Updated 1250 – Covid-19 update
The Health Department reported 208 new cases of coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, with 200 recovering. The number of active cases has reached 2,687. 3,565 swab tests were
carried out in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths linked to Covid-19 has reached 261. 23,512 vaccine doses were administered until yesterday, of which 2,095 were 2nd doses.
Updated 1050 – Malta fares worse in corruption index
Malta continued to slide in corruption rankings, achieving the worst ever result in the Transparency International index. The country got 53 points, a decline of seven points from 2015. The organisation rates countries on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
The anti-corruption watchdog highlighted Malta as one of 22 countries that “significantly” worsened their scores in 2020. “With a score of 53, Malta is a significant decliner on the index, dropping seven points since 2015 and hitting a new all-time low,” the report said.
“Malta faces significant corruption challenges and suffers one of the steepest declines in the rule of law,” Transparency said.
Updated 0840 – Newspaper Review
The Malta Business Weekly speaks to the president of the association of catering establishments, Reuben Buttigieg, who said that five percent of businesses have closed down for good while another quarter are considering not re-opening at all.
Business Today says that associations representing operators in the tourism sector welcomed new measures to control the spread of Covid-19 announced on Wednesday but said that their success depends on enforcement.
The Times says that people travelling on the Gozo Channel ferry during Carnival week will be required to remain in their cars in the ship garage, a move meant to minimise the Covid-19 spread. Maritime lawyer Anne Fenech warned the rule is in breach of local and EU laws.
The Independent says that restaurants will now be required to close by 11pm while restrictions on bars have been extended until February. The tourism authority will also inspect accommodation establishments for overcrowding.
In-Nazzjon says that law enforcement officers will patrol popular Carnival localities in Gozo including Nadur, Xlendi, and Marsalforn to disperse crowds. Mass events related to the holiday have also been banned by the government.
L-Orizzont quotes Finance Minister Clyde Caruana who said that a new jobs market policy will be based on training, education, and productivity. The minister launched a consultation process with more than 200 stakeholders on the policy.
The Independent reports that Malta scored its lowest results on the 2020 Corruption Perception Index, falling to 53 points from 60 in 2015. Malta ranks 52nd among the 180 countries, at par with Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, Italy, and Grenada.
The Times quotes a man accusing two priests of sexually abusing him when he was eight who said that they used to give him money after the acts. The victim described how he started using drugs in his teens as a result of the abuse.
L-Orizzont follows the testimony of the victim in the Gozo priests sexual abuse case who said that he tried to commit suicide after the rape. The man, who is now 25 years old, told the court that he used to suffer from grave sadness.
In-Nazzjon quotes a report by the National Audit Office which says that Malta is paying €50 more for every megawatt produced by the Electrogas power station, compared with interconnector prices. The figure amounted to €10.1 million over a period of 18 months.
Business Today announces the launch of a new service by the communications authority that compares prices and costs of services on the market. The online tool will provide information about bundled services such as telephony, TV, and internet.
The Malta Business Weekly quotes retail business owner Theresa Bartolo Parnis who said that Sliema does not receive the attention it deserves in terms of planning and traffic management to fulfil its potential as a shopping destination.
Unions refuse to discuss shifting of mid-term holidays
Malta’s two Unions representing teachers strongly refused a proposal by the Prime Minister to shift mid-term holidays to a later date. In a statement, the MUT said that “it noted the restrictions that have just been announced by the Government for February so that it can curb the spread of Covid-19. In light of what the government suggested – that schools remain open for mid-term holidays – the MUT clarifies that it categorically does not agree with this suggestion and it is not ready to hold any discussions regarding the school calendar”.
The UPE also issued a strong rebuttal to the proposal: “The UPE opposes the postponement of carnival holidays from the agreed calendar. The Union is yet questioning what was agreed a few weeks ago between the MUT and the Government after the educator’s strike. The government has failed time and time again to deliver on its promises, such as for example, the publication of Covid-19 cases within schools,” the UPE said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the PM suggested that it would be good for schools to consider not having the mid-term holidays now and instead postponing them to a later date so as to avoid spreading the virus. Abela was speaking at a press conference during which he announced some minor modifications to existent restrictions, including the closure of restaurants at 11pm.
Health authorities reported 193 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, with 148 recoveries. These infections were identified from 3,323 swab tests.
The number of vaccine doses has increased to 22,371, of which 1,694 were second doses. Three patients died in the past 24 hours while Covid-19 positive. The victims were two men, aged 83 and 68 respectively, and an 86 year old woman.
Grand Harbour Oil rigs to be removed
Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said that oil rigs which have dominated the Grand Harbour view for years will be removed by the end of April following an agreement between Transport Malta and Palumbo Shipyard. The agreement comes weeks after environment ombudsman Alan Saliba intervened in the issue, following complaints by residents and activists.
Speaking at a press conference, Borg said the port authorities will be imposing a time limit on vessels undergoing repairs in Grand Harbour and they will clamp down on ship owners who unnecessarily allow their vessels to idle in the harbour.