Vaccination certificates will not be needed for entry into restaurants, snackbars and social clubs from February 7, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced in parliament on Tuesday.

From February 14, certificates will not be needed for entry to bars, gyms, spas, pools, cinemas and theatres.

They will continue for the time being to be needed for entry for mass events, sports events, gaming halls, night clubs and travel.

The vaccine certificates were first introduced on January 17 but have proved highly controversial with catering establishments.

Fearne said the measures were being reduced because 75% of people had now got the booster dose, COVID cases were going down, and the situation in hospitals was well under control.

Reduced quarantine

With COVID-19 cases going down, Fearne said Malta would soon be reaching a point when mandatory quarantine for primary contacts can be reduced from seven to five days, and even be eliminated completely. 

For now, the quarantine periods will remain 10 days for positive cases and seven days for primary contacts. 

He said it is still to early to announce when quarantine measures could be eased, but it could be as early as mid-February depending on positivity rates.

The health minister said that over the past weeks, one out of seven primary contacts were found to be positive during the seven-day quarantine period.

He said without this quarantine period having been put in place, community transmission would have been much higher. 

Feasts for summer

The health minister said a meeting will be taking place with the curia and feast associations to analyse the "facts and factors" needed for feasts to go ahead this summer in a safe way. 

Fearne said the government is in a position to start announcing its COVID exit roadmap because the facts and figures show the situation is improving. 

Decisions are being taken not based on votes, but on science, he said.

Fourth booster

Fearne said the booster rollout had been a success, with two-thirds of the adult population having taken a third shot. 

Hospital and ITU admissions remain low thanks to the high vaccination rates, and community transmissions are lower.

He said plans are in place for a fourth booster if needed but he did not commit to rolling it out. 

PN welcomes government 'u-turn'

The Nationalist Party said Fearne's announcement amounted to a government u-turn that proved the PN right. 

It recalled that the prime minister up to some time ago had hit out at the PN when it had voiced the concerns of thousands of people who felt discriminated by the vaccine certificate regulations. 

Those measures had been excessive and discriminatory from the outset and constituted a burden on employers, the PN said.

It reiterated its call for everyone to take the vaccine and the booster shot, but it also insisted that individual freedoms should be respected. 

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