Over-40s can register for vaccination from Friday / Malta News Briefing – Wednesday 21 April 2021

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People over 40 can register to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine from Friday, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced at a press conference on Wednesday. Fearne said by the end of the week Malta would have administered 300,000 first doses. The roll-out for over 50s began on 17 April. More than a third of those aged between 50 and 59 have already taken the first dose. Maltatoday

Latest Update- News Portal Briefing

Times of Malta reports that Brian Tonna told a parliamentary committee assessing the Electrogas deal that he did not carry out due diligence on its offer to build a power station, despite being involved in adjudicating bids for the public contract.

MaltaToday reports that Adreana Zammit has quit her role as a lawyer with Transport Malta in the wake of criticism that she was awarded lucrative contracts even before she graduated as a lawyer.

TVM reports that the European Court of Justice decided that the Prime Minister’s power to select candidates for the judiciary, selected for eligibility by an independent commission, does not breach the EU law.

Newsbook reports that there is no love lost between government whip Glenn Bedingfield and standards czar George Hyzler who did not mince his words in his reply to the outspoken MP’s accusations.

Newsbook reports that there is no love lost between government whip Glenn Bedingfield and standards czar George Hyzler who did not mince his words in his reply to the outspoken MP’s accusations.

Second round of vouchers expected soon after re-opening: Government is expected to issue the second round of COVID-19 vouchers within weeks of restaurants and cafes reopening their doors. Information on the island’s roadmap for easing restrictions were provided between the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) and government representatives.

Matthew Pace, spokesperson for ACE, said the organisation was told that although the cash vouchers might not be available on restaurants’ first day back, the government “hopes” to issue them “within weeks”. Pace said that he was not expecting Government to re-open restaurants before May 9, Mother’s Day.

Newspaper Review

The Times says that the Nationalist Party suffered an attack on its IT systems, with hackers threatening to publish stolen data unless their demands for payment are met within ten days. Party sources said that information posted on the dark web seems genuine.

Malta Today leads with a magisterial inquiry into a cyber-attack that stole sensitive information from the PN’s servers. The hackers behind the Avaddon ransomware published employee data to the dark web.

The Independent reveals that Alfred and George Degiorgio have filed a judicial protest challenging the decision by the Cabinet to reject their request for pardon in exchange for information on committed crimes.

In-Nazzjon says that Prime Minister Robert Abela declined to explain the Cabinet decision to turn down a pardon request by Alfred and George Degiorgio. The paper says a one-hour Cabinet meeting on Monday included a presentation by the Police Commissioner.

L-Orizzont says that public spending on Covid-19 assistance schemes for business and families rose to €3 million a day. Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said that government income from economic activity decreased by €2 million daily.

Malta Today quotes Finance Minister Clyde Caruana who revealed that the government deficit is this year expected to rise to 12 per cent but gave assurances that now no or increased taxes will be introduced.

The Independent says that government deficit is expected to rise to 65 per cent of GDP this year, up from 55 per cent in 2021. Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said that a total of €647 million have been spent to fight the pandemic.

The Times reports a meeting between the government and the Association of Catering Establishments. Restaurant and café owners were told that a voucher scheme will be issued shortly after the ban on catering places is lifted.

In-Nazzjon quotes the president of the Association of Catering Establishments, Reuben Buttigieg, who welcomed proposals by the PN to reduce the VAT rate on tourism sector services to seven per cent.

L-Orizzont reports on a European Court of Justice decision confirming that the appointment of new members of the judiciary by the government in 2019 was not in breach of Maltese or European law.

Morning Briefing

Degiorgios accuse Ministers of abuse of public authority

Alfred and George Degiorgio, two men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia have accused government ministers of an “abuse of public authority” following their refusual to grant a pardon request.

On Monday, the cabinet said it had advises President George Vella against granting Alfred and George Degiorgio immunity from the murder and other serious crimes. The Degiorgios had said that they would give details of the involvement of a former minister in the assassination and a sitting minister in a failed bank robbery.

Seed Fund award launched

A €100,000 TAKEOFF Seed Fund Award has been launched with the aim to enable next phase towards commercialisation of business and research ideas. Industry Minister Silvio Schembri said that Malta is driving forward a knowledge-based economy founded on research, creativity, innovation and the capabilities of the human intellect as means to elicit new areas of economic growth.

The TOSFA Award will be offering each applicant the opportunity to benefit from a grant varying between €5,000 and €25,000, which aims to enable researchers and entrepreneurs in taking the next phase towards commercialisation of their business and research ideas. In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry for the Economy and Industry and the University of Malta. The fund is further supported by the UM Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation (CEBI), Knowledge Transfer Office and TAKEOFF Business Incubator.

Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 cases were down to 13 on Tuesday, the lowest figure since last Summer.
With 62 recoveries, the number of active cases has gone down to 563. Two men died in the past 24 hours aged 57 and 81, taking the death toll up to 411.

Government registers € 1.3bn deficit

In 2020, Government registered a deficit of €1,300.2 million, equivalent to 10.1 per cent of GDP. The General Government debt amounted to €6,960.0 million or 54.3 per cent of GDP. The balance is calculated as the difference between total revenue (€4,677.8 million) and expenditure (€5,977.9 million) of General Government. When comparing 2020 to 2019, total revenue decreased by €378.1 million, while total expenditure increased by €972.1 million.

The fiscal results for 2020 were largely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government measures to mitigate the economic, social and health risks associated with the pandemic.