Malta becomes Europe’ first to ban unvaccinated tourists

Malta becomes Europe’ first to ban unvaccinated tourists

English language schools in the country will close from 14 July due to the spike in Covid-19 cases among foreign students

As of Wednesday, 14 July, only incoming travellers who present an authorised vaccine certificate will be allowed into Malta. Children aged between 5 and 12 need to present a negative PCR test. Children who are under the age of 5 would be exempted. All children must be accompanied by an adult in possession of a recognized vaccine certificate.

These succinct restrictions which took tourist markets by surprise, were announced on Friday by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chis Fearne and the Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci.

Full vaccination required for outbound travellers, too

During the press conference, Fearne admitted that Malta becomes the first country in Europe to take the step of accepting only fully vaccinated travellers. He added, in response to questions, that the change will also apply to unvaccinated local residents exiting the country, who would need to request permission from the Superintendence of Public Health, regardless of the reason of their trip abroad.    

Other parts of Malta’s reopening plan remain unchanged for now but the government keeps watch on how the health situation evolves, Fearne pointed out, according to the Times of Malta.

Apart from local vaccine certificates and the EU Digital Covid Certificate, Malta also recognizes UK-issued NHS COVID passes. These certificates are only issued to people who have completed their vaccination cycle.

Language schools - virus hotspots

The new curbs have been prompted by a fivefold increase in active coronavirus cases over a 10-day period, with 96 new Covid-19 cases (seven of them linked to the Delta variant) reported on Friday alone. The positivity rate has risen to 1.18, with the seven-day moving average number of new cases up to 31, informed Gauci, warning of a further rise in case numbers over the coming days.  

According to Fearne about 90 percent of the new infections were detected among unvaccinated people aged 15-30 arriving from mainland Europe. The majority of new cases were linked to overseas travel and to English language schools attended by foreign students in particular. Virus cases have been registered at nine different language schools, the health minister said, which now forces the closure of all schools as of Wednesday.

Pointing fingers

Snapshots of Malta International Airport on social media show a jam-packed terminal with arrivals barely maintaining a safe distance. The airport is expecting 1,100 passengers to arrive simultaneously over this weekend and has asked for reinforcements to process Covid-19 documentation.

Doctors, meanwhile, have blamed the Tourism Ministry for allowing "tourist brackets characterised by unruly behaviour with high transmission and low vaccination rates" into Malta.

During the press conference, Fearne brushed aside suggestions that imposing mandatory vaccination requirements on tourists at such short notice is not fair. What is not fair, he said, is to put locals who cannot get vaccinated at risk.

Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association urged the public in a statement not to put the blame for the surge in cases on any one sector, while complaining that travellers and tourism service providers could have been given more time to prepare for the new rules.

British concerns 

The UK travel industry has described the new rules as “confusing”, saying that they effectively ban Britons aged 12 to 18 from entering Malta, as the UK is not vaccinating children. The British travel sector fears that the Maltese move to accept only fully vaccinated travellers may unleash a domino effect across the rest of Europe’s tourist markets.

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