The Malta Independent 4 December 2021, Saturday

Covid-19: Restrictions to ease for fully vaccinated events, public transport from Monday

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 15 October 2021, 13:12 Last update: about 3 months ago

A number of Covid-19 restrictive measures are to be eased as from Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne announced.

The Covid-19 situation remains under control, Fearne said. He said that since the Covid situation is under control, and a high number of booster doses are being taken up by those eligible, "we can continue with the gradual easing of restrictive measures."

A number of measures will be eased for large events and weddings that only allow fully vaccinated people to attend as from Monday, 18 October. These are:

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- Children under the age of 12 accompanying vaccinated adults to such events currently need to provide a negative PCR test. This will no longer be the case.

- Up until now, such events were only allowed to have six people seated per table. From Monday, this will rise to 8 people.

- In terms of table spacing, for events held outside, the required distance between tables will reduce from 2m to 1m and inside from 2m to 1.5m.

- In terms of seated events, until now they either had to see a 2m distance between each seat or, if using a 1m distance the number of people was capped at 100. As from Monday, for such seated events, (including theatres and cinemas that are choosing to only allow fully vaccinated individuals), this capping will rise to 300 people when only 1m apart.

He said that a test event which saw nearly no restrictions used took place, and he expects to have the results, in terms of the Covid situation among attendees, by the end of the week. This would permit the health authorities to look at the restrictions tied to Christmas period, the Pantomime season and weddings.

Another restriction being eased is tied to the public transport sector. Up until now, such vehicles, including ferries, were not able to carry more than 65% capacity in terms of passengers. From Monday this will rise to 80%.

Travel

Fearne also spoke about international travel.

"Over the past weeks we had been classifying countries according to a traffic light system, whether they are on the red list or dark red list for example, and we were paying attention to countries where the Mu variant was present. It seems that this variant, even according to the World Health Organisation, while remaining a variant of interest is no longer considered as a variant of concern."

He said that the health authorities will be removing the criteria of the incidence of the Mu variant when it comes to deciding if a country is listed as red or dark red. This means that in the coming days - given that the travel list is updated weekly - a number of countries (especially in South America) will move from the dark red list to the red list, he said, meaning that it would facilitate travel to and from those countries.

He said that there seems to be a high number of new Covid cases in certain countries in Eastern Europe. For example, Russia on Thursday reported the highest number of deaths in a single day since the start of the pandemic, he said.

"So it could be the case that certain countries, especially in Eastern Europe, would move from the red list onto the dark red list. The list is updated once a week, normally at the beginning of the week, and the effects enter into force after five days from the announcement giving people the chance to change their plans."

The government is now recognising vaccine certificates from four new countries: Armenia, Moldova, Iraq and South Korea.

In terms of the flu jab, invites will not be sent out, but it will start being offered from 25 October as per usual at health centres. For the first three weeks it will only be available to people aged 55+, those with chronic medical illness and people who live in institutions. It will also be offered to children under the age of 12 in those first three weeks since they cannot take the Covid vaccine. Weekends would be reserved for these children to take the flu vaccine, which would be in the form of a spray.

During the press conference, Fearne went over the budgetary measures for the health sector that were recently announced. He called the budget allocated to this sector this year, a "record sum of €972 million."

He said recurrent expenditure will amount to €897 million. This will be spent on wages of healthcare professionals, services provided, medicines etc. he said. €75 million will be allocated for capital expenditure.

He mentioned a number of the proposed measures. He said that work for a new acute psychiatric hospital is ongoing, the designs will be published in 2022 and work on the planning process will then proceed. The government is also working on a call for offers for a temporary acute psychiatric hospital which will operate until the new hospital is built, for around four years, he said. The tender is currently being written up before it is issued.

He also mentioned that the government is working on a Pandemic Reserve, which would be a location reserved for pandemic situations and would allow services at Mater Dei Hospital to continue unhindered in such situations.

Another capital project is a new outpatients block which will rise six storeys. Tenders will be issued and next year excavation of five storeys, allowing for a new underground car park, will begin.

He also said that the government will be expanding on the list of medicines available on the government's formulary.

 

 


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