Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne announced a raft of further measures following a six-hour meeting held yesterday evening with the Malta Council and Economic and Social Development (MCESD) and the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) after the latter spearheaded a strike against mass events.
Minister Fearne addressed the press briefing together with Prime Minister Robert Abela, who stressed that while there has been a rise in cases, infected persons locally have exhibited low to no symptoms.
The Deputy Prime Minister revealed that outdoor events will be limited 300 persons, no matter how large the venue is, while a cap of 100 persons for indoor events has also been implemented.
Earlier this week, the Government announced the re-introduction of one person per four metre squared for mass gatherings, with clusters of 10 persons allowed at events, who must also be distanced for each other.
While venues must continue to observe the one person per four square metre rule, the maximum capping of 300 outdoors and 100 indoors as been added on top, as Malta grapples with 267 active cases as at 6th August. In mid-July, the number of active cases had dropped to an all time low of three.
The number of cases rapidly began to rise following the opening of Malta’s ports as well as identified clusters coming from one hotel party, a village feast and from Paceville, Malta’s entertainment district.
Minister Fearne confirmed that dancefloors at venues would be banned for the time being and all venues must display the number of people permitted indoors under the new rules. The new rules apply to all type of gatherings, from private parties, weddings, feasts and other events.
Dr Abela stressed that the Superintendent of Public Health is in full agreement on the new event limitations, also adding that the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses are in agreement. The Medical Association of Malta is set to discuss further this evening and has officially been on strike since Thursday.
New rules have also been introduced for homes for the elderly, where carers must be tested regularly, visitors must meet residents behind Perspex screens, and limitations on visitors have been introduced.
Prime Minister Robert Abela appealed with the Medical Association of Malta to understand that they are approaching the situation purely as medical professionals, when the state has wider obligations to its people.
Dr Abela stressed that while it is true the number of cases has spiked, infected persons are exhibiting weak symptoms or no symptoms at all.
This situation will not resolve itself today, next week or next month, he remarked. On a vaccine, the Prime Minister referred to comments made by Health Minister Chris Fearne at a meeting yesterday evening, where he said that a vaccine may never come, may not work, or work as planned – the future is unknown.
Therefore, the Prime Minister said, the strategy should be one long-term, as this issue could be a marathon that never completely resolves itself.
“The strategy that this Government has is to implement measures to protect health and the economy within this context. If we knew that next month we would have a solution, today’s measures would probably be different, however, we do not have that luxury.”
“Life continues as normal, within the current limitations,” Dr Abela added.
He defended the four international electronic music festivals that were to be held in Malta in September, saying it would have brought in €25 million which would have been invested in healthcare and resources. He said that in light of how the situation progressed, Government listened to concerns and cancelled them, as well as bringing in rules for mass events.
“There is no scope for alarm,” he stressed. He said the worst thing would be to implement extreme measures that would decimate the economy and cause a cascade of further problems. He called for caution and precautions, adding that the Superintendent may introduce new measures as and when needed.
“Let us not weaken people’s quality of life, because this is not necessary. I refuse to accept that the pandemic must translate into quality of life being lost.”