Robert Abela has ruled out the possibility of an imminent lockdown in Malta to fight the surge in COVID-19 cases, describing it as a "draconian measure".
The prime minister was speaking as the number of active cases of the virus reached 3,000 amid record high daily infections.
Abela said the government intends to remain consistent in its reluctance to implement a lockdown, in spite of calls made by public health experts and trade union groups.
“As I announced yesterday during the debate we had in Parliament, one of the measures we are looking at is to increase fines for breach of existing regulations,” Abela said when questioned by reporters about the possibility of the closure of non-essential businesses.
“I believe this is important to ensure that rules are observed. We will continue discussing the measures we will be announcing in a few hours to ensure that the situation from a medical angle remains stable,” Abela said.
“I believe that the decision should be to avoid going into lockdown and that we maintain a balance between protection of lives and protection of livelihoods,” he added.
“We need businesses to remain open and the measures we will be announcing will preserve this essential balance without being draconian and going for a lockdown.”
He insisted that Malta is doing better than any other member state in the EU in the way it is handling the pandemic.
“In terms of the way we are leading our lives during the pandemic as well as vaccine dosage procurement, we are leading as well,” he added.
“I invited the opposition leader (on Tuesday) to tell me what he would have done differently had he been in my place as prime minister. I have not received any answers,” Abela said.
Malta is leading the EU in terms of its rate of vaccination but according to the latest European Centre for Disease Control update last Thursday, it has the sixth highest number of cases per 100,000 people in the bloc.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine (MAPHM), along with a group of trade unions called for restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The MAPHM said non-essential activities should be restricted until Malta’s daily infection rates are as low as they are were last summer.
The association of catering establishments (ACE) also called for better enforcement of protocols, calling for a more proactive approach to ensure mass activities do not put everyone at risk.
On Tuesday, the Malta Union of midwives and nurses (MUMN) called for increased restrictive measures, arguing that “the government is taking things too lightly.”
The doctors’ union (MAM) argued separately that there are too many social activities going on and people are generally being too lax on observing health protocols.