Malta’s mandatory mask-wearing rules have potentially run into a new complication, following a direct response by the Health Ministry’s official Facebook page to a question delving into the specifics on how and when they should be worn at sea.
Following confirmation by the health authorities that people can remove their masks to swim but must put them back on after getting back on land, a person asked Saħħa to clarify whether masks must also be worn when crossing the waterline.
“Does it make any difference whether the person is swimming or just standing still in water?” he asked.
Saħħa’s response was straight and to the point.
“Masks are only to be removed while swimming. Otherwise, they have to be worn.”
A spokesperson for the Health Ministry confirmed that people can remove their masks to go into the sea, swim, and walk to their towels after swimming. However, people cannot stand or walk on the shore without a mask if their intention isn’t to swim.
If people get fined wrongly, they can appeal it.
This exchange with Saħħa was shared in a popular Facebook group for expats, where the response was one of widespread bemusement.
“So there will be all these temporary ‘abandoned’ masks in a line along the water’s edge waiting for the owners who are swimming to claim them? Including kids! Good luck with all of that,” a woman commented.
Another person urged swimmers to bring two masks to the beach with them, one cloth one to keep on their wrist while swimming and another to put on after getting out of the sea.
Someone else said her husband has already been fined for breaching mask laws after coming out of the sea holding a kayak.
The authorities have refused to give a target date for when and if the law making masks mandatory everywhere, including outdoors, will be repealed or relaxed.
However, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has said Malta is monitoring the experience of Israel, which dropped its mandatory mask laws last month after vaccinating the majority of its population.
Cover photo: Malta Police Force