Minister defends tourism re-opening strategy / Malta News Briefing – Wednesday 21 July 2021

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Covid-19 Update: 199 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Wednesday, along 30 recoveries. These were identified through 3,976 swab tests. 15 patients are currently hospitalised, one of them in ITU.

Party veterans expected to make way in further shakeup of PN – reports: The Times of Malta reveals that a further shake-up within the PN ranks is expected, with party veterans Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Alex Perici Calascione not re-contesting the posts of president of the executive and administrative councils respectively. Citing party sources, the paper claims that MZPN President Joe Grech, a lawyer, is being touted to take over the presidency of the Executive, while Graham Bencini is expected to head the administrative council.

Minister defends tourism re-opening strategy: Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said that the decision to impose quarantine on unvaccinated incoming travellers could not have been introduced earlier because of EU commitments. Defending the government’s tourism reopening strategy in as Covid-19 increased, Bartolo said the government will continue with its tourism recovery plan but adjust it in response to the pandemic. “We will continue with the recovery plan and adjust it accordingly. When we took the decision to accept vaccinated tourists we wanted to prioritise health over tourism. This led to cancellations in the case of tourists who were expected to arrive in this period but it also encouraged those who are booked in the coming months to take the vaccine,” the Tourism Minister argued.

Update 0840Newspaper Review

Malta Today reports on plans by the Health Ministry to issue unique codes for visitors who do not have a Maltese ID number to be able to download the vaccine certificate after they take the jab.

The Independent asks Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo about Malta’s return to the ECDC red-list for rising Covid-19 cases. The minister said that the decision should not affect the tourism sector because the country has a high rate of vaccinations.

The Times says that six in ten active coronavirus patients are non-residents in Malta with students at English language schools making a quarter of total cases. The Ministry of Health noted a high share of infections among teenagers.

L-Orizzont says that the police have launched an investigation into a physical gang attack on a black homeless person in Swatar. The attackers fled the scene when the victim was left motionless on the street and a couple of witnesses called an ambulance for help.

In-Nazzjon quotes PN Leader Bernard Grech that young people as the agents of change. In a meeting with the new University Students Council, Grech said that students need to strike the right balance between education and university life.

The Independent quotes Finance Minister Clyde Caruana that Malta will make its case to the international community about the new tax plans agreed by the OECD and the G20. More than 130 countries agreed to set a 15 per cent minimum rate for multinationals.

The Times follows the testimony in court of state witness Melvin Theuma about the HSBC heist in 2010. Theuma told the court that he found Darren Debono covered in blood at the apartment he rented him and had only later heard about the attempted robbery.

Malta Today quotes the latest EU rule of law report flagging inefficiencies in Malta’s judicial system and advising a larger bench and better use of digital tools. The report also notes efforts to depoliticise the appointment of the Chief Justice.

In-Nazzjon says that the tourism authority has repatriated dozens of students learning English in Malta to Italy, Spain, Germany, and France. The paper reports that other countries are disappointed by the government’s unilateral decision.

L-Orizzont says that the teachers’ unions are still in the dark about the new scholastic year, expected to open in September. A representative of one of the unions said that the Education Ministry is waiting for advice from health authorities. 

Morning Briefing

Mixed reactions on rule of law in Malta in new EC report

In a country report on the rule of law in Malta, the European Commission noted that the reforms of 2020, in particular the reform of the system of judicial appointments and of judicial discipline, have contributed to strengthening the independence of the Maltese justice system. Steps have been taken to depoliticise the appointment of the Chief Justice, while certain aspects of this procedure require further attention. On the other hand, the report noted that more was required on media freedom, noting that journalists still face obstacles when requesting access to information held by public authorities as well as in the exercise of their profession more generally. Amendments to Malta’s Broadcasting Act have not introduced any changes which would enhance the Broadcasting Authority’s effective independence.

Minister for the Elderly hospitalised

Minister for the Elderly Michael Farrugia has been admitted to hospital, two days after contracting Covid-19. Government said that the Minister, who is a doctor by profession, was admitted to Mater Dei following tests earlier on Tuesday and is currently being held under observation.

Red zone won’t impact tourism – Minister

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said that Malta being placed on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s (ECDC) red list will not have direct consequences on the country’s tourism industry. The move by the ECDC was triggered by the recent spike in coronavirus cases. A few hours after this decision, Lithuania re-impose quarantine restrictions on people entering the country from Malta. “Malta was not the only country whose status changed last week. The fact that as a country we are on the red list does not have direct consequences on our tourism sector, because we already decided that every visiting tourist has to be vaccinated, with exceptions for children”, Bartolo explained.

Malta registered 217 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. There were 3 recoveries. The current number of active cases is 2177. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Malta had 32,833 cases. There 4,091 swab tests in the previous day. From the 146 cases reported on Monday, there were 97 which were 10-39, with the average age being 28.

CDE News