A group of French students who tested positive for COVID-19 left Malta on Thursday afternoon on a medical flight to France, while a group of Spanish students who also tested positive will be leaving Malta on Friday on a similar flight.
The special Boeing 737 plane, chartered by the Malta Tourism Authority, landed in Malta just before 2pm. The infected students arrived on the apron at the Malta International Airport in a coach and some of them arrived by ambulance. It is still not known how many students were on the flight.
The number of Spanish students flying on Friday is also unknown. They are being repatriated to their home country so they can recover there.
The flight, operated by ASL Airlines France, which specialises in sanitary and medical flights, left at around 3pm.
Times of Malta reported on Thursday how close to 200 students had already been repatriated in two flights on Monday and Tuesday. These had all tested negative for the virus although some were in quarantine.
The Monday flight first landed in Rome and then flew on to Frankfurt where the German students were dropped off. Tuesday’s flight went to Paris and then Madrid. Flights were chartered by the MTA and operated by government-owned Malta MedAir.
An MTA spokesperson told Times of Malta on Thursday that discussions were ongoing between the MTA, the local and foreign health authorities and the diplomatic corps to plan more flights over the coming days and weeks.
He did not divulge the cost of the repatriation flights, saying the information was “commercially sensitive”. He would only say that all costs are being borne by the MTA.
Times of Malta reported on Wednesday that more than 500 foreign students who came to Malta to study English had tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.
At least a quarter of the country’s active COVID-19 cases are among young students who travelled to the island this summer. Of those infected, 40% are said to be “not symptomatic”.
This forced the closure of all English language schools as part of efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19 among unvaccinated young people.
However, hundreds of students remain in Malta, with some, including minors, in mandatory quarantine.
Malta is back on the red list of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control amid a sharp rise in the number of new cases.