Malta is one of just eight EU countries where wearing a mask is mandatory in all public places, with the majority of member states only recommending face coverings when indoors.
A review of the existing rules in all EU countries carried out by Times of Malta confirmed face masks are mandatory at all times in public in Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
Only the first four, and Malta, hand out fines when people are caught without a mask. Anyone caught without a face covering in any indoor or outdoor public place in Malta risks a fine of €300.
The other countries have taken a more relaxed approach, often only “recommending” the use of masks in specific circumstances.
The local imposition of a face covering when out walking alone in the countryside has always been questioned, while public debate about mask-wearing outdoors has increased in recent days as the weather gets warmer.
The position on masks of the country’s health authorities has been unwavering until this week, when it was announced that as from June 1 mask-wearing will no longer be mandatory on beaches or by the pool.
Health Minister Chris Fearne and public health chief Charmaine Gauci have both repeatedly insisted that masks are an important way to protect others from contracting the virus.
Across the continent... When must masks be worn?
Austria: Surgical FFP2 masks required when using public transport and when at other public spaces.
Belgium: Masks must be worn in every place where social distancing cannot be observed including busy streets, public transport and indoors.
Bulgaria: To be worn in indoor public spaces as well as outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be practiced.
Croatia: Mandatory in shops, restaurants, healthcare settings and on public transport. No penalty for breaches applies though.
Cyprus: Compulsory in all indoor and outdoor public spaces, on pain of a €300 fine.
Czech Republic: Mandatory in all public places, except, from Monday, outdoors when there are only two people present.
Denmark: Only recommended in public premises if one is infected with COVID-19, at higher risk of infection, when visiting care homes, at large gatherings and where close face-to-face contact is unavoidable for 15 minutes or more at a distance of less than one metre.
Estonia: Must be worn in all public indoor spaces.
Finland: Required on public transport in large cities and recommended where it is difficult to maintain social distance.
France: Must be worn outside by anyone over the age of six.
Germany: FFP2 or KN95 masks obligatory on public transport and in shops. Masks are also compulsory in certain city centres or at highly frequented public places
Greece: Mandatory in all public places indoors and outdoors. Fines for those caught in breach.
Hungary: Must be worn by anyone over six both indoors and outdoors in all public spaces. Fines or exclusion from travel for those who violate rule.
Ireland: Must be worn on public transport, in shops, shopping centres and some other indoor settings as well as in banks, posts offices and credit unions.
Italy: Mandatory in indoor public places as well as outdoors except where people who do not live together are isolated.
Latvia: Must be worn in all indoor public places when there is more than one person. Children up to 13 years are exempt except on public transport, where the rule applies to anyone over seven.
Lithuania: Mandatory in public indoor spaces. Recommended at private parties or when socialising with members of other families or households.
Luxembourg: A must in all indoor public places, on public transport and for any gathering of more than four people, whether in a closed area or in the open air.
Netherlands: Required in indoor public spaces and on public transport.
Poland: Required in all public spaces except in forests, parks, green squares, botanical gardens, historic gardens, family community gardens and on beaches as well as while travelling by private car. The country plans to remove mandatory mask-wearing in outdoor public places on May 15 if the infection rate is less than 15 cases per 100,000 people.
Portugal: Masks are mandatory in all public spaces.
Romania: Masks are mandatory in all public spaces.
Slovakia: Mandatory in all indoor public spaces and on public transport. Masks are not obligatory outdoors if people can maintain five metres distance or if they live in the same household. A mask must be worn at an outdoor dining area, unless eating and drinking.
Slovenia: Mandatory in all indoor public spaces, public transport, in personal vehicles and open public spaces if a distance of 1.5m is not maintained.
Spain: Mandatory in all public places where people are unable to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others. Like Malta, Spain has dropped original plans to make masks obligatory on the beach.
Sweden: Mask use recommended on public transport.