Stand-up events will be banned from Monday, the Health Minister announced, as he revealed that two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected among the surging cases in Malta.

During a news conference, Chris Fearne also announced that:

  • From January 17, bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms, pools and spas, casinos, gaming halls, cinemas, theatres and sport venues will be open only for those who have a valid vaccination certificate. 
  • From Monday, standing events will no longer be allowed. Only seated events may be held, the only exception being weddings and funerals, where existing protocols remain in force.
  • All establishments have a 1am curfew.
  • Sports events may continue but no spectators will be admitted.
  • Schools will reopen after the Christmas holidays.
  • Visiting hours at hospitals will be reduced. Homes for the elderly will not be impacted.
  • All those over 18 may apply for the vaccine jab from Monday.

Fearne played down some experts' concerns that the hospital had reached breaking point, saying it was under control with 53 virus cases currently being treated and three in intensive care. Those in ITU are in their late 50s.

He said the authorities had planned in advance and had sufficient supplies to administer the booster jab to all people because this was the most effective tool to fight Omicron. 

A total of 182,000 people have already received the jab, 41% of those that would be eligible.

Take-up was high across all age groups offered the jab so far, he said, adding that all those over 35 can now register for it.

"We have high confidence in the jab to fight Omicron," the minister stressed.

From January 17, vaccination certificates will be valid for three months for those who have had the second dose and valid for another nine months after the third jab. People who do not take their booster will not have a valid vaccination certificate after the second dose. For under 18s, the vaccine certificate will remain valid for a year.

Increase in reinfections

Charmaine Gauci, superintendent of public health, said the seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases was 392. More people were turning up for tests, with 7,000 swab tests carried out on Wednesday alone.

Most new cases were being seen in age groups that had not received the booster. The symptoms being experienced were similar to the common cold, like coughs and nasal congestion.

There has been an increase in infections contracted from certain activities, with 23% related to social activities as well as a high number from home gatherings, and workplaces where social distancing and mask-wearing were not being enforced. An increase in re-infections had also been observed.

6,500 people in quarantine

Gauci said some 6,500 people are currently in quarantine, including people who tested positive, contacts, and people who came from red zone countries.

He said that while there are only three patients in ITU, equipment in six ITUs was available, if needed.

And if hospital admissions increased, 100 beds could be made available at Boffa hospital, and arrangements were in place for the use of private hospitals.  

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us