The health authorities are calling for “gatherings” to be avoided “wherever possible” during the electoral campaign and have listed this as one of the obligatory conditions published ahead of the March 26 general election.
The document, published by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health, lays out the rules and guidelines that should be followed “throughout the electoral process of March 2022”.
“The Public Health Authorities and the Electoral Commission recognise the need for all concerned to abide by safety measures intended to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 while allowing the electoral process to function.
“The COVID-19 transition phase requires a continued balance between urgency, constitutional rights and the mitigation of risks inherent in holding the electoral process in safety in view of COVID-19,” the document reads.
Aside from the now-standard wearing of face masks and social distancing, the health authorities also call for gatherings to be avoided “wherever possible”.
They did not, however, specifically refer to the political rallies which have been drawing large crowds.
The authorities have recently come under fire for allowing such mass rallies to take place while still enforcing stringent rules elsewhere.
During a graduation ceremony on Monday, a graduand slammed political leaders for playing under a different set of COVID-19 rules, after relatives of those graduating were made to watch the ceremonies on big screens.
And graduands who had not taken the COVID-19 booster vaccine were also not allowed to attend the occasion.
One graduand told Times of Malta that while “restaurants can crowd non-boosted customers indoors”, the same did not apply to those attending the graduation ceremonies.
“I have even offered to get a PCR test done beforehand to attend my highly-anticipated event,” the graduand said.
“Why should I, after six long years of university, not graduate with my colleagues now that restrictions are being lifted?
“I am left feeling hurt and frustrated because I deserve, as much as the other vaccinated colleagues of mine, to graduate with them and celebrate the most anticipated day of our lives,” the graduand added.
Malta’s rules for events state that anyone attending must have a valid vaccine certificate, meaning they must have either had the primary doses less than three months before or the booster in the past nine months.
Although the health authorities have repeatedly said that recovery certificates and negative test results cannot be used instead of proof of vaccination, as was the case with the university ceremonies, those at the counting halls will be subject to different rules.
According to the public health document, those entering the counting hall complex in Naxxar can be either fully vaccinated with a booster or else “present a negative rapid test carried out up to 48 hours prior to the entrance”.
Active cases on the rise again
A look at the active cases from recent weeks show that the numbers have started increasing from March 1, just over a week from the day the election was called – on February 20.
According to data, the number of active cases had been on a downward trend since January 10.
The numbers had started to drop after the record-breaking spike driven by the Omicron variant at the start of the year.
Since March 1, however, the number of people infected with COVID-19 once again started to climb and, as of yesterday, there were 1,527 patients with the virus.