New curbs to contain the spread of COVID-19 were announced by Health Minister Chris Fearne on Monday as 69 new cases were recorded, the second-highest number of new cases after Saturday's record of 72.
The new restrictions are:
- Bars and nightclubs to be closed from Wednesday except those that include restaurants. In such places, only seated patrons may be served;
- Boat parties will be banned but harbour cruises will be allowed subject to social distancing;
- Wedding receptions may only be held in a seated environment. Food and drink to be served at table;
- No gatherings of groups of more than 15 people will be allowed;
- Masks will now be mandatory in all closed public spaces, the exception being restaurants which are covered by separate rules;
- New 'amber' list of countries, arrivals from which will need to produce COVID-19 negative test result.
Fearne issued the directives at a press conference accompanied by Charmaine Gauci, superintendent of public health.
Gauci said two patients are currently in intensive care, nine are in the Infectious Diseases Unit, and four in a specialised ward at Mater Dei. Thirteen are at St Thomas Hospital and 10 at Mount Carmel Hospital.
He said the new measures are aimed at reducing the spread of the virus in the community.
The countries in the new 'amber list' will be announced shortly, and comes into force on Friday. The list will be reviewed every week.
At the same time, Malta will maintain a 'red list' of countries from which travel is banned, and a green list from which travel is not restricted.
At the opening of his press conference, Fearne spoke on the way the virus is being tackled through intensive testing and contact tracing, and by social distancing.
He thanked all those involved in fighting the virus and said resources were being increased across the board, including in testing and enforcement of quarantine. Since the pandemic started almost 50,000 inspections on people under quarantine were made, he said.
In giving the details on the new 69 cases, Gauci said there were 10 recoveries and the number of active cases was now 607.
A total of 2,269 tests were carried out on Sunday.
The number of new cases of the virus spiked to unprecedented levels in the past three weeks, with a record 72 cases on Saturday and the second-highest number of new cases, 63, on Sunday.
The MAM doctors' union on Monday issued a fresh threat of industrial action unless the government took decisive action, including closure of bars, banning parties and restricting public gatherings to not more than 10 people.
In a reaction to the MAM warning, Fearne said many lessons had been learnt. What was being done now was not a copy of what took place in March because of the experience and evidence since then. He said the measures were being introduced on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of what the MAM said. However most of them had been mentioned by the union itself.
It would not be helpful for anybody to withdraw health services when they were needed most, he said.
At the end of last month the government acted to limit mass events in the wake of criticism after a hotel pool party created a cluster of new COVID-19 cases.
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