From the outset, March proposed to be a challenging month for the pandemic in Malta. In fact it took a turn for the worse and restrictions were placed once again to suppress the ever-increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections. Such measures take the form of Legal Notices which are usually issued by the Minister responsible for Health. However, in this case since the restrictions being taken concern national health such legal notices are issued either by the Minister for Health after consultation with the Superintendent of Health or by the Superintendent of Health herself. These legislative powers stem from Articles 26 and 27(c) of the Public Health Act Chapter 465 of the Laws of Malta.
On the 11th March 2021 ten legal notices regarding COVID-19 restrictions were published. One should take note that these legal notices shall remain in force until the 11th April 2021. It is still unclear the manner in which these measures affect the public, therefore a brief account into every legal notice will ensue.
Firstly, L.N. 86 of 2021 prohibits unnecessary travel between the islands of Malta and Gozo. Travel to and fro these islands shall be restricted to persons who work in Gozo, those who have family in Gozo and persons who have to travel to Gozo for medical reasons or to visit a member of the family who is being hospitalised. These restrictions do not apply for the travel of commercial vehicles and merchandise and for persons whose ordinary or registered residence is in Gozo.
L.N. 87 of 2021 then orders the closure of the following public places: all cinemas, theatres, gymnasiums, museums, exhibitions, open-air markets, casinos, bingo halls and all non-residential swimming pools, including both indoor and outdoor swimming pools and including the national swimming pool. Linked to this regulation is L.N. 94 of 2021 which states that anyone who is in breach of the previously mentioned legal notice is liable to the payment of a penalty of six thousand euro (€6,000).
Additionally, L.N. 88 of 2021 amends L.N. 78 of 2021 regulating organised mass events by substituting Regulation 2 which allowed under certain restrictions weddings and religious events by the following: that all organised mass events shall be prohibited except for funerals. Also, L.N. 89 of 2021 amends S.L. 465. 51 dealing with the number of persons in public spaces by reducing the amount of persons that can be together in public from six to four.
L.N. 90 of 2021 then provides for the closure of the following non-essential retail outlets relating to clothing, sportswear, jewellery, hand bags and leather goods, costume jewellery and accessories, footwear, non-prescription eye-wear, perfumeries, beauty products, haberdasheries, soft furnishings, souvenir shops, discount stores, luggage shops, toy shops, hobby shops, furniture shops, florists and vaping shops. However, these shops may still provide delivery services of their products to their customers. Moreover, this regulation also orders the following outlets providing non-essential services to close their doors: hairdressers, massage parlours, barbers, beauticians, spas, nail artists, nail technicians and tattooists. L.N. 91 of 2021 proceeds to allocate the payment of six thousand Euro (€6,000) for every breach in the previously mentioned legal notice.
Furthermore, L.N. 92 of 2021 amends L.N. 75 of 2021 dealing with the closure of food and drink outlets by also prohibiting hotels from serving food and beverages to their guests in the hotels’ respective restaurants or dining halls. Hotels may only serve food to their guests by means of room service.
In addition, L.N. 93 of 2021 states that all organised sport activities shall be prohibited provided that the Superintendent for public health may, at her discretion and subject to any conditions she may deem necessary, exempt national Maltese sport teams from these regulations in exceptional or necessary cases including international games. Anyone who acts in breach of this legal notice shall be liable to payment of a penalty of six thousand Euro (€6,000).
Finally, L.N. 97 of 2021 orders the closure of schools. The term “school” also includes: child care centres; kindergarten centres; Colleges; Sixth Forms/Higher Secondary’s; the University of Malta; other tertiary educational institutions; further and higher educational institutions; and ELT schools.
The above condensed explanation into the recent legal notices concerning the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malta should serve as a guideline for one to abide to these new measures.
Written by Ian Barbara, Legal Trainee.
For more information you can contact one of our Team Members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates.