The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

Government maps out reopening plan: gyms to open on 24 May, bars to open on 7 June

Thursday, 6 May 2021, 09:44 Last update: about 2 months ago

The government has unveiled its plan regarding when Covid measures will be relaxed over the coming weeks, with restaurants set to open as planned on Monday, and a new timeline culminating with the reopening of bars amongst others on 7 June.

The relaxation of measures will, of course, depend on the Covid situation and numbers and the government did not exclude restricting measures should Covid numbers rise.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne and Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci addressed a press conference where they unveiled what measures are planned to be relaxed on what days.

ADVERTISEMENT

The relaxation timeline is as follows:

From 10 May

Professional sports athletes can resume training for international competitions

Non-contact sports can resume

Extra-curricular activities like arts and dance schools can resume

Open air markets can reopen

Travel between Malta and Gozo resumes without restrictions

Restaurants and snack bars will be able to reopen until 5pm. Not more than four people will be allowed per table.

Further guidelines for 10 May

Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci gave more of a breakdown regarding the measured being relaxed on 10 May.

She said that what is being relaxed on this day can be divided in three:

Recreational or amateur level non-contact sport

The number of people who can be together remains limited to 4. Masks must be worn at all times except during high intensity physical activity. No competitions or spectators are allowed.

Organised non-contact sports

Maximum number of people in a group is 4. There needs to be separation between such groups of 3m indoors or 2.5m outdoors. People cannot share equipment. The number of people allowed per venue will be 1 person per 20sqm. Competitions and leagues are not allowed neither are spectators. Only essential people are allowed within venues. Masks must be used except during high level physical activity.

High-level, professional and elite sport

This is the only exception within which contact sport will be allowed during this phase as it is more risky. It will only be allowed for those representing Malta, and in cases where it is absolutely necessary for these athletes to continue with their training and competitions. In these circumstances they must apply with Sport Malta to have permission. Standards will apply, including a maximum of three people being together. There needs to be separation between such groups of 3m indoors or 2.5m outdoors. The number of people allowed per venue will be 1 person per 20sqm. Team sport can only be practiced if they fall within this group. For competitions, Sport Malta must be informed. Spectators are not allowed and only essential people are allowed in venues.

Body temperature checks must be made, hand sanitizer must be used. Showers and Changing rooms cannot be used.

Restaurants, snack bars and kiosks

People must be seated. They can open for seated customers until 5pm. Between 5pm and midnight, they can only operate take-aways or deliveries. Hotels can continue with room service. All must close between midnight and 5am. The use of masks is important, except when seated to eat. No buffets, no self-service dispensers and bar service are allowed. Tables must be 2m apart. A maximum of 4 people are allowed per table, unless they are from the same household. Menus must be single use or will be placed under glass. If alcohol is served, it must be served with food.

Extra-curricular and arts education

Practicals can start on site. As was done in schools, a liaison officer will be assigned from every school to help with contact tracing. Parents or other people must not be in the school. The use of masks is important as is hand sanitization. Bubbles must be kept. The maximum capacity is 1 person per 6 sqm.

Open markets

Hawkers and customers must always wear masks. 2m distance between people must be kept. Hawkers must serve customers from behind the counter. Perspex will be placed between stalls and the number of people in front of a stall is limited to 4. Hand sanitizers must be present.

Gozo ferry

The ferry can only take on half its maximum capacity.

From 17 May

Government will announce changes in protocols for Elderly care homes to allow more visitors for this date.

From 24 May

Restaurants and snack bars would be able to remain open until midnight

Pools will be able to reopen until 8pm, but no activities not tied to swimming will be allowed

Gyms would be able to reopen with a number of protocols, classes will not be allowed

Day centres will reopen

Contact sports training (not team sports) for people aged 17 years and above can resume. In addition, non-contact sports competitions will resume without spectators.

From 1 June

Proactively open the country for tourism cautiously, bringing in tourists who had the vaccine or who had a negative test prior to starting their travels to Malta. Fearne said that this would mean safety for the crews on planes as well as for the other passengers.

Weddings would be able to resume with up to 100 people indoors or 300 people outdoors, with protocols.

English language teaching schools will reopen.

The wearing of face-masks on beaches will stop being enforced.

From 7 June

Restaurants and snack bars will be able to have up to 6 people per table

Cinemas and theatres will reopen

Bars and band clubs (kazini) can reopen

Contact sports and competitions for team sports for people aged 17+ can resume without spectators

Gaming and betting outlets can reopen

From 28 June

Contact sports for those younger than 17 will resume

Summer schools will reopen.

Covid and the Vaccine certificates

Fearne stressed that this plan will depend on the Covid numbers.

Regarding travel, Fearne said that to travel to Malta, tourists will need a vaccine certificate or a negative test result before coming to Malta. With regards to travel for Maltese people, the government is working to, in the coming weeks, have the possibility of issuing the vaccine certificates for those who took the full vaccination (both doses of all vaccoine, bar the Johnson and Johnson which requires a single dose), so that those who have been vaccinated can come back to Malta without restrictions. The government is also in talks with other countries to recognise Malta's vaccination certificates, in order for there not to be restrictions on their end.

He said that the government is currently holding internal discussions to see if the vaccine certificate can eventually be applied for use in other circumstances, such as during activities which allow for a larger number of people to be gathered.  "Currently the number of people allowed to be in a group is restricted and eventually, not in the time period mentioned above but possibly sometime after that, the country might reach a point where it can allow activities for larger numbers of people. It could be the case that such activities would only be able to allow people with a vaccine certificate to attend," Fearne said, mentioning spectators for sporting events as an example.

He urged everyone to take the vaccine when they are able to.

Mass events, he said, will not be allowed at the beginning of summer and the government wants to see how the pandemic situation will develop in the country and the vaccination process progression before taking a decision on that, stressing that the government is being cautious.

He said that the government will be discussing with the Curia and enthusiasts regarding feasts, to see what will happen in the future.

Regarding masks, he said that the use of masks is very important and protects people from the virus. Eventually, the use of masks requirement will be able to be relaxed, he said, but right now it remains essential.

No plans for mass events being discussed

After the press conference, Fearne opened up to questions from the media. Topics with regards to certain clarifications of relaxation measures, vouchers and vaccine effectiveness among others were discussed. 

With regards to mask wearing, the measure will remain in place for the near future with Fearne saying that  “the mandatory use of masks makes it possible for other measures to be relaxed”. 

The use of masks at beaches will remain recommended however will not be enforced by law. “A wet mask is an ineffective mask” Fearne said in order to emphasise the point. 

When questioned about certain party organisers promoting events in summer, Fearne said that “the sale and promotion of these events are not being done with the authority of the health authorities. We cannot stop anyone from selling tickets but there are no talks about the reopening of mass events.” 

With regards to the stimulus vouchers and when they may be given out, Fearne said that “now that we have the timeline as to how measures will be relaxed, in the coming days the Economy Minister can say when they will be put in use”. 

With regards to the vaccines, The Malta Independent asked both Fearne and Gauci regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine when one tests positive close to being given the vaccine. 

When someone is administered the vaccine while unknowingly being Covid-19 positive or when someone contracts Covid-19 a few days after being given the vaccine, there is no negative effect on the person. There is also no effect on the effectiveness of the vaccine, they said. 

Gauci also confirmed that there is no effect on breastfeeding mothers who receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

Recently in Canada, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine would start being administered to children aged 12 and upwards. In response to this Fearne reconfirmed that only once the vaccine is approved by the EMA will Malta start using it to vaccinate children. 

If the EMA approves the vaccine for that cohort, Fearne said that “Malta has more than enough vaccines to do so without any difficulty” 

 

All measures which were not mentioned in today’s press conference will remain as is. As a final appeal Fearne insisted that only through more vaccinations more measures can be lifted.

 

 

  • don't miss