As restrictions are placed on mass gatherings, Jessica Arena visits the clubbing capital of Malta, where coronavirus cases have spiked. 

Paceville on a Friday night is open for business. A consistent flow of teen revellers enter and exit the clubs in the entertainment capital of Malta despite coronavirus raging on in the island once again.

There are currently 33 cases linked to this area as health experts blame parties and nightclubs for a recent surge.

After days of mounting pressure to ban mass events, Health Minister Chris Fearne last week announced that, along with a ban on large gatherings, a cap on numbers would be placed on venues that can accommodate more than 100 people.

The measures, which came into effect last Friday morning, obliged venue owners organising mass events to limit the number of people admitted to one person for every four square metres of the property, to ensure social distancing. Groups of more than 10 people should not be allowed entry. On Friday morning, dance floors were shut down.

But were the rules being followed? And has the recent surge in cases scared off the clubbers?

On the outskirts of the entertainment hub, the venues that reopened had visibly reduced clientele.

A student bar in Ross Street, a small venue that typically draws a large crowd, was quiet, with a few patrons gathered around the narrow tables.

The situation was similar in many smaller venues away from the core of the collection of nightclubs. Every possible closely-packed table was filled with clientele but indoors was mostly empty. Overall it was a visibly reduced scene to the typical summer evening, where throngs of tourists in the area would have made the simple trip down St Rita’s steps a 10-minute affair.

The clubs themselves – those that had decided to reopen – fared better, with a regular flow of people in and out.

A quick trip inside one venue confirmed that, while not the typical packed crowds most clubs were used to, the dance floors were seeing some action once again.

It was difficult to take a headcount in a dimly-lit and loud room but bouncers at entrances did not seem to be taking steps to limit numbers either.

There was a sense of pre-coronavirus normality, with people dancing under the neon lights in a smoky room.

But outside the confines of the club, life was different, as masked and gloved workers took out double bagged rubbish and hazy club-goers were served chips and kebabs from behind visors and plexiglass.

A woman walked out of a fairly crowded bar and stopped to the side to dig around in her handbag, emerging victorious with a small bottle of hand sanitiser.

She spritzed the solution into her hands and her companion’s. The seat they were previously occupying had already been filled.

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