[WATCH] New COVID-19 restrictions: schools to close from Monday • Non-essential shops and services to shut from Thursday

Prime Minister Robert Abela annouces new restriction to curb the spread of COVID-19 and ease the pressure on hospitals • 28 coronavirus patients receiving treatment in intensive care • UK variant is now predominant virus

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

New COVID-19 restrictions

All measures are in addition to those already in place and will remain in effect until 11 April, 2021

  • Schools to close on Monday and lessons shift online
  • Non-essential shops and services closed from tomorrow
  • Childcare centres to close from Monday
  • All ancillary services in hotels will be shut
  • Gozo travel restricted to essential travel and to those who own property there
  • Public group gatherings will be limited to 4 people
  • All organised sport activities are suspended
  • Pools, gyms, museums, theatres and cinemas will close
  • No weddings can be held
  • Religious services, including mass are cancelled
  • Funerals will continue being held according to existing protocols
  • Non-urgent operations at hospital are postponed

Schools will close on Monday and other restrictive measures will come into force from tomorrow as government tries to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Robert Abela announced new restrictions on Wednesday as new infections hit a record of 510. The new measures will be in force until 11 April.

“The aim of these measures is first and foremost to ease the pressure on the health services, reduce the spread of infection and increase the rate of vaccination,” Abela said.

The UK variant of coronavirus was now the predominant virus in Malta, accounting for more than 60% of new cases. The variant is more infectious and has contributed to the surge in cases.

The new measures include the closure of all non-essential shops and services and limiting group gatherings in public to a maximum of four people. All organised sports has been stopped and pools, gyms, museums, theatres and cinemas have to close.

Abela said the full wage supplement will be extended to all shops and activities that have been forcibly closed by the new measures.

Travel to Gozo will be restricted to people who own property on the island and for essential travel.

The press conference was also addressed by Health Minister Chris Fearne and Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci.

Fearne said that 28 patients were receiving treatment for COVID-19 at hospital's intensive care unit (ITU).

"The appeal is for people not to congregate... this is a very difficult period for everyone but if we all pull the same rope we can come out of this," Fearne said.

Asked whether the decision to open schools in January, which was posited as a means to curb infection spread in the community, was mistaken, Abela said today's decision was based on the new evidence at hand. "In January we said that schools would be the last to close and that is what we did today when we also closed all non-essential services and shops," Abela said.

He skirted another question as to whether his words in December that the road to normality would start in March could have contributed to people being more lax, insisting he was not being overoptimistic. "It is understandable that people got tired... we are all human after all and refraining from doing the things we have always been accustomed to is not easy," Abela said. He urged people to remain vigilant, cautious and prudent.


The Opposition earlier asked for an urgent parliamentary debate on the pandemic emergency.

Responding, the Prime Minister acknowledged that people were worried and government was holding talks all day on the best possible measures.

“We were not perfect but we took decisions,” Abela said.

Opposition leader Bernard Grechasked for an urgent parliamentary debate on the COVID-19 crisis in line with Standing Orders.

The Speaker later ruled that the debate on the COVID-19 situation will be held on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Justyne Caruana was also holding emergency talks with the Malta Union of Teachers after the union gave notice of industrial action.

The MUT on Wednesday declared an industrial dispute on the back of an alarming increase in COVID-19 infections nationwide that was having a crippling impact on schools.