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?

Luxembourg

Population: 624,613

Total cases: 3,915

Active cases: 147

Recovered cases: 3,665

Fatal cases: 103

Norway

Population: 5,415,755

Total cases: 8,206

Active cases: 860

Recovered cases: 7,114

Fatal cases: 232

Serbia

Population: 8,741,704

Total cases: 10,438

Active cases: 5,912

Recovered cases: 4,301

Fatal cases: 225

Slovakia

Population: 5,459,310

Total cases: 1,480

Active cases: 322

Recovered cases: 1,131

Fatal cases: 27

Austria

Population: 8,999,806

 

Total cases: 16,093

Active cases: 994

Recovered cases: 14,471

Fatal cases: 628

Czech Republic

Population: 10,706,473

Total cases: 8,374

Active cases: 2,700

Recovered cases: 5,379

Fatal cases: 295

Latvia

Population: 1,888,690

Total cases: 970

Active cases: 289

Recovered cases: 662

Fatal cases: 19

Lithuania

Population: 2,726,772

Total cases: 1,523

Active cases: 504

Recovered cases: 965

Fatal cases: 54

Israel

Population: 8,637,437

Total cases: 16,589

Active cases: 3,736

Recovered cases: 12,587

Fatal cases: 266

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us