The government has announced the relaxation of further Covid-19 measures as from Friday 22 May, explaining that restaurants, hair salons and beauticians will be allowed to reopen.
In a press conference tonight, Prime Minister Robert Abela, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne and Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci announced a number of restrictions that will be eased, and that the maximum number of people allowed in a group will rise to six on Friday.
This was announced while appealing for people to adhere to social distancing rules, and stressing that the Health Authorities will be issuing protocols regarding the relaxed measures that should be adhered to.
As from Friday, a number of healthcare services will start being offered again. When the pandemic first hit, a number of services were stopped in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. As from Friday, the diabetic’s clinic, cardiology clinic and the well-baby clinics will reopen.
A number of local clinics will also be reopened, he said, while adding that mental healthcare in the community will be expanded.
At Mater Dei Hospital, the government will increase outpatients services and continue to increase the Imaging Department services and non-urgent operations, such as hip replacements, eye operations, and gynaecology operations. The government will also re-launch the IVF service at Mater Dei Hospital.
As for cultural activities, the Deputy Prime Minister announced that there will be the opportunity for open-air cinemas to operate, should there be anyone who wants to take up such an initiative. This however, will come with certain restrictions, including that people would need to be 2m apart.
Turning to sports, Deputy Prime Minister Fearne said that individual non-contact sports will be allowed to resume, and include sports like diving and tennis. A list will be published in the coming days. He also said that people will be able to train in a maximum group of six outdoors.
The Minister said that when it comes to funeral masses, they can start taking place as from Friday, and said that the Curia will issue guidelines regarding the number of people allowed to attend and where they can take place.
Regarding restaurants, the minister highlighted that tables will be allowed to seat a maximum of six people, and tables would need to be a certain distance from one another. He also said that it would be preferable for restaurants that have outdoor seating to make use of it.
Regarding hairdressers, beauticians, barbers and nail technicians, they will be allowed to reopen but there will also be certain restrictions imposed. As an example the health superintendent said that the number of people allowed in the room should be limited, and that the protocol that will be issued will push for an appointment systems. It was also recommended that both employees and clients should wear masks or visors. Seats in such establishments, The Superintendent of Public Health added, should be 2m apart and where not possible, Perspex could be installed.
During the conference, the Superintendent also addressed people wanting to go and swim. She said that people can go to beaches, but are urged to keep 2m apart from people they are not normally with. She said that outdoor pools will be opened, however will accept a limited number of people.
Gauci also said that hotels will be able to open and a protocol was drawn up in terms of how they can operate, but the airport will not open.
She also said that open markets can also open.
During the press conference, Prime Minister Robert Abela said that “today” they are celebrating the country’s success, “the success of a united people and a nation that faced an unprecedented crisis.”
He spoke of the difficulty the country faced, and how many countries were brought to their knees by the pandemic. This, he said, did not happen to Malta as the country was prepared and acted before the pandemic reached our shores.
The Prime Minister stressed that the measures being relaxed are being done so based on scientific and medical advice.
He insisted that a national emergency should not become normal. “We are strong enough to never accept an emergency becoming the normal. That restaurants would be closed, people be stuck at home, not going to work… that is not a normality that gives people quality of life. People are designed to celebrate life.”
He also stressed that the measures being announced are not related to a compromise between the economy and public health. “We don’t need to compromise as the situation is not that.”
Abela stressed the low rate of active cases, and how in the absolute majority of virus cases people showed slight or no symptoms, and that most recovered in their own homes.
He said it would not make sense to keep the country closed in the context of the above.
“We are a responsible government that takes decisions on reason.”
The principles taking the government forward, he said, are balance and reason.
“On 7 March we had a reality and today, the reality is different. It would not be prudent to say everything has passed. We need to be cautious.”
The Prime Minister highlighted that education will lead the way forward, rather than fines, but did not say that they will be eradicated. He said that this does not mean enforcement will be eliminated.
“When I speak about education, it is better to educate. When one educates, the project will be a national one. The success in overcoming the pandemic is not because people are afraid, but because they passed the message that they should follow the recommendations of the health authorities.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne spoke about the situation on 7 March, and how the healthcare systems in countries around Malta were failing.
“That day we said that in order to protect the lives of our people, what could have been a tsunami, we wanted to change into a river. Now, weeks later, it seems that we succeeded.”
He said that the large amount of cases that were seen abroad on 7 March, till today, seem to have been kept away.
He said that the government understands they cannot delay for businesses, but also cannot rush as the virus is still present, and basing on science will move forward. He said that the government needs to keep its eyes open not to stumble now that “we are coming down.”
Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci also reiterated that the measures being relaxed are being done so on a scientific and medical basis. She said that mitigation measures that will be introduced alongside the relaxed measures must be followed.
Regarding childcare centres, it was announced that thee will likely be reopened in the next set of announcements.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister had indicated that this week hairdressers and restaurants will reopen, and it has now been announced.
Last Friday, Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli had said that today will see further measures relaxed.