• Masks mandatory in outdoor places, offices;

  • Children under three exempt from wearing a mask, as will those suffering from respiratory conditions, and those doing physical training;

  • Bars and clubs to close at 11pm; Restaurants not impacted;

  • Increased fines and enforcement;

  • Rapid testing from October 28;
  •  
  • All previous measures on public gatherings and social distancing remain in force.

Masks will be made mandatory outdoors and bars and clubs will be ordered to shut by 11pm in a new wave of measures intended to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

The measures impacting establishments will come into effect on Monday. Those not wearing masks in all outdoor public places will be fined from October 24 though the measure comes into effect from Saturday.

Watch the press conference below.

Addressing the news conference, hours after Malta reported another record in coronavirus numbers, Prime Minister Robert Abela said it was a critical time in the country's fight against COVID-19.

"Life has to continue for everyone but everyone has to be responsible," said the prime minister, who emphasised the importance of striking a balance between health and the wellbeing of the economy. 

Although the number of cases had gone up, the situation is under control, he said.

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The message will be one of discipline. Everyone has to stick to the rules or face fines, the prime minister said.

Answering questions later, Abela did not exclude increasing the fines if measures are not followed.

"Experience has taught the value of calibrated timing and precise, effective interventions. We must hit the source of our problems directly."

Health Minister Chris Fearne admitted that, like other European countries, "COVID fatigue" was setting in Malta and rules were being observed less. Therefore, there was no choice but to introduce more efficient enforcement.

A total of 150,000 inspections had been carried out in different establishments and wherever repeated irregularities were found, establishment licences were taken away.

A week's grace

To make enforcement more efficient, catering establishments, excluding restaurants will, as from Monday, be ordered to shut down by 11pm.

As from Saturday, the use of masks will be compulsory everywhere, including outdoors and at workplaces.

There will, however be some exceptions, like during physical activity, such as jogging and cycling. They can be removed during conversations with people who depend on lip reading and when one is speaking in public.

Children are exempt from this rule. Masks can be removed when one is alone in his vehicle but should be worn when there are passengers.

Fines will also be going up from €50 to €100 but a week's grace will be given before fines will be applied.

The recommendation for masks to be worn in schools is now being made obligatory and at all times.

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Fearne said that, as from October 28, rapid testing will start to be used. These tests had a 95% reliability rate. They will be used in schools, medical services, and in elderly people's homes to provide early diagnosis in critical cases.

He said Malta will be one of the first countries to obtain a vaccine if and when it comes out in about five or six months. 

On a positive note, Fearne said that in the first six days of the flu vaccine being administered, 75,000 people had taken the jab. Last year a total of 85,000 people had taken the vaccine. 

The news conference was also addressed by Superintendent of Health Charmaine Gauci and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri. 

In a statement later, the Nationalist Party said that rather than put people’s minds at rest, the Prime Minister showed he had lost control of the pandemic.

The PN was proactive and had already requested a Parliamentary debate on the situation which is being held on Tuesday, it said.

 

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