EC President von der Leyen pays tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia / News Briefing – Thursday 16 September 2021

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Eu Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paid her tribute to murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia when she pqid a visit to the site where she was assassinated. The EC President said that Daphné Caruana Galizia made the ultimate sacrifice for democracy.We must protect those who speak truth to power.

She was accompanied by Caruana Galizia’s family.

Updated 1645 – Afternoon Portal Review

Maltatoday reports that Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri insists he will ‘decide on facts’ when asked whether retired army colonel Alex Dalli’s position as prison director is tenable in the wake of criminal charges against two warders.

Times of Malta followed a press conference by the Opposition during which it made a number of socially-oriented proposals. A PN government would ensure a sustainable pension system while encouraging people to set up multiple sources of income for when they reach retirement age. Party Deputy Leader David Agius said the PN would improve the COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) mechanism to allow for gradual, but realistic increases.

Newsbook reports that 45 people are currently adrift in the Maltese search and rescue area. The group fled from Libya. According to Alarm Phone, although the relevant authorities have been advised, they are unwilling to react.

TVM covers a meeting between the Maltese and Italian Presidents, George Vella and Sergio Mattarella. The Italian Head of State said that “relations between Malta and Italy are optimal”. Topics affecting the Mediterranean, especially the situation in Libya, were discussed during the meeting between the two Presidents.

Update 1600 – Von der Leyen in Malta

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has arrived in Malta were she handed out the first tranche of EU funds intended to help countries recover from the pandemic. Malta has been allocated some €316 million in EU grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

In a Facebook comment announcing von der Leyen’s arrival in Malta, Abela said the two will be discussing Malta’s recovery plan “at the centre of which is an investment in people” to ensure a better future.

Von der Leyen announced that she will visit the site were Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered and will be meeting her family. She also slammed the controversial passport scheme and called for its complete termination.

On the other hand, while confirming that the Commission had green-lighted Malta’s Recovery Plan, she praised the act that Malta’s plan was the greenest in the EU.

“Golden passports enable people to access to the other Member States. It is of utmost importance to stop this procedure”, the President of the EU executive said. She also welcomed the Government’s commitment towards SLAPP reform and media freedom.

Updated 1245: Mid-Day Briefing

Covid-19 Update: Two men, aged 69 and 74 passed away while positive to Covid-19, health authorities said, as the death toll climbed to 452. 25 new cases were reported on Thursday, while recoveries reached 45, lowering the active case toll to 696.

Big fire consumes Marsa scrapyard: A fierce fire destroyed part of a scrapyard and waste recycling plant in Marsa as several units of the Civil Protection Department were deployed to control it.  The site is located in an industrial zone, as thick smoke could still be seen from miles away in the morning. The fire, on a site in the industrial zone adjacent to Triq Garibaldi, broke out at about midnight. The CDP told reporters that the fire broke out in the middle of the scrap heap which contains metal such as air conditioners and cars, as well as tyres, but the cause was not yet known.  The Environment Authority and the police will be investigating.

AirMalta to resume Gatwick, Madrid and Moscow service: Air Malta will be resuming its flights to London Gatwick, Madrid and Moscow Sheremetyevo for summer 2022. In a statement this morning, the airline said thatLondon Gatwick would be a daily service, whilst Madrid will operate three times a week, and Moscow will operate twice a week.

The services will resume from 27 March 2022, as part of a total of over 250 flights per week to 20 destinations, including 15 services per week to London Heathrow that Air Malta will operate in summer 2022.

Updated 0930 – Newspaper Review

The Malta Business Weekly speaks with the CEO of the Malta Maritime Forum, Kevin J. Borg, who said that the sector is not given enough attention by policymakers. The body recently presented its pre-budget proposals.

Business Today quotes an international study that places broadband speed in Malta as the 21st-fastest in the world, ahead of other EU members such as Germany and Italy. Jersey ranks first while Turkmenistan registered the slowest internet.

The Independent reports a change in Covid-19 rules that will now allow Maltese residents to quarantine in their homes on their return from a country on the dark-red list. This overturns a practice of keeping all arrivals from such countries at a quarantine hotel.

The Times quotes Health Minister Chris Fearne that catering establishments will be allowed to relax certain Covid-19 restrictions such as opening hours and distance between tables if they limit the number of customers at any one time.

L-Orizzont says that the General Workers Union welcomes an announcement by De La Rue to expand its operations in Malta. The union represents the company’s workers and has negotiated a series of employment agreements over the years.

In-Nazzjon covers a meeting between the PN and the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. Party Leader Bernard Grech said that the country needs to seriously address the challenges that tarnish its reputation.

The Times reports that two prison wardens have been suspended after the death of an inmate in June. The pair will be arraigned for involuntary homicide, a crime that carries a maximum prison term of four years.

The Independent says that the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life launched a two-year project to raise the quality of administration. The initiative includes reviewing the code of ethics for politicians and introducing transparency checks on lobbying.

The Malta Business Weekly says that a project by the Commissioner of Standards in Public Life to establish new practices for the political class has the support of the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

L-Orizzont says that 91 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as a programme for booster jabs is underway in nursing homes. Health Minister Chris Fearne said that countries will need to learn to live with the virus.

Business Today reports on the presentation of the pre-budget document by the Chamber of Commerce. President Marisa Xuereb appealed for the government to avoid populist measures in the upcoming budget and focus on long-term competitiveness.

In-Nazzjon says that Pope Francis is expected to visit Malta on December 4 and 5, following a two-day trip to Cyprus.The church in Malta has not yet confirmed the dates but the Pope named Malta in his next journey plans during a radio interview.

L-Orizzont follows the State of the Union address by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who urged the bloc to strengthen its defence capacity. She spoke about the creation of ‘battle groups’ that can be deployed on specialised missions.

Morning Briefing

Vaccinated people to quarantine at home – Fearne

Health Minister Chris Fearne has announced a number of changes related to Covid-19 protocols as 91% of the Maltese population is now fully vaccinated. After a number of complaints on sub-standard, expensive accomodation, fully vaccinated residents of Malta arriving from the ‘dark red’ list of countries will be allowed to quarantine from home, the Minister said. This change will come into foce tomorrow.

Fearne also announced that entertainment venues are free to decide whether they can restrict entrance to fully vaccinated customers. Although this is the establishment’s decision, health authorities will be pushing for such a move by relaxing social distancing measures if they do so, possibly through the extension of operating hours and distance between tables.

Two warders to be charged on prison suicide attempt

Two prison officials will be charged with “crimes of an involuntary nature” after female prisoner’s suicide attempt last June.
An inquiry into her death led to the magistrate identifying certain shortcomings from the two officials. In a statement, Government said that the officials were immediately suspended and are now subject to proceedings before the Public Service Commission. The PN said that the problem in prison must be addressed from top to bottom. It should be addressed by seeing that the officials answer for their deeds in court, but the highest officials, including the director, should shoulder all the responsibility for what happened and what is still happening”.

Covid-19 Update: 32 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Wednesday, while 60 patients recovered. This means that there are now 718 active cases of Covid in Malta, with 25 patients being treated at Mater Dei Hospital. The number of persons in intensive care has gone up to five. Meanwhile, an 88-year-old woman became Malta’s 450th victim. Meanwhile, Mater Dei Hospital’s COVID ITUs has been reopened.

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