Updated 7pm, adds MHRA statement

Prime Minister Robert Abela on Sunday announced that the public health emergency declared at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted in the coming hours. 

Speaking on ONE TV during an interview with journalists from MaltaToday, The Malta Independent and NET, Abela announced that restrictions on all flight destinations would be lifted on July 15. 

A further six countries had been added to the list of safe destinations for when the airport officially reopens on July 1. 

Italy, France, Poland, Spain, Croatia and Greece will all be added to the list, although restrictions on flights from certain regions in France, Spain and Italy, including northern Italy, would apply.

Abela said the lifting of the public health emergency would see all remaining legal notices related to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted.

The prime minister confirmed this also meant restrictions on gatherings of over 75 people would also be lifted.

He said this meant the only remaining restrictions would be on the airport, which would be partially lifted on July 1 and fully lifted on July 15, when normality would return.

Restrictions on Malta’s ports will be lifted in July.

Asked whether the lifting of the public health emergency would impact the use of face masks, Abela said their use was always based on public health guidelines rather than any legal obligation to wear them. 

The prime minister said it would be good to keep following these guidelines, which would be reviewed if necessary. 

He hit out at those who continued to scaremonger about the pandemic. Abela said Malta's brilliant handling of the health emergency had been recognised by all. 

There were only 36 active cases at the moment and the mortality rate had been low, he said.

Abela said the government’s economic incentives had helped save jobs and prepare businesses for the recovery phase.

Questioned why electricity tariffs had not been reduced for families too, Abela said other measures such as the €100 voucher and 7c reduction in fuel prices had been targeted towards individuals.

He said the 50% reduction on energy tariffs for businesses was valid until September, up to a maximum amount of €1,500.  

Abela said a reduction on property tax had helped save thousands of promises of sales. 

He said the legal announcement formalising the reduction would be published on Monday. 

Abela said he hoped a strong recovery by businesses would mean there would be no need to extend the wage supplement beyond September. 

Asked about a government advertising campaign in the Sunday papers, Abela denied that he was trying to buy off the media. 

The prime minister said he believed in a strong media that scrutinises the government and points out any shortcomings. 

“I want to be scrutinised by the media, I am ready to answer all questions”, he said. 

MHRA welcomes decision

The decision to fully open up the airport and lift the health emergency was later welcomed by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.

President Tony Zahra said the Prime Minister’s announcement that it was now time for Malta to start its journey back to normality was very good news and fills the association with great determination to turn the current difficult situation round.

Reigniting the economy, particularly the tourism sector would be challenging "but we are confident that pulling together can change what is an extremely difficult situation into an opportunity”.

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