Last updated 11.25am with PN reaction.

People may not gather in groups of more than two persons in public spaces as of Wednesday unless they live in the same household, the government announced on Sunday.

The limit to date had been of four persons, but the government said the new measure, which applies up to April 11, is being brought in over Easter on the advice of the health authorities to counter the spread of COVID-19.

The fine for those breaking the regulation is being raised to €300 from the current €100.

Tougher travel restrictions

The government also announced that as from Monday, all arrivals in Malta will need to produce a negative PCR test taken no longer than seventy-two hours before arrival in Malta.

Passengers arriving without a test will be required to take a test in Malta. Anyone who refuses or tests positive will be quarantined.

The measure effectively means that all countries that had been on the 'green list' enabling unrestricted travel, are now on the 'amber' list. Travel from countries on the 'red' list remains banned. 

This is the first time all travel has been put under some form of restriction since the airport was closed this time last year, a ban which had lasted till the end of June. 

 

Speaking on Sunday, shortly after the announcement was made, Prime Minister Robert Abela said the government's strategy is to attack the virus using the vaccine and defend using the restrictive measures. 

Recent measures 'having an impact' 

The measures introduced a few weeks ago - which included closing schools and restaurants - have had an impact, thanks to the public’s efforts, Abela said. 

The number of new cases dropped below 100 over some days last week after having exceeded 500 earlier in the month

"With Wednesday being a public holiday and then the Easter holidays, we do not want to give the impression that the country can relax and risk everything we have worked for so far," he said. 

Now was not the time to be careless, he stressed.

He said the authorities had issued thousands of fines since June, but with public cooperation, the government wants to get to a point where it does not even need to issue fines.  

Abela said that by  April 12 the government would announce how it plans on reopening shuttered businesses and schools.

PN: Controls on travellers should have been imposed months ago

In a reaction, the Nationalist Party said it had long been calling for timely and effective action, but the prime minister was only acting now, after having ignored expert advice and then lost control of the situation while making irresponsible statements.  

"A year has been lost, and now we have not only gone back to square one,  but we have unfortunately seen nearly 400 lives lost," the party's COVID-19 action team said.  

The party underlined the need for serious screening of all passengers at the airport and the harbours and said this should have happened months ago, when the new virus variants became known. 

Not that case numbers had stabilised, it was important not to ease restrictions too early, the party added.  

 

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