Maltese authorities have begun partially easing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in place as of Monday, May 4, across the country.
Authorities announced the immediate reopening of most shops including lottery outlets, VRT testing stations, various retail stores, jewellery stores, cosmetic stores, home décor shops, souvenir shops, discount stores, florists, tailors, and furniture shops. According to reports, hairdressers and beauticians will remain closed for at least three further weeks, as will restaurants, cafes, museums, and tourist sites. Schools, educational institutions, and childcare centers will also remain closed.
Social distancing and hygiene measures will be required in these establishments including enabling a 2 m (6.74 ft) distance for queuing, limiting the number of customers allowed inside, ensuring hand sanitizer is made available to those going into and out of shops, and closing all changing rooms. Individuals are also required to wear face-masks in public and on public transportation.
Health centers will also be reopened and will be able to resume vaccination services, a service which has reportedly only been available in Mosta and Floriana (COVID-19 vaccinations not yet available).
Individuals will also be able to travel between Malta and Gozo; there will be a limited capacity for cars/people on the Gozo Channel boats, in order to maintain social distancing measures.
Restrictions to public gatherings have also been changed with up to four people allowed to gather in a group in public (unless all members of the same household). Social distancing measures should continue to be exercised and individuals found to be violating the public gathering measures may be fined.
Authorities stated that those over 65 or classified as medically vulnerable amid the COVID-19 outbreak are encouraged to continue to remain in their homes and only leave them for essential reasons such as food and medical services.
Malta International Airport (MLA) will also remain closed except for cargo and repatriation flights.
As of May 4, there have been 480 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four associated fatalities in Malta. Further international spread of the virus should be expected in the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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