Prime Minister Robert Abela has said he’s confident that recent powers given to the police, soldiers and other enforcement officials to inspect private homes for breaches of COVID-19 rules don’t go against human rights.
“Our belief is that one cannot speak of a breach of fundamental human rights because such action is permitted by law,” Abela told a press conference today in response to a question from Lovin Malta.
Indeed, the Public Health Act allows the Superintendent of Public Health and other authorised officers to enter and inspect any area at any “reasonable” time without the need to declare a public health emergency.
“It’s not just about legalistic issues though; businesses and employees are suffering and we’re asking people to make a sacrifice in the coming weeks to ensure we have a good summer of tourism so that our economy can progress,” Abela added.
“As much as possible, we should strike a balance between protecting lives and livelihoods. Had we gone in the direction of a total lockdown 13 months ago [when the pandemic first hit Malta], I’d have started believing your argument [of a breach in human rights].”
“We could have acted better at times but we’ve struck a balance.”
On 17th March, Malta restricted gatherings in private residences to a maximum of two households to contain the spread of the pandemic, with a €100 fine for every person caught in breach of the law.
Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci has confirmed that police, soldiers, environmental health officers, and officials from LESA, Transport Malta and the Malta Tourism Authority have been empowered to inspect homes for potential breaches.
She said they can only act on the basis of reports from third parties and “reasonable suspicion” that private gathering rules are being breached.
Recent data shows that 172 people were fined for breaching the private household rule in a single week, between 29th March and 4th April.
Abela today announced the first part of his plan to ease Malta out of quasi-lockdown, with schools set to start reopening on Monday and elective surgeries and visits to elderly care homes to resume that same day.
Mass is set to resume on 18th April, while non-essential shops and services are set to reopen a week later, on 26th April. The two-person limit on public and private gatherings will increase to four on 26th April too.