No more outside masks for people with booster / Death toll reaches 500 / Malta News Briefing – Thursday 13 January 2022

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No more outside masks for people with booster: Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that as from Monday, people who have taken the booster, who are alone or in groups of two will be able to remove their mask in public. The health minister said the measure was being lifted because 70 per cent of the population will have received the booster.  Also, recently-infected people will receive a respite from new regulations coming into force on Monday. Health Minister Chris Fearne said that those who are unable to take the booster having recently recovered from Covid-19, will be granted a six-week exemption from the new vaccine certificate rules. From Monday, a vaccine certificate will be mandatory for entry into restaurants, bars and other venues as well as for travel into the country.

Doctors support mandatory Covid-pass for outlets: The Medical Association of Malta has supported the mandatory COVID vaccine pass for outlets until herd immunity is reached, arguing that it is too early to withdraw new rules that require a valid vaccination certificate to visit various establishments. In a statement today, doctors insisted that rules coming in on Monday should stay in place until 85% of the population is vaccinated with the booster dose. The organisation’s president Martin Balzan said that “once we reach 85% vaccination rate, the focus should then shift on being more stringent at our borders”.

Covid-19 Update: Malta’s Covid-19 death tally reached the 500-mark after four persons passed away over the past 24 hours. They were aged between 71 and 93. 462 new cases were reported, with 1261 recoveries, meaning an active case tally of 12,301.

Morning Briefing

PN takes stand against mandatory vaccine for access of venues

The Nationalist Party is calling on the government to withdraw the measures that will be introduced on January 17, which will effectively make the vaccine booster mandatory. Considering that more than two thirds of the country has already taken the booster and Omicron is becoming the dominant breed in Malta, the PN said in a statement on Wednesday that it believes that the measures no longer strike the right balance between health and the freedoms of the people. While the PN fully supports the advice of health professionals to get the vaccine and the booster – both for reasons of personal safety and public health – the party also believes in the rights of people making the decision for themselves, especially in the changing context of the pandemic. The PN said that it is confident that when given the right information, people will be responsible in their choices and attitudes, while being more respectful of others, especially those who are vulnerable. (netnews.com.mt)

Sliema murder suspect to be arraigned

Sliema murder suspect Abner Aquilina is expected to be arraigned in the next few hours, after he was released from Mount Carmel Hospital yesterday. Aquilina returned to a state of arrest, suspected of murdering Paulina Dembska on 2 January. An autopsy had confirmed that she had been raped and strangled. The investigation has confirmed that this was a random killing, with no known link between victim and suspect. According to media reports, which quoted sources close to the investigations, Aquilina confessed to the murder of the Polish national on two occasions – first after he was restrained by a group of men inside the Balluta church shortly after the crime, and then during the police interrogation. Aquilina had been taken to the police headquarters for questioning but a mental health specialist was brought in when he made the demonic claims. (The Malta Independent)

Unions push for clarity on possible mandatory vaccination

The Unions are pushing for clarity after indications emerged that Government was considering making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for workers in specific sectors. In a statement, the Forum Unions Maltin asked for a meeting of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development to discuss the issue, saying that rumours were that mandatory vaccination was being considered for the health and hospitality industries. While the Forum has taken a wait-and-see approach, the teachers’ union (MUT) which is an affiliate of Forum, has already voiced its disagreement: “the union has presented its objections from the onset of the vaccination programme, and whilst it has worked for its members to have access to vaccinations, it shall remain against any measure to enforce vaccinations of categories of employees,” the MUT said. (Maltatoday)

Caterers lament loss of non-vaccinated staff

Restaurant owners have asked authorities to reconsider health measures coming into force next week, saying that losing non-vaccinated staff could spell the death of the catering industry. “Losing non-vaccinated staff is not an option,” the Association of Catering Establishments said in a statement, referring to the measure that will allow only vaccinated people into bars and restaurants from next Monday. The industry is already reeling by significant absenteeism related to Covid-19 and quarantine. With less than a week before the measures start, the ACE is calling on the Superintendence of Public Health to be “reasonable, to keep in mind the challenges the industry is facing and reconsider the measures proposed”. (Times of Malta)

Covid-19 update
There was a slight rise in Covid-19 cases, as 673 people were found to be positive. Recoveries reached 1179 as 116 people are in hospital battling Covid-19. Nine of these people are in the ITU. During the last 24 hours, 3 men aged 77, 87 and 88 and an 86-year-old woman died.

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