Malta has no plans to make changes to its two-week quarantine rules unless advised otherwise by the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the health ministry has said.

The clarification was made after Health Minister Chris Fearne did not rule out the possibility of shortening the quarantine period.

Other European countries such as Italy, France, Belgium and Ireland have reduced the amount of time people have to remain isolated after testing positive for the virus or being in contact with a COVID-19 patient.

What does the World Health Organisation advise?

A health ministry spokeswoman told Times of Malta that there is no immediate plan to reduce the quarantine period.  She added that this would only happen if the WHO and the ECDC say it is safe to do so.

In August, the WHO advised that all those in contact with a COVID-19 case self isolate in a designated facility or at home for 14 days. The European Centre for Disease Control suggests the quarantine period can be shortened to ten days if a PCR test on the tenth day is negative.

Last month WHO's Regional Director Hans Kluge said the two-week period remained a "conservative estimate of the infectious period" of the virus. 

He warned that "even a slight reduction" would have an immense impact and encouraged all countries to "make scientific due process with their experts and explore safe reduction options".

What are other countries doing?

In Malta, the 14-day period is triggered from the moment a person is either infected or has been in contact with somebody who contracted the virus.

This means if during the course of this isolation period, there is fresh contact, the quarantine would have to restart.

The possibility of a downward revision in Malta was mooted in the wake of the current trend in the rest of Europe despite soaring case numbers.

In France self-isolation has recently been halved to seven days with the country's health minister, Olivier Veran, arguing that the contagiousness of the virus decreases after the first five days following the appearance of symptoms. 

Belgium has a similar rule, while in the UK and Ireland it is 10 days.

Italy has also announced a relaxation of the quarantine rules, reducing the minimum quarantine period to 10 days.

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