Malta’s abrupt and draconian ban on non-vaccinated people from travelling to the island has driven a sharp wedge into several people’s plans, but for some the stakes are even higher.
Vlatko*, a Macedonian national who has been living in Malta for a few years, told Lovin Malta that he and his wife recently had a baby together but they have so far been unable to travel to register her birth due to COVID-19 restrictions, essentially rendering the baby stateless.
After restrictions finally eased, the couple decided to book flights and arrangements, amounting to thousands of euro, and use the occasion for their daughter to spend her first birthday with their families.
Everything seemed fine until Health Minister Chris Fearne announced, a few days before their flight, that Malta was going to ban all non-vaccinated travellers as of 14th July.
While Vlatko has been fully vaccinated himself, his wife hasn’t because she is breastfeeding her daughter and doesn’t want to run the risk of any potential complications.
He said he’s been trying to contact the health authorities to try and obtain an exemption from the Superintendence of Public Health but his efforts have so far been fruitless.
The couple are therefore in a huge quandary – facing the choice between putting off their trip and risking losing the money they’ve already spent or leaving Malta and being unable to return. Even if Vlatko’s wife does get vaccinated in Macedonia, it won’t count as Malta currently only recognises vaccines administered in EU member states and the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, both their passports have expired and they’re unable to renew them without traveling, which means that once their residence permits expire they will be classified as illegal immigrants and have to leave Malta anyway.
“I wish the authorities made a real plan instead of causing this stress on not just me but the whole population in Malta,” he said. “Yes, some people refused the vaccine but some didn’t take it for a reason.”
Earlier today, Prime Minister Robert Abela confirmed that the blanket ban on non-vaccinated travellers has already been criticised by the European Commission but insisted it was the correct decision.
To back up his argument, Abela noted that Malta currently only allows visitors who present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test, and not people who recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months – despite this last criterion being included on the EU ‘vaccine passport’.
“We were already more restrictive than the others and now we will be even more restrictive,” he said, adding that it was a “tough but necessary” decision to send out a strong message that the vaccine is the solution to the pandemic and safeguard the rest of the economy.
Exceptions will be given to people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons and are granted an exemption by the Superintendence of Public Health and children aged between 5 and 12, who can’t yet get vaccinated. These people will need to present a negative PCR test.
He also confirmed that Maltese residents who are currently overseas and who will return after the new rules kick in on Wednesday will also be exempt.
*Vlatko’s surname was kept confidential at his request
Cover photo left: MIA
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