Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has rushed to defend enforcement agencies from criticism about lax enforcement of COVID-19 rules, after a photo showing youths huddled in groups on St George’s Bay went viral. 

A photo taken on Friday night at the Paceville beach showed dozens of young people gathered in groups, with many showing little regard for social distancing regulations currently in place. The photo quickly spread across Maltese social media feeds, as did a video of groups on the beach. 

Paceville is Malta’s most popular nightlife hotspot. Although bars must shut by 11pm under new COVID-19 rules, the restricted opening hours did not seem to deter the many young people who gathered on the beach.  

Writing on Saturday morning, Camilleri said he too was “angry” when he saw the photos but that police had quickly intervened to break up the gatherings. He did not say whether any of those pictured in the photos were fined. 

The minister said that the incident should not taint the good work enforcement agencies were carrying out to police public health laws, which range from mandatory mask-wearing to outlawing groups of more than 10 people in public. 

Camilleri said “hundreds” of inspections were being carried out every day and that “tens” of fines had been issued for rule-breakers. 

Police officers are working together with public health inspectors and Malta Tourism Authority inspectors to ensure establishments and individuals are obeying the rules. 

Camilleri said enforcement would continue to be stepped up, echoing a pledge made by Prime Minister Robert Abela two weeks ago. 

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