Malta's shift back to the EU's red zone won't have an effect on tourism, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said on Tuesday.

In the latest ECDC map, issued on Thursday, Malta was listed as a red zone country after a jump in COVID-19 cases.

Fielding questions at a press conference, Bartolo said Malta had taken the necessary measures to ensure the sector would remain strong.

"The fact we have been put on the ECDC redlist won't have direct consequences on tourism especially because as a country we have already introduced measures requiring all tourists coming in to be vaccinated."

He said the country had moved in a cautious manner when opening to tourism, and continued to exercise caution in its response to the surge in cases, by tightening the rules.

"When we saw the need to, we changed our approach to safeguard the health of the population and to prevent any reason to have to close," he said.

As of last week, travellers who are unvaccinnated have had to quarantine at state approved accommodation after arriving in Malta.

ECDC classification does not affect travel rules directly - rather the classifications provides travellers with information on the risk levels of their destination.  The data is used to inform EU member states' when drafting travel restrictions. 

The European Commission has previously advised member states to discourage travel to and from 'red' countries.

Asked by Times of Malta whether he had any regrets as to how the opening of tourism was handled, he said the extenuating circumstances posed by the pandemic prevented him from answering.

"In an ideal world I would be able to answer you with a yes or no. In this world that we are living in right now, with a pandemic that has created a number of challenges for countries around the world, not just Malta, it is hard for me to answer you with a straight yes or no.

In a tweet later, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola criticised the minister for his "contempt for people's intelligence".

"Does our Tourism Minister really not speak to any of the thousands of people in the sector being impacted?"

Malta got into this mess, she said, because the minister's "amateur plan" was not thought through.

"He still has no plan. He still has no clue," Metsola added.

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