People who test positive for COVID-19 will only have to quarantine for 10 days as of Monday provided that they have received a booster vaccine dose, Health Minister Chris Fearne has announced.
The reduced period, down from the previous 14-day requirement, will only apply if patients do not display symptoms in the last three days of their isolation period.
Booster-vaccinated people who come into contact with positive cases can continue to benefit from the current “early release” system, enabling them to end quarantine after seven days if a rapid test result is negative.
No quarantine for secondary contacts
Also from Monday, booster-vaccinated persons living in the same household as those who were in contact with a positive person - so-called 'secondary contacts' need not quarantine.
Fearne, speaking at the vaccination centre at the university, said the decision was taken since half of all eligible persons would have received the booster jab by Thursday.
As of Tuesday, more than 200,000 people had received their booster dose.
Fearne also said that as from Monday, the number of vaccination centres will increase from the current seven to 24 all over Malta and Gozo
All those aged over 18 were urged to apply for the booster on https://vaccin.gov.mt/.
The decision to reduce quarantine periods follows advice by the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine, which said on Tuesday that quarantine periods could be safely reduced, in line with the latest data.
Patients are mostly contagious in the few days before and after the onset of symptoms, the MAPHM said.
Business groups as well as the Nationalist Party, had also called for shorter quarantine periods, pointing out that the high number of people who cannot go to work was impacting the economy.
The Malta Chamber on Wednesday warned that the existing 14-day quarantine rule was "unsustainable" and would lead make it impossible for many businesses to operate.
Tens of thousands of people are currently stuck at home in quarantine or self-isolation, as Malta contends with its largest wave of COVID cases since the pandemic began.
Times of Malta calculated on Tuesday that at least 20,000 people – and more likely close to 30,000 - are currently in quarantine, as the country experiences a massive spike in virus infections.
Other countries have also made changes to their quarantine rules: the US has said that asymptomatic patients will only need to quarantine for five days instead of 10, while Spain also shortened isolation periods for COVID-19 patients to seven days on Wednesday.
South Africa, which made headlines last week when it said it would be doing away with quarantine entirely, subsequently walked back those changes.