As of Saturday, any person above the age of three is legally obligated to wear a mask while outside, with failure to comply possibly landing you a €100 fine.
After Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that mask-wearing would be extended to all outdoor public places during a press conference on Thursday, the new rules were published in a legal notice on Friday, just hours before the public is expected to comply with them.
So what has changed?
The amendments were made to the legislation that regulates the use of masks in public, first introduced in August of last year, with any person above the age of three now having to wear an appropriate face covering when entering any indoor or outdoor public space.
Previously, a group of two vaccinated people or children under the age of twelve in the company of a vaccinated person could remove their masks when in an outdoor public space. According to the legal notice, this is no longer permissible.
The new rules also specify that removing your mask while on the beach or next to an indoor or outdoor swimming pool is not allowed, as it previously was.
Fines are still in place for disobeying these rules and getting caught without your mask on, even when by yourself, can net you a €100 fine, if found guilty by a Justice Commissioner. If you choose to pay a fine before proceedings against you begin, the penalty will be lowered to €50.
The exceptions to outdoor mask-wearing previously in place are still applicable, meaning you may remove your maks in public only when:
Speaking to a person who relies on lip-reading to communicate
During an official public speaking event, provided a two-metre distance is maintained
For identification purposes at banks, the airport or by law enforcement officials
To receive a medical or cosmetic service involving the face or mouth
To take medication
When seated at an establishment where food or drink is served
When necessary to eat or drink
When smoking a lit tobacco product
Malta’s outdoor mask-wearing rules are some of the strictest in the EU, with Cyprus being the only other member state to have a similar rule.
The onset of new mask rules has instigated public backlash online, with many bristling at having to wear a mask while alone outdoors.
Malta’s daily COVID-19 case rate is somewhat high, increasing significantly in recent weeks, but hospitalisations have remained relatively low. Vaccination rates also remain very high, with a third of the population having already received their third booster shot.