Malta is one of the least strict countries in the European Union in terms of measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, according to a University of Oxford index.

The index illustrates the efforts of governments across the globe who are taking measures to curb the pandemic. From school closures to evening curfews, it aims at tracking and comparing policy responses in more than 180 countries.

The Blavatnik School of Government’s stringency index is based on 18 indicators, including travel restrictions, fiscal measures and vaccination programmes, with each country scoring between 0 and 100.

Malta registered a score of 52.78, based on the latest information about the country gathered on January 11.

Finland has a similar score (52.31), while Croatia and Estonia are at the bottom of the list (50.93 and 50, respectively) when comparing the strictness of EU government measures.

In contrast, Cyprus registered a score of 84.26 and Greece and Italy scored 80.56 and 78.7, respectively. Germany and Ireland have a high score of 85.19.

The researchers note that a high score, meaning a high level of government measures, does not imply that a state has necessarily been more appropriate or effective in its response.

Among others, Malta’s score was driven by the measures taken at schools, the cancelling of public events, restrictions on gatherings, but also the lack of measures when it comes to internal movement, stay-at-home requirements and “narrow protections” of the elderly.

The index also considered the coordinated public information campaign on the coronavirus pandemic and a comprehensive contact tracing system.

While schools in Malta reopened mid-January following the Christmas recess, bars and clubs remain closed until next month, after they were shut at the end of October.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Robert Abela reiterated that had the country gone into lockdown, it would not have recovered, while on Friday Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci said that a peak in COVID cases registered at the beginning of January was decreasing.

Her comments came hours after doctors called for a 9pm weekend curfew. Referring to curfews as “draconian”, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association instead called for more effective enforcement including at private gatherings. Among others it suggested that self-catering units such as farmhouses, should not be allowed to cater for more than four people.

In contrast, in Germany schools and daycare facilities remain closed, while in private gatherings one household is allowed to meet only one person from another household.

Bars, cafes, restaurants and shops remain closed, and while eateries can offer takeaway and delivery services, only supermarkets and shops for daily basic needs are open in Germany at present.

Schools are currently closed in Ireland, one of the countries with the highest scores.

Meanwhile, all construction has been halted, except for emergency repairs and all retail stores, apart from essential ones, have also been closed.

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