Updated 11.45am with MEIA, FORUM comments

Doctors have slammed the Tourism Ministry's "amateurism and lack of foresight" after Malta recorded 55 new COVID cases with the majority being students learning English in Malta.

In a statement, the Medical Association of Malta said that having the island on the UK green list was nothing but a poisoned chalice set for rapid and devastating repetition of what had happened in Mallorca and Lisbon. 

It said that just 10 days ago, 5,000 students had to be evacuated by ship from the Spanish island of Mallorca, after student parties led to more than 500 new COVID cases.

"This followed the dubious privilege of being on the UK green list. The same happened in Portugal where Lisbon was forced into lockdown within a matter of a couple of weeks," MAM said, adding that the UK not only exported the highly transmissible variant but was promoting mass events with an average of more than 20,000 cases a day. 

Most students who travel to Malta do not come here from the UK, but fly to the island to learn English. 

Health authorities have not given a breakdown of how many of the new cases are from the UK, with sources saying the majority of the cases are unvaccinated students arriving from other countries.

Reacting to the doctors' claims, the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association said that mass gatherings were still banned, so pointing fingers at the sector was not on. 

In its statement, MAM insisted the island was seeing a repeat of last year's mistakes "by opening Malta to tourist brackets characterised by unruly behaviour with high transmission and low vaccination rates".

Herd immunity could only halt an epidemic if there was no "continuous massive seeding" of the virus from abroad.

MAM said it had strongly advised the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association and the authorities to promote safe tourism by allowing in only vaccinated people who would also be required to swab.

It also called for a prohibition of activities that attract "unruly tourists unlikely to comply with preventive measures and social distancing".

It warned that Malta will soon be placed on the EU red list, "bringing down the whole tourism sector with a bang".

MAM meanwhile encouraged people to get vaccinated, warning that as soon as COVID spread from tourists to the 80,000 unvaccinated residents, "the health care system will be put under great pressure once again". 

'Do not demonise the reopening of the arts sector'

On Friday morning the MEIA expresses concern about the increase of COVID cases detected among incoming visitors.

It said on Facebook that stand up controlled events, as well as controlled mass gatherings still could not take place, so "pointing fingers at parts of our sector that is technically still shut down, was, and still is, unfounded".

On the other hand, illegal and uncontrolled activity remained a threat to the safe reopening of the industry, it said.

"We also reiterate that border control remains a determining factor to stop imported cases and avoid the spread within the local community. Both have been flagged numerous times.

"MEIA will ensure that the safe reopening of the industry will not be demonised any further."

'Lack of respect for all front liners'

Forum Unions Maltin also expressed concern on Friday morning about what it called "the government’s decision of allowing any form of tourism without any vaccination".

WHO have repeatedly stressed that herd immunity would not be sufficient to prevent another outbreak of Covid. It is clear that such an important warning from WHO still holds and must be adhered to by the government, it said.

"It is clear that the necessary safeguards were not implemented to protect the population at large.

"The huge sacrifices done by all are being jeopardised by allowing tourist arriving at our island unvaccinated."

This also shows the lack of respect for all front liners, it said in a statement.

According to FORUM, operations were now being held across all of Mater Dei's operating theatres, cutting down "on the substantial waiting list created due to the latest COVID outbreak".

"Such operations could be again disrupted by an increase in COVID cases to the detriment of the nation," it warned.


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