[WATCH] All schools, childcare centres to close for a week from tomorrow

Malta closes schools as it registers nine coronavirus cases • Matsec orals next week will not be held and will not count for final examination result • 60 new isolation beds being set up in Gozo hospital

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Robert Abela has just announced several new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, including the closure of all educational institutions for a week, starting from tomorrow.

The Prime Minister said all primary, secondary, post-secondary, and tertiary institutions will be closed. The measure also applies to child care centres.

The closure will last until Friday 20 March and the situation will be reviewed again next week to determine whether the measure should be extended.

The new measures come into force as Malta registered two new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, taking the total cases to nine.

Day centres for the elderly and all mass activities are being stopped. Weddings are to be considered as mass events and the advice is for people to postpone them.

However, Abela said it was not necessary yet to close bars, restaurants, and night clubs but appealed for good sense to prevail.

"The measure to close schools is a public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus... we are not at a stage to close other places but we will take any measure that is necessary," Abela said.

He insisted that a national shut down was not necessary at this stage. The Malta Employers' Association proposed such a measure earlier on Thursday.

Asked about the impact of the schools directive on working parents, Abela said any leave taken to care for children will be deducted from the individual's vacation leave.

The Prime Minister said talks will be held with stakeholders to determine what measures the government can introduce to cushion the blow of the coronavirus on the economy and businesses. But, he added, the burden had to be shouldered by everyone.

Abela was flanked by Education Minister Owen Bonnici and Health Minister Chris Fearne.

Bonnici said oral exams to be held next week as part of Matsec examinations will not be held and will not be considered in the final grading. He also advised teachers to stop group private lessons.

He said church schools will be following the government's direction and some private schools had already shut down.

Fearne said 60 isolation beds were being prepared at the Gozo General Hospital as a precautionary measure. He also announced the creation of a dedicated helpline for all those people who were in mandatory quarantine.

Anybody who is in mandatory quarantine can call on 21-411-411.

New measures include:

1. Closure of all educational institutions, including schools, sixth form, MCAST, university and child care centres, will be shut down from tomorrow until Friday next week. This will be revised accordingly next week.

2. Day centres for the elderly will be closed.

3. All mass activities unless absolutely necessary should be stopped. Advice is to postpone weddings.

4. Malta Football Association has agreed to have all senior football games played behind closed doors. Other matches have been cancelled.

5. From Monday, TVM 2, will be transmitting the mass and rosary prayers in agreement with the Archbishop to limit the number of people congregating in church.

6. No political activities will be held.

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