Malta is exploring the possibility of so-called ‘safe corridors’ with Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Israel, the government has confirmed.
The list of countries is the first glimpse into the potential travel realities for Malta in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a statement on Friday, the Tourism Ministry confirmed for the first time the list of countries Malta is eyeing to include in its ‘safe travel corridors’ plans.
Such safe corridors would allow travel between Malta and these nine countries, though no information on how this would work has been provided so far.
Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli confirmed that a "bilateral mechanism" with the countries had been initiated but no timeline has been set out.
Farrugia Portelli had proposed the idea of safe travel bubbles during a virtual conference with other EU tourism ministers earlier in May.
Tourism stakeholders have proposed the setting up of a ‘travel bubble’ between Sicily and Malta though the Italian island was not included in the list provided by the government on Friday.
The prospect of opening up safe travel between Malta and Sicily has also been posited in editorials of Sicilian newspapers.
Malta banned all incoming passenger flights on March 21 as the number of coronavirus cases spiked. In April the ban on flights, bar those for cargo or repatriation, was extended until the end of May.
Health authorities have refused to discuss when the ban might be lifted, saying it was too early to comment on the matter as the number of new cases of coronavirus changed daily and so the situation needed to be further monitored before any decision is taken.
Earlier on Friday, Farrugia Portelli told tourism stakeholders Prime Minister Robert Abela would be revealing which restrictions will be lifted next "by Monday”.
What is a 'safe travel corridor'?
While the concept is somewhat novel, countries are eyeing 'travel corridors' or 'travel bubbles' as part of efforts to look at the new travel realities as a result of the coronavirus.
They involve travel between two countries considered to be in the same stage of their fight against the pandemic.
Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reopened their shared borders on Friday, allowing citizens to move freely. The travel bubble permits movement for business and pleasure and comes after two months of coronavirus restrictions.
Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand have agreed on a “trans-Tasman bubble” of travel once safety can be assured.
What is the COVID-19 situation in the nine countries?
Total cases: 3,915
Active cases: 147
Recovered cases: 3,665
Fatal cases: 103
Total cases: 8,206
Active cases: 860
Recovered cases: 7,114
Fatal cases: 232
Total cases: 10,438
Active cases: 5,912
Recovered cases: 4,301
Fatal cases: 225
Total cases: 1,480
Active cases: 322
Recovered cases: 1,131
Fatal cases: 27
Total cases: 16,093
Active cases: 994
Recovered cases: 14,471
Fatal cases: 628
Total cases: 8,374
Active cases: 2,700
Recovered cases: 5,379
Fatal cases: 295
Total cases: 970
Active cases: 289
Recovered cases: 662
Fatal cases: 19
Total cases: 1,523
Active cases: 504
Recovered cases: 965
Fatal cases: 54
Total cases: 16,589
Active cases: 3,736
Recovered cases: 12,587
Fatal cases: 266
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