Confusing and contradictory information about Malta’s COVID-19 rules has made it to French prime time television. In a feature aired on Thursday, French show Le 19:45 described Malta as the “disenchanted island” (L’ile désenchantée) as it described the frustration of a group of language students forced into quarantine in Malta. The TV programme, which airs on French TV channel M6, showed footage of French students in Malta caught in isolation after three cases of COVID-19 were detected among them. According to current public health laws, anyone who comes into contact with a COVID-19 positive person that they do not live with must undergo 14 days of “quarantine, starting from the last day of contact with the person who tested positive.” But the students say this was not what they were initially told. 

Students were first told they would be placed in isolation for only one day

One student told Le 19:45 that they were first told that they would be placed in isolation for a single day, then given a PCR swab test and released should they test negative. Their frustration boiled over when, despite negative test results, they were told they would have to remain in quarantine. 

“We were first confined for one day and we were told that after this day we’d have to pass a [PCR] test, after which we would be liberated. Despite our test being negative, we were still placed in quarantine,” said 17-year-old Amaury.

Language schools were helping the quarantined students out, the TV show said as it showed footage of a school employee distributing towels to hotel rooms. French authorities have since started negotiations to repatriate the students, the show's producers said. 

Language schools were temporarily shut down on Wednesday after clusters of COVID-19 cases were detected at multiple schools across the country. Tourism authorities told Times of Malta on Friday that they were organising a number of repatriation flights to return language students to their respective countries. It is not yet clear who will foot the bill for these flights, when the students will be repatriated and whether quarantined students who test negative to COVID will also be repatriated.

Confusion about Malta’s new rules for travel has also left some holidaymakers stranded in airports and denied boarding to flights to Malta. 

The new rules, which require all travellers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo quarantine at a government-selected hotel at their own expense, led to 6,000 flight bookings being cancelled in one week, Air Malta has said.

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