Two months after Malta closed all non-essential retail stores in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hairdressers and restaurant owners sit on the edge of their seats, anxiously awaiting today’s announcement on when they will be allowed to reopen.
Prime Minister Robert Abela is expected to lift a number of COVID-19 measures including the reopening of hair salons and restaurants today.
In an interview with ONE yesterday, Abela confirmed that businesses will most probably have to operate under new procedures but that the government would be “flexible” to ensure their operations remain commercially viable, such as by relaxing regulations on how many tables and chairs restaurants can place outside.
The Prime Minister’s announcement has been met with mixed sentiments. There are those who have been itching to get their business back on their feet, others who are cautiously optimistic about the lifting of measures, and some who feel that doing so prioritises Malta’s economy over the population’s wellbeing.
In a press release issued earlier today, the Medical Association of Malta expressed their disappointment in the government and its decision to “put economic interests before health” while emphasising that staying at home “remains the safest option.”
Yesterday, Malta confirmed seven new cases of COVID-19 and four new recoveries, bringing the total number of active cases to 93.
In just one week, Malta’s active cases increased by 60% from 50 to 93 after what was an impressive 24-day streak of ever-decreasing infections. However, at the same time, the number of tests has increased, reaching a record of 1,727 last Saturday.
Malta’s rate of infection (the R Factor) has also climbed to 1.3 as a result of the recent spike in cases – the same metric that prompted the government to re-open some non-essential retail stores a couple of weeks ago when it dropped below one. However, the health authorities have said that, as the number of new cases remains low, they are taking a moving average of the R Factor into account when deciding when to lift restrictions.