The Forum grouping of trade unions and the nurses’ union have written to Health Minister Chris Fearne, seeking clarity about the new quarantine rules, especially those affecting parents with young unvaccinated children.

They also wrote to the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development demanding an urgent meeting to discuss the new rules, introduced last week.

The new rules slash quarantine periods for people based on their vaccination status or links to the person who tested positive for COVID-19. 

Apart from unions, employers are also concerned by the new rules. On Saturday, business lobbyists the Maltas Chamber stressed that they need to be given the right to ask workers for vaccine certificates to make the new rules workable.  

Complicated scenarios for parents

Forum Unions Maltin and the Malta Unions for Midwives and Nurses envisage employees facing several problems in cases when they and their children are required to quarantine for different periods of time. 

“How can parents who have the third dose return to work after 10 days if they were in quarantine because their five-year-old son resulted positive and still has to spend 14 days in quarantine?” Forum and MUMN president Paul Pace wrote in his letter.

The unions presented another scenario to the minister: a parent tests COVID-positive and can leave home after 10 days, since both parents would have taken the booster. Should they leave their child, who is unvaccinated and must spend 14 days at home, alone?

“Children under 5 years were never offered the vaccine let along the booster. Not all children have yet been vaccinated even though children from 5 to 8 years have access to vaccination. Who will stay at home with young children who according to the new regulations on quarantine have to stay 14 days?” Pace asked. 

He said unions were being “bombarded” with questions from members, especially since it is illegal to leave children under 12 years of age unattended at home. Employees cannot use their sick leave or vacation leave for quarantine purposes and the new quarantine rules are subject to interpretation, leading to confusion among the workforce, he noted.

The government has created a form to help people calculate how long they must quarantine for. 

The union demanded an urgent MCESD meeting to discuss the issue before schools re-open after the holidays - something scheduled to happen on Monday.

Questions sent to the Health Ministry remained unanswered by the time of writing.

What are the new quarantine rules?

People who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be receiving a separate letter informing them about their quarantine period, health superintendent Charmaine Gauci said on her bi-weekly Ask Charmaine programme on Times of Malta. Instead, patients must calculate their quarantine period on the basis of their situation, such as whether they had received the booster shot.  This notice can also be shown to employers. The test day is to be considered as Day Zero.

New quarantine rules were introduced last Monday.

The quarantine period has been reduced from 14 to 10 days for those infected with the virus and who have taken the booster jab. To be allowed out on the 10th day, they must also be free of COVID-19 symptoms for three days. 

Those living in the same household as an infected person may also exit quarantine after 10 days, if both they and the infected person have had the booster. If not, the entire household must quarantine for 14 days.

Those who did not take the booster need to quarantine for 14 days as before.

Primary contacts who were fully vaccinated can exit quarantine if they test negative for the virus after the contact has taken place and test negative again after a week. 

Secondary contacts who have received a booster dose (and 14 days have passed since getting it) do not need to quarantine at all.  Secondary contacts are those who meet those primary contacts, such as members of the same household.

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