Enforcement officers from multiple agencies now have the authority to enter homes, on the basis of a report, to enforce COVID-19 measures related to private gatherings, according to the superintendent of public health.

From a fortnight ago, the number of households allowed to mix in private homes was reduced to two, in order to limit the spread of the virus.

Speaking on Ask Charmaine this week, Charmaine Gauci said that as well as the police, she had delegated authority to enforce the measures to officers from LESA, Transport Malta, the Malta Tourism Authority, the AFM, and environmental health.

“The police, acting on a report can enter houses by means of this delegated authority,” she said in reply to a reader’s concern over whether police need a warrant to enter the house.

On Thursday, during her weekly briefing she clarified that other officers had been delegated authority to also enter houses to carry out inspections.

She said officials only had the authority to enter residences on the basis of a report or reasonable suspicion that there are a number of people gathering together in breach of the regulations.

In an interview with Times of Malta last November, Health Minister Chris Fearne had said he was against laws against private gatherings, saying “I’m against that, I believe in privacy. I believe in people being responsible.”

Police spokesperson Brandon Pisani told Times of Malta the police began to inspect private premises the day the restrictive measures relating to households came into effect.

Since the beginning of the month, 132 citations relating to private gathering infringements, carrying a penalty of €100 had been issued, police said.

He added that the police would continue to carry out inspections “until the delegation is revoked in writing by the Superintendent of Public Health.” 

Police did not reply to questions by Times of Malta over whether the police were carrying out random inspections or whether they were investigating households on the basis of reasonable suspicion. Questions sent to the Health Ministry on Monday were unanswered at the time of writing. 

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