was a catastrophic blow, a third closure should not ever be considered.

The MUMN said the vaccine is the most important tool to stop the spread of the virus and vaccine certificates are more reliable than any PCR test.

The union welcomed the fact that unvaccinated people cannot travel outside the country unless special permission is granted by the superintendent of public health and would need to quarantine on return.

The General Workers’ Union is also onboard with the measures, saying they were needed to ensure a continued, gradual return to normality after so many people had made great sacrifices.

Travel, however, is not the only sector impacted by the new rules announced by the authorities.

The government has decided that all English language schools must close as from Wednesday after it was confirmed that a large portion of the confirmed new cases were among young unvaccinated language students.

The Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations of Malta (FELTOM) said in a statement yesterday that the decision was “unwarranted” and “disproportionate”, taken without consultation with stakeholders. 

FELTOM said its member schools were “unprepared and shocked” by the government’s “unexpected and rigid decision” to close them down.

“The sudden announcement of the closure of a specific section of the tourism market will be problematic not only for language schools but also for the entire tourism sector and other stakeholders, not to mention the greater EU tourism market,” the federation said.  

Air Malta said it fears bookings may decline dramatically in July and August following the decision.

The national airline said it had seen bookings for UK travel in July fall by 30% after the government announced that travellers from the UK must be fully vaccinated to be allowed into the country. 

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, however, did not express any regrets or apologies in a Facebook post on Saturday.

He said that he wished to thank all those who had expressed their honest view on the current situation. Every decision had been taken to try to help the tourism sector recover in a responsible and sustainable way, he said. 

In May, the government announced that every student coming to Malta for more than two weeks to study English would be handed a €10 voucher for every day spent in Malta up to a maximum of €300. 

The €1 million scheme was part of efforts to boost the English Language Tuition (ELT) sector and the government expected some €7 million to be generated back into the economy.

The Malta Tourism Authority on Saturday confirmed that the cash vouchers will no longer be issued.

“Any vouchers which would not have been distributed by this coming Wednesday will be withdrawn from all the English Language Schools.”

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party said that making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for travel is an “extreme” measure that discriminates against those who are unable to get vaccinated.

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