Updated 10.55am, adds MTA statement

The current practice of free for all boarding on commercial flights with random swabbing on arrival is insufficient and presents significant risks, doctors said on Tuesday.

The Medical Association of Malta said that positive individuals can board an aircraft without a test and may spread the virus to other passengers at airports and on board the aircraft.

The current practice of “board now – check later” presents very significant risk to public health and tourism once the number of flights increases, they noted.

The doctors said prior swab tests or authenticated vaccine certificates should be introduced before boarding onto an aircraft, so as to guard against new variants of concern.

They asked whether, should a new variant be imported because of inadequate preventative measures, the whole vaccination process may have to restart from scratch. This, they said, would have major implications, including for the economy.

The government announced a few days ago that Malta is expecting to welcome tourists  by the beginning of June and will provide a €20 million aid package to kickstart the devastated industry.
But doctors said any re-opening of economic activity should be gradual and accompanied with close monitoring and adjusted as necessary, based on sound scientific evidence. Such a gradual process would allow remedial action to be taken promptly and effectively should numbers rise again, MAM said.
It cautioned against any easing of restrictions at events where social distancing is difficult or unrealistic before Malta reaches herd immunity. This is not likely to be achieved before 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.
It noted that the Malta Tourism Authority once again seemed to be planning large commercial parties.

These events, it said, should be the very last to open possibly after the protective effects of vaccines on such events has been scientifically demonstrated.

As the British variant is much more contagious than the previous virus, one event could lead to hundreds of new cases in a few days and this is to be avoided at all costs, MAM said.

MTA denies it is planning 'large commercial parties'

In a statement later, the MTA categorically denied it is presently planning any “large commercial parties”.

It said that while it is working tirelessly to have Malta’s tourism sector operating in a gradual manner, it believes that this should not be done at the expense of the health and safety of tourists visiting the Maltese islands, those who are employed within the industry and the public.

The tourism recovery plan is being presented in a responsible manner and puts a special emphasis on sustainable tourism, it said.

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