Updated 9.30pm with PM's comments

Chris Fearne has promised to modify Malta's strict travel restrictions following calls to allow residents arriving from 'dark red countries' to quarantine at home.

The health minister did not give any details about the proposed changes but confirmed they would involve rules around quarantine.

More information will be announced in a news conference on Wednesday but it is expected that he will modify the hotel quarantine measure for residents. 

Anyone who arrives from more than 100 countries and regions on a dark-red list must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel at a cost of up to €1,400, regardless of their vaccine status.

The measure is deeply unpopular because it also applies to residents, who argue that they have their own accommodation where they could quarantine. 

Over the last week, more people have spoken up about their experiences, with some describing having to share rooms with strangers because they could not afford the quarantine cost.

Three family members, who were forced to quarantine from Tunisia, one of the countries in the dark red zone have filed a judicial protest against the measure.

PN leader Bernard Grech and Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba are among those who have called for the quarantine rule for residents to be scrapped.

In a news conference on Tuesday, the PN said that while it was not asking for quarantine rules to be abolished, those that make no sense should be updated. 

Reacting to Fearne’s comments that changes will be announced on Wednesday, Claudette Buttigieg said its efforts were bearing fruit and the government was reacting to its proposals.

In a Facebook post later, Grech called for the government to repay anyone who has had to pay for quarantine. 

"Besides changing this policy tomorrow, as Chris Fearne has pledged to do following pressure from the Opposition, we also expect an immediate refund to all those Maltese residents who have been forced into such a situation," he said.

"The government must stop issuing rules that cannot stand up to human rights scrutiny and that leave the taxpayer exposed."

Video: Jonathan Borg

'Substandard conditions unacceptable' 

Asked by Times of Malta about quarantine rules, Robert Abela said details would be given by Minister Fearne.

"We cannot ignore a measure that was launched by the health authorities to protect the population from an increase in COVID infections," he said.

Abela did not provide any details about the revised rules set to be announced on Wednesday.

Questioned about reports of poor facilities at hotels where travellers are being forced to quarantine, the prime minister said "substandard conditions would be unacceptable".

 

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