Malta tightens COVID restrictions to prevent Easter surge

VALLETTA (Reuters) – Malta limited the number of people who can meet in public spaces to two on Sunday as it seeks to prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases over Easter.

FILE PHOTO: People walk out of the main entrance to Valletta in Valletta, Malta March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Prime Minister Robert Abela said measures introduced earlier in March, including the closing of schools and restaurants, had proven effective, but although the number of new cases has been going down, this was not the time to ease restrictions.

He said fines for those disobeying the rule were being raised to 300 euros ($353.88) per person from 100 euros.

The rule does not apply to members of the same household.

The island had previously allowed up to four people from different households to meet.

Abela also said that all travellers to Malta will, from Monday, be required to produce a negative test result for the virus taken not more than 72 hours before departure.

People who turn up without a test result will be tested on arrival. Those who refuse, or test positive, will be put in quarantine.

Malta, an island of 500,000, saw a record 510 new COVID-19 cases on March 10, but numbers have since come down consistently, with the health ministry reporting just 67 new cases on Sunday and the lowest number of active cases this year at 1,402.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said in a tweet on Saturday that 30% of Malta’s adult population had received a first jab of the COVID vaccine and between 12% and 13% had received the second one, putting Malta at the head of vaccinations in the European Union.

($1 = 0.8477 euros)

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