Mon, 24 Jan 2022

VALLETTA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Malta is scrapping mandatory mask-wearing outdoors, on the condition that people are triple-vaccinated and in groups of no more than two, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Thursday.

Fearne told a news conference that the new rule will apply from Monday, when distancing rules between tables at restaurants and bars will also be scrapped, and sports events will be able to have spectators if they apply certain protocol.

However, also as of Monday rules limiting entry to restaurants, bars, gyms and other establishments to vaccinated people will enter into force. Despite harsh criticism, Fearne said the government is sticking to these measures in the light of recent warnings by the World Health Organization (WHO) that half of Europe could be infected with the Omicron variant within the next few weeks.

Nevertheless, Fearne said the Maltese government was not planning to introduce mandatory vaccination. "The health department has no intention to expand the categories for mandatory vaccination," he said. Countries such as Italy, Greece and Canada have made it obligatory to get vaccinated, and are imposing fines for those who refuse.

On Thursday, Malta reported 462 new COVID-19 infections, and four deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 500.

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