Malta | More COVID-19 restrictions to be eased shortly – Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne

Maltese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health insists masks have to continue being worn to relax rules.

The Maltese government is set to unveil its plan for the relaxation of more COVID-19 measures “in the coming days”, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Dr Chris Fearne announced on Tuesday.

He was speaking during a press conference from Mount Carmel Hospital, ahead of the opening of a new ward on Wednesday.

Although he provided no details on the next phase in the country’s reopening as infections continue to drop, Dr Fearne assured that the government would be unveiling its plan to further ease public health measures soon.

“The number [of new cases] has remained low and so, as things stand, we will be reopening certain sectors as planned on Monday. Then, in the coming days, we will announce more easing of measures,” Dr Fearne said.

Restaurants and cafes, which have been shuttered since March, are set to reopen their doors on Monday, although they can only serve patrons until 5pm. Bars and clubs are to remain shut for now.

Travel to Gozo will also not be restricted while non-contact sports will resume.

Restrictions that remain in place include mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing rules, limits on the size of public and private gatherings and mandatory standards for several sectors and activities.

Masks remain important

The government has yet to say which measures are likely to be the next to be lifted, although the health authorities have repeatedly said mandatory mask-wearing will continue for a while longer.

US and EU authorities have both said that mandatory mask-wearing rules can be relaxed in some cases for fully-vaccinated people.

The majority of people have yet to be fully vaccinated, however, and Dr Fearne said health authorities had been able to lift some restrictions only because other mitigation measures, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, are still in place.

55% of adults have received one vaccine dose

Meanwhile, Dr Fearne would not say whether the targets for herd immunity were being pushed forward, as the health authorities are speeding through the vaccine rollout.

Dr Fearne has previously said that Malta is aiming to have fully vaccinated 70 per cent of adults by June, with every adult offered a vaccine by mid-August.

So far, 55 per cent of adults have had a single vaccine dose while more than 25% have had both doses. On Tuesday, those aged over 30 became eligible to register for the vaccine. Dr Fearne urged those eligible to register to get the jab.

Later on this week, the health authorities will start administering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The use of this jab is expected to further speed up the process since only one dose is required.

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