Covid-19 measures are to be eased from Monday as the government pushes ahead with its exit plan to return the country to normality.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Chris Fearne has said the four-household limit imposed on indoor domestic activities will be scrapped altogether.
Visiting hours at Mater Dei Hospital will be extended again and the new visiting hours will be announced on the hospital’s website.
Passengers coming to Malta from countries in the dark red zone will be required to self-quarantine for 10 days, not 14, from February 14.
Passengers coming to Malta from abroad who are required to self-quarantine will be allowed to do so at their place of residence, instead of a quarantine hotel, even if they only have a work permit . Fearne explained that this change in Covid rules will help companies that want to employ people from abroad to avoid paying for a quarantine hotel.
Quarantine hotels will be used for people who should be quarantined but do not have residence or work permits.
Children fully vaccinated, with both doses, will be allowed to travel normally, without the need for a PCR test.
From next Monday (February 7), health authorities will accept valid Covid vaccines from passengers arriving from Jordan and the Maldives, meaning arrivals from these countries will not need to be quarantined.
Minister Fearne gave an overview of the measures that health authorities plan to ease in the future, but did not give a specific date for any of them, except for the measure related to weddings .
He stressed that the goal of health authorities is to remove the vast majority of Covid-19 measures that are in place so far by late spring and early summer. It all depends on the current situation.
From April 1, weddings will be able to hold standing events of up to 300 people, while seated weddings will remain limited to 500.
Fearne clarified that it will not be permitted to have a wedding with 500 people seated AND another 300 people standing. You can’t have both, but you have to choose.
He also said that the reason why they announce the date related to weddings is that it takes a lot of time to plan such an event.
In May and June, the health authorities plan to increase this number so that we can have a normal marriage, but it depends on the situation.
Cultural and social events as well as nightclubs will eventually face a change in restrictions, but Fearne gave no details on when and how this will be done. Restriction changes will be announced in the coming weeks.
“The exit roadmap can only happen because we have a significant number of people vaccinated, but always keep in mind that these restrictions will be relaxed if the situation remains under control,” said Fearne.
Given the decline in active Covid-19 cases, Fearne noted that the situation in hospitals in Malta, particularly ITU, is stable. This provides peace of mind that hospitals can also care for non-Covid patients.
More than 333,000 people are vaccinated with the booster vaccine, or 78% of the population.
40% of children aged 5 to 11 received the first Covid vaccine. The inoculation of the second dose for children is currently in progress.
Fearne encouraged the public to register for the vaccine through the website or use the walk-in clinics located at Paola, University of Malta and Kerċem in Gozo. For children, one can use the walk-in clinics located at the University of Malta and Gozo General Hospital.
“The exit roadmap will not be a one-day race, but will be a slow and steady process by which we slowly ease the measures, thoroughly analyzing their effects. If all goes well, the easing of the measures will stay,” Fearne said.
Speaking about the quarantine period, Fearne announced that from February 21, adult primary contacts will have to quarantine for five days instead of seven days, if the positivity rate continues to drop. They will also be required to present a negative test.
People who are secondary contacts are not required to self-quarantine.
Fearne noted that the next step will then be to end quarantine for primary contacts, “and then we’ll look at quarantine for actual positive cases.”
Children aged 5 to 11 will now have to quarantine for seven days, instead of 14 days, if they have had primary contact with a positive case and are fully vaccinated.
Responding to questions from the media regarding the 3-month validity rule for the Covid-19 vaccine certificate, Fearne said those discussions are still ongoing, “but so far we are maintaining our argument on this. There are no plans to make any changes.”
Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has confirmed that the majority of positive cases in Malta come from households, workplaces as well as social events.
“When you look at the situation within schools, the majority of children over the age of 12 only experience a few clusters, thanks to the vaccine. This shows that the vaccine also helps to prevent the spread of the virus within schools,” says Gauci.
Asked whether health authorities were considering making any changes to the rules around funerals and burials for Covid-positive people, Fearne said those measures were being analyzed to find the best way forward on the matter.
“We may announce some action on this in the coming days,” Fearne said.
Regarding the situation in the classrooms, while some complained about why they had to keep their windows and doors wide open, Gauci explained that “ventilation is of extreme importance because it helps to prevent the spread of the virus”.