Coronavirus: Police step up patrols to disperse gatherings

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri says more police officers have been put on patrol to disperse gatherings as health authorities warn against complacency in face of the low number of coronavirus cases

Police patrols have been stepped up to enforce the rules of social distancing as Malta tries to limit Covid-19 transmission
Police patrols have been stepped up to enforce the rules of social distancing as Malta tries to limit Covid-19 transmission

Police have stepped up their patrols to disperse groups of people gathered in public places as the public health authorities warn against complacency. 

Four teams of district police officers joined others from the mobile squad on Sunday to patrol areas where groups of people have been gathering despite the warnings.

On Friday, the police were empowered to disperse groups of more than five people and order them to stand at least two metres apart.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri told MaltaToday that he asked the police force to deploy more officers on the beat to ensure rules of social distancing are obeyed.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri
The low number of cases registered on Sunday and the beautiful weather should not be an excuse for people to stay roaming around, without a valid reason... people should not obey the rules only when the police are present Byron Camilleri

“The low number of cases registered on Sunday and the beautiful weather should not be an excuse for people to stay roaming around, without a valid reason. On the contrary, it is important for us not to let down our guard so that the number of infections remains on the low side,” Camilleri said.

The minister said that on Sunday, four teams of district officers had joined the mobile squad in patrolling the streets and areas where people have been gathering.

“Naturally, people should not obey the rules only when the police are present… I urge people to cooperate and pass on the message to those relatives, who have ignored official warnings that staying inside is the right thing to do,” Camilleri said.

The Sliema promenade after the police dispersed people gathered on benches there
The Sliema promenade after the police dispersed people gathered on benches there

He said the police force has also appealed to people to file reports remotely, whenever possible to reduce the pressure on police stations. “In this way, we can have more officers on the street,” he added.

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci warned against complacency on Sunday when she announced only two new cases of coronavirus.

She insisted that Malta was still at the bottom of the curve and infections could spike. She again appealed to people to stay inside and go out only if absolutely necessary.

A legal notice published on Saturday ordered those aged 65 and over, and people with chronic diseases, to remain inside. The legal notice makes exceptions for essential shopping of food and medicines, medical appointments and visits to banks.

It also exempts those who have to tend to animals and people in positions of power.

More in National