The Malta Independent 19 May 2022, Thursday

Updated: Covid exit roadmap, easing restrictions, to be announced in coming days - Fearne

Neil Camilleri & Shona Berger Saturday, 22 January 2022, 12:35 Last update: about 5 months ago

As Malta approaches a point where 75% of the adult population will have received the Covid-19 booster, the health authorities are drawing up an exit roadmap to continue removing restrictions and to return towards normality, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne has told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The health minister said the details of the roadmap will be announced in the coming days.

Fearne said that, “as practically all new Covid cases in Malta are now of the Omicron variant, the booster dose is evidently important to limit the incidence of serious complications and to keep hospitalisations low”.

A set of new Covid-19 rules came into force on 17 January. People are currently required to have a valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate to enter a number of establishments, including bars, clubs or każini, restaurants, snack bars, cinemas, theatres, casinos, bingo halls or gaming parlours, sports events, gyms or fitness centres, public swimming pools, spas and saunas, organised mass events and exhibitions.

Establishments or event organisers, who are caught not following the new regulations, are liable to a €500 fine for every breach.

Inside the mentioned establishments, masks are to be worn at all times and can only be removed when seated for eating and drinking. No standing events are allowed. Staff working in direct contact with patrons also need to be vaccinated. However, they have been given a grace period up to 1 February to come in line with the requirements. Staff members not in direct contact are exempted from providing a vaccination certificate.

The two-metre distancing between tables in restaurants and bars has been reduced to the minimum standards established through their respective establishment licenses.

Mask-wearing regulations have also been eased. People in groups of not more than two, who have taken the booster shot, no longer need to wear a mask while outside.

Meanwhile, an exemption is in place for people who have recently recovered from Covid-19 and therefore were unable to get the third jab.

Those aged between 12 and 17 years are currently ineligible for the booster and therefore only need to show the two-dose certificate, while those under the age of 12 are exempted from showing any certificate.

People who did not take the vaccine due to medical reasons are also exempted as long as they have a doctor’s certificate and an exemption issued from the public health authorities. Women who are in their first trimester of pregnancy are also exempted.

 

‘Covid-19 vaccine certificates prevented GPD losses’ – report

Over the past few weeks, government received heavy criticism, particularly from the catering industry, on the vaccine certificate requirement for both patrons and staff. The Deputy Prime Minister, however, referred to a recent study on the health and economic benefits of the vaccine certificate requirement in some European countries.  

The study, published by the Economic Analysis Council, shows that the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine certificate in countries such as Germany, France and Italy has proven to have positive effects.

The announcement of Covid-19 vaccine certificates prevented gross domestic product losses of €6bn in France, €1.4bn in Germany and €2.1bn in Italy, the study found.

Research also indicates that people are keener to take the vaccine against the Covid-19 virus. In turn, this is preventing the public from spreading the disease, thus being physically healthy and able to go to catering establishments.

The study also showed that the Covid-19 vaccine certificates led to increased vaccine uptake in France of 13% of the population until the end of 2021, in Germany 6.2% and in Italy 9.7%.

 

‘Requirement of Covid certificate to enter establishments saved thousands of lives’

Meanwhile, the restriction which requires people to present a valid vaccination certificate upon entry to establishments, such as restaurants, saved the lives of thousands, according to the study. It noted that such a restriction averted an additional 3,979 deaths in France, 1,133 in Germany and 1,331 in Italy.

The application of Covid vaccine certificates also substantially reduced the pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) and, in France, averted surpassing the occupancy levels where prior lockdowns were instated, the study read.

 

‘Covid-19 certificates may have prevented lockdowns’

The study also found that, by increasing the vaccine uptake and reducing the pressure on ICUs, the vaccine certificate requirement reduced the likelihood of stricter public measures, including lockdowns.

The study excludes the effects of the first lockdowns. However, it highlights that in France, the number of Covid19 patients in ICUs per million was 44.9 when the second lockdown was announced (28 October 2020) and 74.8 when the third lockdown was announced (31 March 2021).

In Germany, it was 54.3 (second lockdown, 13 December 2020), in Italy 53 (second lockdown, 12 December 2020) and 60.2 (third lockdown, 27 March 2021).

By the end of 2021, in France, the number of Covid19 patients in ICUs was 52.4 per million. The study estimated it would have been 76.1 (72.478.3) without the introduction of Covid certificates.

According to the study, the policy intervention may thus have been instrumental in preventing the high pressure on ICUs that prompted previous lockdowns.

By contrast, the additional vaccine uptake in Germany was not sufficient to avert high pressure on ICUs. Consequently, more stringent measures were adopted. Covid-19 certificates have not played a decisive role in Italy during the period under investigation, as the pressure on ICUs would have remained at low levels even without the policy intervention, the study said.

 

 

 

 

 

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