Malta is set to open its borders to the world in 12 days time, but Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli doesn’t seem too concerned about the potential COVID-19 threat posed by incoming British tourists.
Interviewed on the BBC yesterday, Farrugia Portelli was asked what people in Malta in think seeing as the UK’s virus infection rate is significantly higher than Malta’s.
“We’re very prepared as a country, the British market is the strongest market we have had since our early tourism days in the 1950s and there are strong ties between the two countries,” she responded.
“Malta is very prepared, we’re the safest Mediterranean country by far. We’ve had only nine [COVID-19 patients} who have died in the past five months, most of whom were elderly people who already had health complications but we’re prepared to welcome British tourists in the coming weeks.”
Challenged on this statement in light of the fact that the UK has the worst infection rate in Europe, Farrugia Portelli said that Malta has a strong healthcare system, that passengers’ temperatures will be checked at the airport and that Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland described Malta’s handling of the pandemic as “the best in the world” (she actually said it’s done the best in Europe).
And when asked what would happen if a tourist tests positive for COVID-19 while at a hotel, the Tourism Minister said establishments have protocols in place which involve the isolation of guests until a medical team can see to them.
“All tourists will be cared for in an appropriate manner,” she said. “Each and every hotel has a direct link to our health authorities and that mechanism will go straight into action and the team will start taking over and isolate that tourist.”
“We’re prepared, we have good ties to the UK government, and statistics show us that we had a spike [in bookings] in the past two weeks. I got a brief yesterday which shows that the UK travel agents are telling us we have practically already reached the same level of bookings with British tourists as we had last year. We’re all excited to welcome British tourists to our country.”