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Authorities Refuse To Explain Criteria Behind Safe Travel List As Malta Starts Welcoming Tourists

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Malta’s Health Ministry has refused to answer questions about the methodology used to determine which countries are placed on Malta’s safe travel list. 

As things currently stand, Malta uses a three-tier system for determining what requirements travellers need to have fulfilled before they can travel to Malta. 

Passengers arriving from countries on Malta’s so-called amber list can enter Malta without having to quarantine for 14 days, provided that they are able to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test carried out up to 72 hours before arrival or can prove that they are fully-vaccinated. 

Travellers from all other countries are banned from travelling to Malta unless they are permanent residents of the island, in which case they are required to quarantine for two weeks. There are currently no countries on Malta’s green list. 

Malta’s amber list was last updated on 27th April 2021 when the UK was added to the list. 

Lovin Malta sent questions to the Health Ministry almost one month ago, asking for a clarification about the methodology being used to determine which countries are deemed safe for travel. 

The questions were instigated by appeals from members of the Serbian community in Malta, who said they were finding it difficult to understand why Serbia was being kept off the list, despite the country’s low COVID-19 positivity rate. 

Lovin Malta sought to understand whether there were plans for countries like Serbia and North Macedonia to be added to the list, given the sizeable communities from these countries living in Malta, as well as how authorities were going about determining which countries are added, or removed, from the list.  

A Health Ministry spokesperson responded by saying that Serbia’s test positivity rate was too high for it to be included in Malta’s Amber list, but no reply regarding criteria for inclusion were forthcoming.

Members of the community who got in touch with this website voiced their frustration at being unable to visit relatives back home, despite the fact that the numbers were low, especially when compared to other countries on Malta’s amber list. 

A petition has since been launched, calling on Malta to place both Serbia and North Macedonia on its amber list.

In fact, according to the website ourworldindata.org, which since the start of the pandemic has been collating data and statistics from around the world, Serbia’s active cases amounted to roughly 26 cases per million inhabitants as of this week. The number of active cases in North Macedonia is even lower, with 8.5 cases per million inhabitants registered this week. 

But while quarantine-free travel is prohibited from both countries, passengers from other countries with a worse active case rate are free to travel to Malta without having to self-isolate. 

For example, Uruguay is currently on Malta’s amber list, despite the fact that the country registered roughly 1,000 cases per million inhabitants this week. The United Arab Emirates (200 cases per million) and Turkey (72 cases per million) are also on Malta’s list.  

Replying to questions by Lovin Malta on Wednesday, Prime Minister Robert Abela was similarly vague when asked about the criteria being used. 

He did however say that decisions were taken on the basis of infection rates, genome sequencing patterns, positivity rates, and vaccination rates. 

“Naturally the health authorities must be given full discretion to weigh out all of these criteria together, consider them and take decisions on two criteria – safeguarding free movement of people and safeguarding public health,” Abela said.

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