The UK’s decision to omit Malta from a list of COVID-safe countries for travel from England has perplexed Malta's hotel and restaurant lobby, which said that the decision "is not justified by the data or the science."

In a statement on Saturday, the Malta Hotel and Restaurants Association said the omission dealt a blow to a good start to the summer season and urged local authorities to intervene.

To the surprise of many, and contrary to what the British media had predicted, Malta was left out the UK list of countries that English tourists can freely travel to without having to quarantine on their return.

Commercial travel for UK citizens will resume on May 17.

The 12 that made it are Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Israel. 

Malta has been rated amber instead, meaning arrivals must self-isolate at home for 10 days, or fewer if they record a negative COVID-19 test after five days.

The list will be reviewed every three weeks, meaning Malta could still be included before the end of May. 

While English tourists will have to quarantine upon their return if they visit Malta, German ones will not: Germany said on Friday that it would be removing Malta from its COVID risk list.

Before the pandemic hit travel last year, the UK and Germany were Malta's two largest tourist markets.

On Saturday, the MHRA said it was "surprised" by the exclusion. 

"Objectively Malta is meeting the COVID-19 related safety requirements," it said, noting that UK media had been listing Malta as a favoured destination. 

"MHRA concurs with the general opinion being expressed by the major British travel and tourism stakeholders that the decision to put so few European countries into the green tier is not justified by the data or the science."  

The omission of Malta will negatively impact the tourism sector at least for June and if the matter was not addressed urgently addressed, the sector in Malta “will lose what was appearing to be a good start to the summer season”, it added.

It urged the authorities, particularly the Office of the Prime Minister and Maltese diplomatic corps, “to take all the necessary action to ensure” Malta is added to the UK’s green list when it is reviewed in three weeks. 

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce expressed optimism that Malta would be added to the green list at the next earliest opportunity, noting that the country had only a marginally higher infection rate than Portugal, which was included in the list.

"It is therefore imperative that we remain focused on reducing case numbers further and on achieving herd immunity through vaccination as quickly as possible," the Chamber said.

"Malta is well ahead of other EU countries in this respect, and this will ultimately determine not just how quickly we get on the green list, but also our ability to remain there once tourism opens as from the 1st of June."

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