Update 1745- News Portal Briefing
Times of Malta reports that Malta could see an influx of North American tourists this summer if planned Lufthansa charter flights between New York and Malta are successful.
MaltaToday reports that Carmelo Abela has recalled testifying in the 2010 HSBC heist case, insisting though that the prosecution did not summon him personally but the bank.
Newsbook says that MPs from both sides of the political divide should make their stance on abortion clear.
TVM reports that Mario Brignone, 66, from Bormla was arraigned in Court, charged with money-laundering and of breaching the conditions imposed by the Court in which he had been granted bail for money-laundering in connection with drugs. He pleaded not guilty.
Malta Chamber welcomes easing of restrictions
The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry welcomed the further relaxation of measures allowing for the rekindling of the economy, as announced by the Prime Minister tonight.
In a statement, the Chamber said that the announcements of this evening are seen as a step in this direction, which will hopefully inject confidence in our society.
The Malta Chamber calls on all economic operators as well as members of the public to exercise maximum discipline and strictly observe the protocols as put in place by the country’s Health Authorities.
Restaurants, hairdressers, beauticians to re-open from Friday, non-contact sports to be allowed outdoors
Chris Fearne started listing the easing of restrictions. These include:
Six people will be able to gather in public, while respecting social distancing.
The organisation of open air cinemas, respecting a 2 metre distance from one another.
Restaurants, snack bars and cafeterias will be allowed to re-open, with tables not exceeding six persons, with specific protocols establishing distances between tables. Priority should be given to outdoor seating.
Hairdressers, barbers, beauticians and nail artists will be allowed to re-open, following a restrictive protocol which will be announced shortly. Prof Gauci later explained that these need to operate on an appointment-based system. Both clients and the barber/hairdresser or any other professional will need to wear a mask. Chairs in salons need to be two metres apart. When this distance is not possible to enforce due to the size of the outlet, perspex screens can be used instead.
The provision of additional medical services which had been cancelled or postponed in order to focus Malta’s health resources in the fight against the pandemic. A number of services had already resumed earlier this month. As from Friday, a number of services will be provided, these include the re-opening of diabetic clinics, cardiology clinics as well as well-baby clinics. A number of of Health Centres will be opening as well as clinics offering mental health support. Outpatients services at Mater Dei will increase, together with services related to MRIs, ultrasounds, X-rays as well as non-critical operations and IVF services. Partners of pregnant women will be able to be present throughout all the birth process.
Sport: Individual non-contact sports will be allowed. This includes diving and tennis. Training sessions of up to six athletes will be allowed. Gyms will not be allowed to re-open for now.
Funeral masses will resume.
Outdoor pools will re-open, with restrictions on the number of people who will be allowed to swim at the same time, which will be equivalent to half the amount usually stipulated by law.
Hotels will be allowed to re-open for the local public.
Open air markets will be allowed to re-open.
PM Abela said that the issue of childcare centres will be addressed in the next round of easing of restrictions.
The recommendations protecting the elderly and vulnerable persons remain in force.
Restrictions to be eased from Friday
Prime Minister Robert Abela expressed his satisfaction that the country has been steered to safer waters and is able to celebrate its success against an unprecedented crisis. He said that while other countries were in big trouble, Malta has acted in such a manner to emerge victorious from this crisis.
He said that Friday 22nd May will see Malta take further steps to return to normality. He said that Government is not seeking a compromise between health and the economy. We are not in a position to have to choose, Abela insisted. Rather, the medical and scientific evidence is showing that these decisions are reasonable and rationale. The PM appealed to the public “not to be affected by a fear”.
Abela explained that these decisions were based on the fact that the infection rate was currently very low; the implementation of significant contingency measures, such as increasing the available bed space and equipment. He stressed that the majority of infections required no hospitalisation and had no or very mild symptoms. “These are undeniable facts and therefore justify the decisions being announced”.
The PM expressed conviction that the country will remain on the right track in the following weeks as the decisions taken were the fruit of long hours of healthy and fruitful discussions with all parts involved.
1,017 tests were carried out in the past 24 hours, resulting in five new positive cases, taking the tally to 558. During the daily press briefing, Prof Charmaine Gauci said that more than 51,000 tests have been carried out so far.
Malta’s current active case total stands at 96. The new patients include a 97 year old Maltese man who was hospitalised at Karin Grech Hospital.
Another person, a 58 year old foreigner, was identified prior to admission to Emergency Department for separate circumstances. He had shown no prior symptoms.
A healthcare worker based at Mater Dei Hospital was also among the newly identified patients.
She said that there are currently 287 healthcare workers being quarantined.
Questioned about sports, Prof Gauci said that the authorities were carrying out a risk assessment of all sports, but it was evident that non-contact sports carried a lesser degree of risk. She indicated that the legal notice on sports involving contact would not be withdrawn.
On restaurants, the Health Superintendent argued that the a risk assessment has been carried out and the recommendations for their re-opening will depend on the implementation of mitigation measures. This applied for both the operators as well as people who will be visiting these establishments.
Prof Gauci announced that during the transition phase, the media briefing will only be held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday.
In a strong statement this morning, the doctors’ union expressed itself as very concerned about what it described as a “high-risk decision” to re-open business, arguing that economic interests were being placed before health.
The Medical Association of Malta noted how the first easing of measures, taken two weeks ago, have already resulted in a high number of cases last week.
The doctors noted that many people were failing to comply with social distancing regulations, with many vulnerable members of society roaming freely outside and shops.
In its statement, the MAM added that it felt “disappointed that the government is putting economic interests before health and appeals to the Maltese public to remain very alert and cautious and as much as possible keep social distancing and avoid any form of crowding in public places. Staying at home remains the safest option”.
The weekend in Malta has continued to fuel the debate on what happens next, with the Prime Minister confirming that restaurants and hairdressers will be allowed to open anytime soon. Social media was awash with reactions to this possibility, with public opinion seemingly decided with users favouring the easing of restrictions, particularly in terms of safeguarding employment, while others fearing that such move will trigger a second, more dangerous wave of infections on the island.
Despite the concerns, users posted numerous photos on social media platforms showing a rather large number of people on Malta’s popular beaches throughout the weekend.
DOI confirms that announcement due today
In its evening bulletin, the Department of Information confirmed that establishments that will be permitted to open from the end of next week will be announced today. It added that “authorities have evaluated the impact of the measures which were enacted on 4th May and are satisfied that the number of new cases has remained stable and, at the same time, tests conducted have reached record numbers.
Seven new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, taking Malta’s total to 553. With four recoveries, the number of active cases has edged up to 93.
Inspections and fines
71 persons were each fined €100 during the continuous rounds Police and Health Environmental Officers are conducting to ensure that no gatherings in public places involving more than 4 persons take place, as per the legal notice issued by Government. In the meantime, two persons were found breaching obligatory quarantine during the
451 inspections carried out in the last 24 hours.