Doctors say random swabbing of flight arrivals presents ‘significant risk’ to public

Medical Association of Malta says current practice of ‘board now – check later’ will pose great significant risk once flights increase

Updated at 11:32am with Malta ​Tourism Authority statement 

The current practice of free-for-all boarding on commercial flights, with random swabbing on arrival, is “clearly insufficient and presents significant risks”, the Medical Association of Malta said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The doctors’ union said the current practice of “board now – check later” presented a significant risk to public health and tourism alike once the number of flights increased. 

“Prior swab tests or authenticatable vaccine certificates should be introduced before boarding onto an aircraft to guard against new variants of concern. Unfortunately, should a new variant be imported because of inadequate preventative measures, the whole vaccination process may have to restart from scratch? This would have major implications for the economy as well,” the MAM said. 

MAM advised that any re-opening of economic activity should be gradual and accompanied by closely monitoring and adjusted as necessary, based on sound scientific evidence. Such a gradual process would allow remedial action to be taken promptly and effectively should number rise again, the doctors’ union said. 

MAM cautioned against any easing of restrictions at events where social distancing was difficult or unrealistic before Malta reached herd immunity. 

“Unfortunately, the Malta tourist authority once again seemed to be planning large commercial parties once again. 

“These events should be the very last to open and as much as possible after the protective effects of vaccines on such events has been scientifically demonstrated. As the British variant is much more contagious than the previous virus, just one event could lead to hundreds of new cases in a few days,” the union said. 

MAM said this must be avoided at all costs. 

Last week, the government said that Malta was expecting to welcome tourists towards the beginning of June and provide a €20 million aid package to help restart the industry. 

Malta ​Tourism Authority statement 

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has denied claims that it is planning large commercial parties.

“While the Malta Tourism Authority is working tirelessly to have Malta’s tourism sector operating in a gradual manner, the Authority firmly believes that this should not be done at the expense of the health and safety of the tourists who will be visiting the Maltese Islands, or even at the expense of the health and safety of all those who are employed within the industry and the general public,” the MTA said.

The MTA said the tourism recovery plan was being presented responsibly and emphasised sustainable tourism.