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The new COVID-19 restrictions: explained (simply)

The recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Malta has forced the closure of restaurants and snack bars for a second time since March 2020. In addition, the health authorities also announced a handful of other restrictions, aside from those already in place.

There’s been some confusion (to say the least) in the last few days, so we thought it best to provide a quick run-through of the latest restrictions, in the simplest of terms.

First up, household gatherings

There has been much confusion regarding this one. According to the law in place, groups of people who form part of more than four different residences, are not allowed to gather in a residential property.

What does this mean exactly? Does this mean four people or four households? Could four households indicate that a total of 20, even 25 people are permitted to be partying in the same private residence? Well, to make things absolutely crystal clear, the legal notice clarifies that it is limiting the number of households that can gather, and not the number of people within said households.

Fines? Naturally. Anyone who fails to abide by this regulation will be fined €100 for every breach. Admitting to the offence and paying the penalty for proceedings in front of the Commissioner for Justice, means that the fine will be reduced to €50.

Next up, facemasks

Another restriction that has caused quite a stir as of late is with regards to facemasks. Though we have had to walk the streets with masks for a few months now, many people took to social media after they were fined for taking their masks down to smoke a cigarette, or eat a sandwich.

Well, according to the law, any person must wear a medical or cloth mask, or visor in a proper manner covering the nose, mouth and chin, whenever they are outside their residence. This rule applies irrespective of whether the person is going to an indoor or outdoor place. That being said, health minister Chris Fearne said that the legal notice would be amended. How? The amendment would allow for people to eat, drink and smoke cigarettes in public places, so long as they are sitting down. However (take note), the temporary removal of face masks will not be allowed if the person is walking while smoking or eating.

Fines? Anyone found not wearing a mask in accordance with the regulation will be fined €100 for every breach.

Are there any exemptions or exemptions?

There are! People with ‘severe, cognitive, physical, mental or respiratory impairments who have difficulties tolerating a mask as certified by a licensed medical practitioner,’ are exempt. Be careful however as these individuals must carry around the relevant medical certificate, which exempts them from wearing a mask, at all times.

Also, children below the age of three are also exempt from wearing a face mask.

What about restaurants and snack bars?

Yes, we knew this one was coming. According to the law, bars and clubs are disallowed to open at all and will remain closed. Restaurants, snack bars and kiosks, on the other hand, must remain closed except to provide delivery and take-away services. Eateries that are part of hotels or other licensed accommodations may remain open. However, they can only provide services to their guests.

Fines? Those who fail to abide by the regulations will be fined €6,000 for every breach.

Contact sports for those under the age of 17

According to the law, anyone under the age of 17 are prohibited from participating in any contact sports.

Fines? Hmm. To date, there are no fines being issued for breaching this regulation.

Finally, mass events. What’s the deal?

Mass events were banned months ago and not much has changed on this front. In spite of the ban, weddings and religious events are indeed permitted to take place. They must, however, abide by the following regulations.

First up, the maximum capacity of attendees cannot exceed one person per four square metres of space, where the event is to be organised. Also, people can gather in groups, but they cannot exceed six people, within a two-metre distance to be retained between each group of six. There’s more. The number of guests is capped at 100 people inside and 300 people outside.

Fines? Yes. Fail to abide the regulations and you’ll be fined a cool €6,000.

What do you make of the latest restrictions?