Health Minister Chris Fearne and Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci held a news conference on Thursday amid pressure from experts urging the authorities to take decisive action as COVID-19 numbers reach a record high.
Fearne confirmed that the first two Omicron cases had been detected and it was probable that the spike in cases was caused by this variant.
Though the number of new cases was very high, the rate of hospitalisations remained relatively low at 53.
Among the measures announced, Fearne announced that:
- From January 17 only those who are vaccinated can go to bars, restaurants, gyms, pools, cinemas and sporting events.
- From Monday, December 27, all events should be seated with the exception of weddings and funerals.
- From Monday, all establishments have to shut down by 1am.
- Sports events will still be held but no spectators are allowed.
- Schools will reopen after the Christmas holidays.
- Visiting hours at Mater Dei Hospital will be restricted.
- Given that most of the care home population has received the booster dose, elderly homes will not be affected by the measures.
- A major drive to encourage the country to take the vaccine and booster. From December 27 booster dose registration opens for all over 18.
Calls for another partial lockdown to try to contain the virus have been met with resistance from several quarters who warned that more restrictive measures could lead to financial collapse and increased mental health problems.
On Wednesday, a total of 47 patients were being treated for the virus at the state hospital, four of whom were in intensive care.
The president of the doctors' union Martin Balzan warned that the situation is not sustainable and Mater Dei Hospital risked running out of beds.
Public health consultant Tanya Melillo, who heads the Public Health Response Team, on Wednesday, urged people to abide by restrictions, cancel travel plans and isolate from their family at the least sign of symptoms.
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