Tourism Minister does not exclude limiting headcount for mass events, shuns outright ban

Julia Farrugia Portelli says government will continue to seek a balanced approach in dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli
Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli

Introducing limits on attendance for mass events is not being excluded, the Tourism Minister said in the wake of a spike in coronavirus cases.

Julia Farrugia Portelli said government will continue seeking a “balanced approach” and like it did at the height of the pandemic will revise decisions accordingly.

However, she did not entertain suggestions of an outright ban on mass events despite a public outcry that was bolstered on Wednesday by an ultimatum the doctors’ union gave government.

The Medical Association of Malta today called for a ban on activities with more than 10 people and ordered its members to only work on emergency cases from Monday unless the government clamped down on mass events.

Former Labour prime minister Alfred Sant described mass events and band marches as "a bad idea".

Concerns have been growing after a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past week. The surge can be traced back to a hotel party held a fortnight ago and the Santa Venera feast.

READ ALSO: 12 new COVID-19 cases, five linked to Santa Venera feast

However, the situation was further compounded with the arrival of 66 rescued migrants who tested positive for COVID-19. The migrants were in isolation from the moment they disembarked and are currently at the Ħal Far Initial Reception Centre.

The circumstances have prompted some party promoters and organisers to cancel their events. Some festa organisers have also stopped marches, including the popular Hamrun feast, which attracts thousands of people.

Farrugia Portelli’s comments to journalists after visiting a refurbishment project at the Westin Dragonara Hotel were the first official government reaction to the developments.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Robert Abela labelled people expressing concern about the recent surge in coronavirus cases as negative, promising that the economy will remain open.

Farrugia Portelli said talks were underway with the health authorities to establish clearer protocols for mass events, while an evaluation of what could have gone wrong at the event that sparked the latest cases is underway.

“As it did during the pandemic, when there were medical professionals who clamoured for a complete lockdown, the government will collectively continue to seek a balanced approach in its decisions and where need be revise these accordingly,” she said.

Several large parties attracting thousands of foreign revellers are planned over the coming months, raising concerns over a sudden influx of COVID-19 cases.

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