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Measures include closing bars, shorter working hours for restaurants, and fines for overcrowded holiday rentals
February, which is usually a month of hustle and bustle in Malta due to Carnival and school holidays, must be different this year, said Prime Minister Robert Abela while announcing new restrictions aimed at preventing a spike in coronavirus transmission after the traditional holiday weekend.
Restaurant curfew, bar closure
As part of the new curbs, restaurants, snack bars and kiosks will have to close earlier and stay shut between 11pm and 6am throughout February. Drinks-only bars will not be able to operate at all. To sweeten the bitter pill, Abela said he would double the promised aid for bar operators to EUR 2, 2 million.
Holiday accommodation owners will be fined if they allow overcrowding, with the amount of fines to be announced later. Amid fears of people rushing en masse to Gozo for the carnival break, those travelling by car will be asked not to leave their vehicles while on the ferry. From 11 - 17 February, ferry passengers will also be subject to temperature checks.
Abela also informed that the government is in talks with schools regarding his proposal that the customary two-day holiday be adjourned until later in the year.
Justification for restrictions
During the press conference, Health Minister Chris Fearne justified the new restrictions, saying that many restaurants were still operating like bars. He also alluded to reports of parties in rental accommodations spotted by police and health authorities.
Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci said on her part that the fresh measures had been based on lessons learned after a sharp rise in cases caused by congregations during Christmas and New Year festivities.
Prime Minster Robert Abela called the new restrictions “considered and balanced” and reiterated his claim that Malta was like "heaven" in comparison to other countries, obviously referring to curfew-ignited riots and protests in the Netherlands and other EU member states.
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