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EU Seeks Clarity From Malta Over New Vaccine Travel Policy Which Goes Against European Rules 

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The European Commission has confirmed it is seeking clarification from Malta over its upcoming travel policy for Maltese vaccine certificate holders, which diverges from recently-adopted EU rules.

“We understand that Malta will be applying new measures as of 17th January regarding the validity of the vaccination certificate and we are in touch the Maltese authorities to seek clarifications,” a spokesperson for the European Commission told Lovin Malta. 

Malta’s new travel rules were published on the Health Ministry’s website towards the end of 2021, with no public announcement made and no legal notice issued as of the time of writing. 

The new rules state that, as of 17th January, Maltese vaccine certificates for adults aged 18 or over will only be valid for initial vaccine cycles completed within the past three months or boosters within the past nine months.  

Vaccine certificates of under-18s, who aren’t eligible for the booster, will be based fully on the initial vaccine cycle.

Maltese residents returning to Malta after 17th January without a valid vaccine certificate will be granted a two-week grace period, but from 1st February onwards, such people will be “asked” to quarantine for 14 days.

However, this new travel policy diverges from rules adopted by the European Commission last month, which established a binding acceptance period of nine months for all EU vaccine certificates. 

These rules, which will apply from 1st February, aim to ensure a coherent and harmonised approach to intra-EU travel, after the disjointed measures that member states applied during the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the very concept of freedom of movement.

“Under these new EU rules, member states must accept any vaccination certificate that has been issued less than nne months since the administration of the last dose of the primary vaccination,” an EC spokesperson told Lovin Malta.

“Member states cannot provide for a shorter nor for a longer acceptance period.”

It remains to be seen how Malta’s new travel regime will work in the context of the EU rules, but Times of Malta reported late last year that EU citizens will still be allowed in without needing to quarantine so long as their COVID certificate is valid in their home country. 

This has raised the spectre of Malta applying stricter quarantine rules to its own citizens than to those of other countries. 

For example, as of February, a Maltese person who received his second shot five months ago but has yet to receive his booster will have to quarantine upon travelling to Malta. 

However, a French or German citizen with the exact same vaccination status will be able to visit Malta without spending any time in quarantine whatsoever.

As it stands, the EU has yet to set a standard acceptance period for vaccine certificates issued following the administration of booster doses due to a lack of sufficient data regarding the booster’s period of protection. 

However, the EC spokesperson said that given the emerging data it can “reasonably be expected” that booster protection may last longer than that resulting from vaccine series, in other words longer than the nine month period which Malta has set.

“The Commission will closely monitor the newly emerging scientific evidence and may review its approach on this basis,” the spokesperson said.

While these rules are specifically for intra-EU travel, the Commission has also urged member states to align acceptance periods for any domestic vaccine certificate rules with the travel rules. 

Do you agree with Malta’s new travel rules? 

READ NEXT: Two Patients Die While COVID-19 Positive With 1,144 New Cases And 709 Recoveries Recorded In Malta

Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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