• Fully vaccinated people alone or with one other person don't need to wear masks outdoors;
  • Two-metre social distancing rule for restaurants, bars dropped;
  • Spectators allowed for sports activities;
  • Non-frontline restaurant staff do not need to have vaccine certificate;
  • Quarantine rules will only change if immunity increases

Anyone who has received a booster will no longer need to wear a mask outdoors from Monday as long as they are alone or with just one other person, Chris Fearne has announced.

The health minister said the measure was being lifted because 70 per cent of the population will have received a third vaccine jab by the end of this week. 

Social distancing in restaurants, bars and other similar venues can also return to pre-pandemic levels as vaccine certificates will be mandatory from Monday.

And spectators will be allowed to return to sports events. 

Watch below

However, from Monday only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to access restaurants, cafes, gyms and other public places. The full list of venues will be published in the coming days. 

The vaccine certificate will only be valid for three months from the second jab or nine months from the booster.

People working in those venues, who have direct contact with clients will also have to prove their vaccine status. 

However, Fearne said there were no plans to make a certificate mandatory in other venues or to introduce mandatory vaccination.

He outlined a series of people who would be exempt from the scheme.

List of exemptions

They include:

  • Those who have been abroad and who have not had the booster will have a grace period until February 1;
  • Non-frontline staff who work in the establishments but do not meet clients;
  • Those aged 12-18, who are currently ineligible for the booster will not need to show the booster certificate;
  • Under 12s will be completely exempt;
  • Mothers who are pregnant in their first three months;
  • Those who tested positive in recent weeks and are waiting to get their booster dose;
  • Anyone who has had a reaction to the vaccine and has a certificate from their doctor or the Superintendent of Public Health

Fearne dismissed concerns by the EU that the three-month rule could breach travel rules but did not rule out making changes.

"To protect our people, we want to have the booster," he said.

"We are still in talks with the EU. It seems they’re already understanding our position but if they insist, we will revisit."

Eight new centres and mobile walk-in clinics are to be opened across Malta to help drive the booster campaign forward. 

Meanwhile, all school children should receive their vaccine appointment by the end of the week.

Nine in 10 have Omicron

Quoting World Health Organisation regional director Hans Kluge, Fearne warned that the worst of the pandemic had yet to start and said that 90% of Malta's cases are now of the Omicron variant.

However, of those who have died, he said the "overall majority" had underlying health conditions, especially the elderly. 

"A number of them had no vaccine, some had both and there were also some who also had the booster," he said.

"Some people still die of COVID even though they had the full schedule but we are sure that without vaccine the number of deaths would be much higher."

None of the elderly in state homes needed to be hospitalised or died after booster, according to the minister for senior citizens Michael Farrugia.

Quarantine period remains

Asked about plans to reduce quarantine, Fearne said he might consider a revision if immunity in the community increases. 

"Now is not the time to do that," he said. 

In a last appeal, he called for everyone to take the booster and for those with influence to get behind the campaign.

"Science is not a popularity contest," he said.

"The booster side effects are minimal and whoever thinks that the side effects are worse than the infection is wrong.

"Let’s all pull the same rope and encourage people to take the booster, not discourage them."

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