Italy’s travel ban has left several Maltese people stranded in different parts of Italy with no idea about when they will return home.
A 42-year-old woman waiting for news in Sicily criticized the Italian government, saying they should have given travellers more notice.
“I feel abandoned,” she said. “Both myself and my husband need to get back to work.”
During a press conference held in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that all travel between Malta and Italy was banned with immediate effect - after drastic measures were taken by Rome to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The woman and her husband left Malta, via ferry, for an errand on Monday. They were meant to return to Malta on Tuesday evening. Before leaving, the ferry operator assured them they would not have issues returning.
However, on Tuesday early morning they learnt about the travel ban. They tried calling the helpline several times but could not get through.
Similarly, a man who travelled to Sicily with a group of friends was also struggling to get hold of the helpline to plan their return. “We checked before we left Malta and there were no restrictions to travel, since the few cases in Sicily have been contained and there have been no new cases,” he said.
Virtu Ferries, however, announced on Tuesday afternoon that it had been granted a concession to ferry passengers straneded in Sicily and Malta on its regular crossing on Tuesday evening. All other future crossings will be restricted to the carriage of cargo.
Earlier Air Malta said it was planning to operate a limited number of flights from Italy to repatriate residents to Malta.
Amongst those waiting to hear about the way forward are Martina Vella and Clint Muscat who are on holiday in Puglia - a region in Southern Italy. They left last Thursday and are meant to return to Malta this Thursday.
The day before leaving Malta the couple called the coronavirus helpline and were told they could go ahead with their plans, since Puglia was not a high-risk area.
“Since we’ve been here, we’ve taken the necessary precautions even though, being a summer destination, Puglia is very quiet at the moment… We’ve been avoiding crowded places and using hand sanitizer,” said Martina, 29.
She said that everything was fine until Monday morning. As they travelled across different towns they started noticing that shops and most restaurants were closed. So in the evening the couple headed back to the Airbnb.
“The phone rang at about 2am. It was Clint’s mother calling to tell us the prime minster had announced all flights from Italy will stop,” she said. They immediately called the Foreign Affairs Ministry who will be informing them on the way forward as discussions are still underway.
A government spokesperson said the Foreign Affairs Ministry is in constant contact with Maltese embassies abroad and health authorities in Malta. Maltese missions abroad are assisting Maltese citizens who require assistance.
In case of emergency or for more information contact the ministry on 00356 2204 2200 or email@example.com.