Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other public places will be forced to shut down come Wednesday, with the government tightening coronavirus restrictions after Malta reported its first cases of local COVID-19 transmission.
If you have coronavirus symptoms dial 111 or 2132 4086.
If you are stuck abroad and need assistance dial 00356 2204 2200.
If you are in quarantine and need help, including food or medicine delivery, dial 2141 1411.
If you need education-related advice, dial 2598 1000
If you an older than 60 and need help at home, dial 25903030.
As it happened
Live blog ends
7.56pm Our live blog will end here for today, thank you for having joined us. We'll be back tomorrow morning.
Have any news tips, suggestions or observations you'd like to share? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Italy shuts some beaches
7.35pm In what might be a foreshadowing of what Malta can expect to see in the near future, Italy has closed off public access to several beaches and promenades, following reports that people were breaching lockdown orders and heading down to the sea for a stroll.
Earlier today, Robert Abela expressed frustration at the sight of several caravans lining up St Thomas Bay and encouraged people to act maturely.
"This is a time for sacrifice," he said.
G7 leaders pledge 'whatever it takes'
7.20pm Leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States got together today (virtually, of course) to discuss the global response to the pandemic.
They've said they will do "whatever it takes" to restore normality and called on global institutions like the IMF to "swiftly" deploy financial assistance to countries that need it.
In tangible terms, they've agreed to hold weekly coordination video meetings of each country's health and finance ministers, and to coordinate what they called "border management" measures.
Human trials begin for potential vaccine
7.08pm Here's some good news from across the pond: a company in the US has started its first human trial for a coronavirus vaccine.
Don't punch the air just yet - it will still take a year to 18 months to finalise, and that's if everything goes to plan. But it's an encouraging start.
6.49pm A young mother tells us that she has found it tricky to source baby items such as baby formula and nappies, with people having rushed to stock up, just in case.
Reminder: Food, medicines and other cargo continues to be imported as usual and there is no need to panic buy any item. That goes for baby supplies, too.
Have you noticed a shortage of any particular items? Let us know at email@example.com
Test, test, test
6.39pm The World Health Organisation has a simple message for all countries: test for COVID-19, and test as broadly as possible.
Extensive testing is very important because the vast majority of COVID-19 patients - around 80 per cent - will only experience mild symptoms and may therefore barely realise they're spreading the virus.
By testing broadly, officials can identify virus hotspots and work to stop it spreading further.
South Korea and Bahrain are leading the way when it comes to testing, though Iceland has leveraged the help of a private genetics firm to announce it will be testing every single citizen.
Boris orders Britain indoors
6.16pm Just last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was arguing that Britain could consider taking the coronavirus "on the chin" and allow it to "move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures."
Now he's changed tack. In an address to the nation, Johnson has told people to avoid all non-essential travel and to avoid pubs, clubs and other such venues and to work from home where possible.
How many spot checks?
6.13pm Authorities have carried out 376 inspections of people who are in quarantine so far, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has told parliament.
Five people were caught breaking the rules and have been fine €1,000 each. As of tomorrow, fines will rise to €3,000.
Spain, Germany shut borders
6pm Earlier, we reported that Spain had identified more than 1,000 new COVID-19 infections yesterday alone. It has now said it will shut all its land borders. The closure comes into effect at midnight today.
Earlier today, Germany shut its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland. Commercial traffic continues as normal.
Reminder: the EU has called for a 30-day travel ban across the EU.
It took Europeans decades to painstakingly develop a system of open borders and ever-closer union. A virus that is invisible to the human eye has unwound all that work in just days.
Disinfecting local roads
5.48pm The government is seriously considering whether to start disinfecting arterial roads, Local Government Minister Jose Herrera has told parliament.
For the time being local councils remain open, though measures are being taken to limit person-to-person interaction.
News from parliament
5.31pm With all the chaos that the country has been thrust into, it's easy to forget that parliament is still in session (for now).
MPs will debate the coronavirus situation on Tuesday. A request by PN leader Adrian Delia to momentarily suspend the sitting while the prime minister was addressing a press conference was dismissed by the government.
PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami said it was "surreal" to be debating amendments to the explosive ordnance, following a 20-minute exchange between government and opposition on how to vote on the Budget, while ignoring the latest developments on the coronavirus.
A telling off
5.17pm The prime minister was not happy to hear of packed playgrounds and beaches this weekend. The line of caravans at St Thomas Bay "stretched as far as the eye can see", he says.
Abela says doing so defeats the entire purpose of social distancing measures, and urges people to act responsibly.
"I understand parents who don't know what to do with young children - and this part of the reason why we don't want to lock things down until we have to," he says. "But please be responsible. This is a time for sacrifice".
Earlier, Fearne again reminded people that visits to grandparents and elderly relatives should be avoided for the time being.
Should quarantine breaches be punishable by jail?
5.11pm Robert Abela is asked whether there are plans to make quarantine breaches punishable by jail terms.
The idea had been floated by lawyer and former PN MP Franco Debono, who noted that Malta’s criminal code already includes a provision that would make that possible at the stroke of a pen.
Abela however argues that the legal provision is aimed at people who intentionally spread a communicable disease and says he does not believe it applies in this case.
The legal provision in question is applicable to people who spread the disease through "imprudence, carelessness or through non-observance of any regulation". Here it is in all its legal glory:
Fearne: 'No sustained transmission yet'
5.03pm "We do not have – until now – sustained transmission," Fearne is telling reporters. He's saying that current cases of local transmission can be defined as "first generation", in that they can be traced directly to a person who was overseas recently.
He describes the growth in infection rates in other countries as "higher than linear, though not necessarily exponential".
Abela's message to business owners
4.59pm The Prime Minister has again hinted that more economic aid for struggling businesses is on the way.
"We won’t let you drown, we will not abandon you," he said. "We’ll be as careful with the economic side as we are being with the medical side. We planned for days like these and I believe we can meet this challenge."
Legal notice to be published today
4.56pm If you're wondering whether your specific type of establishment will have to close down come Wednesday, your answer lies in a legal notice that will be published later today.
That will include a list of the types of establishments that will have to shut up shop. Penalties will apply for rule-breakers, Abela said.
Community officers to help distribute medicines
4.47pm Community officers - that's 'wardens', to use their old name - will be deployed to help distribute medicines to elderly people and others in quarantine, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has said.
Camilleri is giving a rundown of the help each of Malta's disciplined forces is providing during this time of crisis.
Fearne on national strategy
4.38pm Health Minister Chris Fearne is explaining the rationale behind these gradually increasing measures.
"We’re trying to drag this out for as long as possible. We’d rather face a river than a tsunami," he says.
Authorities are upping social distancing measures to try and gradually choke the virus of new hosts.
Quarantine fines to be increased to €3,000
4.31pm Fines for people who break quarantine rules are to be tripled, from €1,000 to €3,000 per infringement, the prime minister has said.
Abela is saying that the gradually increased measures are intended to try and delay for as much as possible him having to hit the "big red button" - total lockdown.
"Those who say that a lockdown will last just three weeks are not being truthful," he said.
Bars, restaurants to shut as of midnight tomorrow
4.28pm All bars, restaurants and gyms will be shut down as of midnight tomorrow, the Prime Minister has said. 'Midnight tomorrow' means 11.59pm on Tuesday, in case you're confused.
Clubs, cinemas and other areas where the public gather will also be shut. Take-aways are exempt and will remain open.
Prime Minister speaks
4.21pm Prime Minister Robert Abela is speaking at a press conference.
EU Commission chief proposes ban on 'non-essential travel'
4.23pm EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has just proposed a 30-day ban on non-essential travel within the EU, with special 'green lanes' to ensure essential transport can keep moving.
'China’s economy will forge ahead’
4.19pm China’s ambassador to Malta, Jiang Jiang is confident that COVID-19’s economic impact on his home nation will be short-lived.
“The fundamentals of the economy will remain strong in the long run,” he writes in a Times of Malta opinion piece.
Read why the ambassador is optimistic.
Not just in Malta
4.05pm A bit further east, our Mediterranean cousin Cyprus is also feeling the brunt of a dramatic tourist slowdown.
From this week the sector will shut down completely as hotels have been ordered closed for a month, along with restaurants, cafes and other businesses.
Sunny Larnaca is basically "a ghost town", a tourist caught there told AFP.
Prime Minister to hold press conference
3.58pm Robert Abela will be holding a press conference at 4.15pm as the Office of the Prime Minister. We will of course be sharing a link to watch it.
One for the mathematically-minded
3.45pm How can we apply techniques used to assess risk to Malta's ongoing coronavirus outbreak?
Actuary Dominic Cortis kicks off this multi-part series by looking at how Markov chains are affected by this crisis - and he even makes some predictions about the numbers of COVID-19 cases we might see in the coming days.
A message from our sports stars
3.39pm The captain of Malta's national football team, Andrei Agius, has joined the many voices urging people to respect quarantine rules and stay safe.
Agius is one of several local sportsmen who have shared messages on social media about the crisis.
Need information about the law courts?
3.21pm Court sessions have been suspended as of today, bar emergency ones, and court workers have been instructed to work from home where possible.
If you have any questions about a justice-related issue, you can call 2590 2000 during office hours, the Justice Ministry has said.
Understanding Italy's medical experience of COVID-19
3.11pm Italian doctors in Lombardy have been overwhelmed over the past weeks.
Three doctors there have now published a paper detailing how critical care in hospitals there was impacted by the sudden spike in infections. It makes for some frightening reading.
If you're not inclined to read, you can watch this interview with one of the authors instead.
Love in the time of coronavirus
2.56pm Mass gatherings have been cancelled, and that has forced some couples who were due to tie the knot to make some difficult decisions.
Claudia Calleja caught up with couples who have had their wedding plans disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.
2.50pm Former PN electoral candidate Norman Vella is worried about possible contagion of COVID-19 at Malta International Airport.
One of the people with nine new confirmed coronavirus patients was stopped at MIA yesterday as he was preparing to leave Malta for Spain. Vella, who works at the airport, is worried that his fellow airport workers are at risk of infection.
The student made his way through the airport and was only stopped at the departure gate, he says, and formed part of a much larger group of students.
He wants all workers who came into close contact with the group to be placed in quarantine on full pay.
A global snapshot of COVID-19 spread
2.38pm The figures are in constant flux, of course, but here's a snapshot of where the situation stood worldwide at 9am GMT today.
2.30pm The airline industry is among the hardest-hit by the current crisis, of course.
Ryanair says it will ground most of its fleet in the coming days and has not ruled out a complete temporary shutdown of its operations. Lufthansa has said it will seek emergency aid from the German government. FlyBe has gone bust, and Austrian Airlines has now just announced that they are suspending all flights as of Thursday.
Malta's COVID-19 testing rates
2.22pm Some days ago, we revealed that Malta's COVID-19 testing rate was among the world's best. We've updated that graph to include figures up to Sunday and to also include Iceland (which has started testing every single citizen).
Expect Ireland to climb up that chart in the days to come - the government in Dublin is rolling out mass testing.
Eight MPs in quarantine
2.03pm Eight MPs are in quarantine as a precautionary measure after they travelled abroad - though none is believed to have been infected with COVID-19.
We know one of them is Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, because she said so on Facebook earlier today. No such information from any of the other mystery seven.
Helpline for the elderly
2pm People aged 60+ have been instructed not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. But how will they fetch their groceries?
The answer is by dialling 25903030, the Family Ministry has said.
If you're aged over 60 and have nobody to help you with sourcing food, medicine or other essentials, you can contact the helpline between Monday and Friday from 8am to 4pm or Saturday from 8am to 1pm.
'It's going to be OK'
1.55pm Seems like a number of residents are taking the Italians' cue and have started displaying signs of optimism from their balconies and porches.
Our cartoonist Steve Bonello just captured this message in Attard.
Have you spotted other messages yourself? Send us any pictures on firstname.lastname@example.org
May the force be with you
1.35pm Armed Forces of Malta personnel have been assisting the health authorities in the delivery of groceries and daily needs to citizens who are under quarantine in their residences.
A number of deliveries are being made at several times throughout the day to ensure that those in need get the assistance they require.
We'd like to hear from readers of ours who are trying to help out those in need. Send us an email on email@example.com
ITU nurses stuck in Jordan
1.24pm 14 Maltese ITU nurses are stuck in Jordan, and Air Malta will be bringing them back.
Silvio Schembri has just announced that an Air Malta repatriation flight will bring them back home tonight. They will spend 14 days in quarantine - as all incoming passengers must - and then join their colleagues to help care for COVID-19 patients.
Details about new COVID-19 cases
1.14pm In case you missed it: authorities announced nine new confirmed COVID-19 cases today. Three of those are considered to have been transmitted locally. Details - and video of the press conference - are available here.
EU leaders to hold remote summit on Tuesday
1.06pm EU Council president Charles Michel has called an extraordinary summit of EU member state leaders - and it will all happen remotely.
Europe has now become what the World Heath Organization regards as the epicentre of the global coronavirus outbreak. EU officials are expected to announce measures to coordinate restrictions on movement later today.
Ryanair expects to cut capacity by 80 per cent
1pm Low-cost airline Ryanair has said it expects seat capacity to be cut by 80 per cent in April and May and says it is not ruling out grounding its entire fleet.
"Ryanair is taking immediate action to reduce operating expenses, and improve cash flows. This will involve grounding surplus aircraft, deferring all capex and share buybacks, freezing recruitment and discretionary spending, and implementing a series of voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts, and significant reductions to working hours and payments.
Deliveries from Sicily
12.52pm Delivery drivers coming from Sicily by catamaran aren’t being tested, Gauci has confirmed. She says their movement is being restricted during their time in Malta.
Reminder - all travel to or from Italy has been banned, but transport of food, medicines and other goods continues.
Gozitan infected in Malta
12.45pm One of the new COVID-19 patients is a Gozitan, Gauci has said. Everything indicates the patient was infected in Malta.
About those local transmissions
12.42pm Some more details about those locally-transmitted cases.
One came from a 36-year-old man who is a healthcare worker. He developed symptoms on March 14 and tested positive. Contact tracing found that two of his colleagues had also been infected.
Gauci said the worker had “very minimal” contact with any patients.
Another case concerns another, different healthcare worker – a 23-year-old woman who developed symptoms on March 13.
This woman had not gone abroad recently, and experts have identified two possible ways in which she got the virus: either by being in contact with the previous, 36-year-old patient, or else through her flatmate, who was recently in Italy.
30 confirmed cases
12.37pm Malta now has 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases, two of which are considered to have recovered.
Gauci says all patients are in a very stable condition.
Virus being locally transmitted
12.32pm Gauci has confirmed that in three of these nine new cases, the person was infected by someone in Malta. This is the first evidence we have that the virus is circulating in the local population.
Nine new COVID-19 cases
12.28pm There are nine newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malta, and some of them were transmitted locally.
Charmaine Gauci is providing details.
12.20pm Forcing incoming travellers to spend 14 days in quarantine and banning large public events has wreaked havoc on Malta's tourism industry. But it's not all bad news, some economists have argued.
Tumbleweed in the capital
12.12pm It's not just Malta's towns and villages which are especially quiet today. Here's a photo of Republic Street in Valletta, taken a short while ago.
Virus spreading in Africa
12.05pm Life in many African nations has until now been largely unaffected by the spread of COVID-19. But that appears to be changing.
Liberia reported its first confirmed case earlier today, and Ghana has shut down schools and banned public gatherings after its confirmed cases rose from two to six overnight.
Senegal, South Africa and Kenya have also started introducing restrictions to try and contain the spread of the virus.
Doctor pleads for help
11.52am Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Sunday that healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients would be given accommodation if they did not want to return home to their families, for fear of infecting them.
Details about that pledge have yet to be made public, and in the meantime, a local doctor has made a public plea for accommodation for frontliners.
“If anyone in this group has any place where high risk individuals can be hosted, ideally without being of great financial burden kindly get in touch with me,” Andrew Dimech wrote.
A good Samaritan as a landlord
11.40am And now for some good news. A local who lives in rented accommodation has shared a WhatsApp chat with his landlord in which he’s told his rent is being temporarily cut from €750 to €400 a month.
“Hope this temporary measure can help you,” the landlord told the tenant.
Tony Camilleri l-għannej belts one out
11.25am Italians have made international headlines for singing from balconies across deserted streets.
Now it seems Maltese are following suit. Here's Tony Camilleri, known as l-għannej, singing Viva Malta on Sunday as some intrigued bikers watch and listen.
Keeping the young ones occupied
11.20am Young children, bored at home: it's a challenge many parents would rather do without.
The Malta Girl Guides have created a series of challenges to try and keep youngsters occupied. More than 700 have already signed up. For details, read our article about the Malta girl guides quarantine challenge.
Have a powerful PC?
11.05am If you have some idle computing power and would like to put it to good use, consider downloading folding@home. It's a Stanford University project which uses people's idle PC power to research diseases and conditions, including COVID-19.
Global COVID-19 cases outnumber those in China
11am Donald Trump will have trouble calling it the "China virus" now: we now know of more confirmed coronavirus cases outside China than within it.
China has registered 81,020 cases since it identified the virus, while there have been 88,367 cases reported in other countries, according to a tracker created by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
Business as usual at Mosta monti?
10.45am Last Friday, authorities said that all open-air markets, bar those selling food, would be shut down until further notice.
It seems the message did not reach Mosta, where hawkers set up their stalls bright and early on Monday morning. Judging by the lack of shoppers, though, it seems they shouldn't have bothered.
No vigil for Daphne Caruana Galizia
10.41am Today marks the 29th month since Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated. Activists have been gathering at a makeshift memorial in Valletta on the 16th of every single month since the attack, come rain or shine.
But the coronavirus has brought that streak to a halt: NGO Repubblika says today's vigil will not take place, due to public health concerns.
In Iceland, a private firm is testing every single person
10.33am One key challenge governments face is in providing widespread COVID-19 testing. South Korea and Bahrain are proving that it is possible to test huge swathes of the population, and it appears to be working.
Iceland is going one step further: a private genetics company there has been given permission by the government to test every single inhabitant of the country. That's roughly 360,000 people.
They started testing last week and initial indications suggest that 1 per cent of the country's population is probably infected with COVID-19.
How are football players filling the void?
10.28am Football leagues across Europe have all been suspended due to the crisis. We take a look at how some of the world's most elite players are whiling away the time. - from baking to wine-based workouts.
COVID-19 briefing at 12.30pm
10.18am Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci will give her daily press briefing at 12.30pm today. We'll share a live link when it happens, and will of course provide all the details of what is said for all our readers who do not speak Maltese.
How bad will the economy be hit?
10.14am There's no doubt that the crisis will be a big economic blow. But just how big?
China's example does not bode well at all.
Life while in quarantine
9.59am Some people who are in quarantine can just work from home. Others must find different ways to while away the time.
Vanessa Conneely caught up with some readers who are stuck indoors, to see how they are getting by.
Germany livid at Trump's attempt to snap up vaccine research
9.51am A report in a German newspaper on Sunday claimed that Donald Trump was trying to secure exclusive first access to an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, to the detriment of all other nations.
The German government was reportedly furious about the issue and has since shot down any talk of that happening.
Former PN MEP candidate Peter Agius wrote to EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides about it yesterday. He believes the EU should use its clout to bring big pharma (which is practically all European-based) together, to pool their resources as they work towards a vaccine.
The case for a shutdown?
9.43am Weddings have been cancelled, events called off and people urged to remain inside where possible. It might seem draconian, but epidemiologists say that every single day counts.
Here's a simple graph comparing the experiences of two Italian cities which introduced a shutdown roughly two weeks apart. The difference is stark.
Keeping spirits high
9.41am People are finding a variety of ways to keep busy while in self-isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19. Among them are British couple Jonathan and Beryl McKeown.
Jonathan - who's been an avid musician for 50 years - has been playing his flute on his rooftop garden in Senglea to pass the time.
"Thankfully we are showing no symptoms of the virus." says Johnathan. "We've been spending the time cleaning, reading, watching TV series and catching up with friends and family electronically. And of course I've been playing my instruments."
Helpline for Ta' Xbiex residents
9.31am The Ta’ Xbiex local council has set up a 24-hour helpline for any residents (especially elderly ones) who need help during this crisis. Mayor Max Zammit wrote about it on Sunday on Facebook.
The council will help residents who need to make certain payments online and are not used to doing so, provide information about medical services, give information about grocery shopping for the elderly or those in quarantine and provide direct support for any emergencies which might arise.
If you live in Ta’ Xbiex and find yourself stuck and in need of a hand, dial 79338846.
New rules for Identity Malta expatriate unit
9.20am Last week, Identity Malta workers who were concerned about their wellbeing caused chaos when they decided to down tools and refused to work, without any prior warning.
The agency has now issued new guidelines for how its expatriate unit will function throughout this coronavirus-induced crisis.
If you are a non-EU national or a foreigner who needs to access Identity Malta services, from work permits to visas, we recommend you have a good read of these.
Australia suspends random breathalyser checks
9.11am A somewhat unusual coronavirus-linked side effect in Australia: several states have decided to suspend random roadside breath testing for drivers, for fear of encouraging spread of the virus.
No such concerns here in Malta, given that the law here does not allow for any such random testing to detect drink-driving, despite pressure from road safety activists and the insurance lobby.
Could a 10-minute test be on the horizon?
8.56am One of the problems in limiting the spread of COVID-19 is that testing is still slow - and expensive.
It takes up to six hours for lab test results to be available.
But a UK-based healthcare company, Mologic, says it is developing a COVID-19 test in collaboration with a Senegalese research lab which would be able to detect the virus in just 10 minutes.
The two organisations had successfully developed a similar test to detect Ebola.
Tourism Minister in quarantine
8.40am Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has been asked to stay in quarantine after she came into contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19.
In a Facebook post, Farrugia Portelli says that she has since been tested for the virus, with the test resulting negative. But she will be remaining in quarantine and working from home until next Saturday.
Empty streets, busy aisles
8.25am With schools shut and many opting to work from home, Malta's streets are eerily quiet this morning.
Supermarkets, though, are doing some roaring trade.
People were queuing up outside a Lidl supermarket in Qormi at 7am this morning.
"We were let in one person at a time, whenever another customer comes out of the shop," a shopper tells us.
"Inside, we were asked to keep some distance between each other. Cashiers were asking customers to stay behind their trolleys and handed the items to them themselves."
How is coronavirus affecting your life or livelihood? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Applauding our healthcare heroes
8.06am There's talk on social media of getting people to stand in their balconies or porches tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9pm to give a big, nationwide round of applause to Malta's doctors, nurses and paramedics.
"Let's make sure they hear it LOUD and clear as a sign of appreciation and respect for their hard work and courage," the Facebook event encourages people.
"Counting on you all to pass this on; the wider the word spreads, the better".
Check out the Facebook event for more details.
Europe's deadliest day yet
8am Sunday was a terrible day for hundreds of families across Europe, who lost loved ones to the coronavirus. 368 people died in Italy, 97 died in Spain, 29 in France and 14 in the UK. Those are record one-day highs for all four countries.
The head of France's health service has now said that things are "deteriorating very fast".
"The number of cases doubles every three days," said Jerome Salomon.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us