Carnival Stock – Malta tightens restaurant closing times to curb COVID-19 infections
VALLETTA, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Malta on Wednesday cancelled carnival events and imposed an 11 p.m. closing time on restaurants to contain the spread of COVID-19, although Prime Minister Robert Abela said there would be no lockdown or curfew.
Speaking at a news conference with Health Minister Chris Fearne, Abela said a surge of cases in January had been the result of gatherings over Christmas and the New Year.
“February is a particular time with many enjoying carnival and mid-term holidays. We are asking people to be responsible and businesses to make some sacrifices,” Abela said.
Police and other law enforcement officers will have a stronger presence in the streets and crack down on large gatherings in rented premises.
Malta has managed to control the virus largely through a “soap and bubble” policy, encouraging people to wash their hands frequently and confine their contacts to a bubble of only a few people.
The island has not imposed a lockdown and Abela said that, compared to other Europeans, Maltese were “living in a paradise”.
Restaurants, schools and most businesses remain open but bars and clubs were closed before Christmas and remain shut. The wearing of masks is mandatory.
Travel from high-risk countries is banned and other arrivals are required to produce a negative virus test on arrival.
The island currently tops the EU list of per capita coronavirus vaccinations, and hopes to vaccinate 70% of the population by the summer.
The government is providing financial compensation to bars and clubs, and will also issue a second round of 100 euro shopping vouchers to everyone over 16 once it is safe enough for people to go out and mix. (Editing by Kevin Liffey )