Malta’s new mandatory mask-wearing rules make exceptions for “high intensity physical activity” but Charmaine Gauci has advised wardens that this only applies to jogging and cycling.
A woman has published an email from the Superintendent of Public Health that a warden showed her yesterday after fining her and a group of people for not wearing a mask while training near the Chalet, Sliema.
In the email, Gauci responded to a number of questions raised by wardens, who have been instructed to enforce the mask-wearing regulations along with police.
Asked about the kind of physical activities people can perform in public without masks and whether people can use open-air gym equipment without masks, Gauci said that only jogging and cycling are allowed without masks.
She also confirmed that people are allowed to take their masks off when they’re sitting down to eat or lighting a cigarette.
However, the woman who got fined warned confusion is reigning about these new mask rules and pledged to contest her fine.
“We were a group of eight people, keeping a two-metre distance from each other while training, and got fined for not wearing a mask,” she told Lovin Malta. “We told the warden that the law allows masks to be removed for high-intensity physical activity, but he referred to this email by Charmaine Gauci which said only jogging and cycling are allowed.”
“Does this mean boxing, tennis and squash aren’t considered high intensity activities? It looks like it’s up to the wardens to decide if the speed you’re running at is high intensity too, because people are getting fined for power walking.”
She said she called up the police to clarify this point, but they weren’t sure and referred her to the 111 national COVID-19 helpline.
“The people at 111 told us that even yoga and stretching can be done without masks and now we’re totally confused. Not everybody is on the same page.”
She also warned that officials are “hunting” people, fining a runner for not putting his mask on when stopping to cross the road and even fining children for playing in the playground without masks.
“The WHO clearly states that children shouldn’t wear masks while playing in the playground because it can compromise their breathing. This situation is ridiculous.”
Malta started enforcing a mandatory mask-wearing law last Friday, with culprits liable to €100 fines, which will be reduced to €50 if it is paid before proceedings commence in front of the Commissioner for Justice.
However, there have already been several complaints that the authorities have been overzealous in their enforcement, such as by fining a man who went to Għar Lapsi for a late-night Sunday swim and was fined by police because he had left his mask in his car.
Lovin Malta has reached out to Health Minister Chris Fearne to clarify exactly what kind of physical activity can be carried out without a mask and whether people now need to wear a mask when exercising at the gym.