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Minister for Health Chris Fearne has announced further relaxation of measures intended to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with mass events, including weddings, to benefit from greater capacity and more flexibility from Monday 18th October.

Speaking during a press conference on Friday, the Deputy Prime Minister said that event organisers who restrict entry to fully vaccinated individuals can apply the new rules.

Currently, parents wishing to attend events with their children first need to get them tested, with entry conditional on presentation of a negative PCR test.

From Monday, children under 12 will no longer require a negative result, allowing them unrestricted entry to mass events, including weddings.

This is expected to boost attendance and spending by removing a barrier to consumption for families with children.

Another measure that seeks to make the decision to disallow entry to unvaccinated individuals more attractive to event organisers and owners of establishments is an increase in the maximum number of people seated at a table, from six to eight.

This measure will also come into effect on Monday.

The space required to be left between tables will also be reduced. Tables placed in an outside space may now be spaced only one metre from each other, down from two, while the space between tables inside can go down to 1.5m.

For seated events only open to vaccinated people and holding a distance of one metre between groups, the number of potential attendees will be tripled from 100 to 300.

Minister Fearne said that the results from a test event organised in collaboration with the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association are expected to arrive by the end of the week, and hinted that a further lifting of restrictive measres may follow.

He said decisions are being taken with an eye on the upcoming festive season in order to allow Christmas events, including pantomines, and weddings to take place with as few restrictions as possible.

Turning to transport, the Minister said that the current limit on all public transportation vehicles, including the fast ferry between Malta and Gozo, of 65 per cent of capacity will be increased to 80 per cent of capacity.

Speaking at an event organised by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci explained the reasoning behind the lifting of restrictions: “We are slowly seeing a small increase [in cases], but we need to make sure this increase is as small as possible”

“We need to respect the rights of some people or another, who, for one reason or another, are not getting the vaccine, this is why we left it in the hands of individual establishments.”

Travel restriction update

Minister Fearne also explained that the current ‘traffic’ light system will be updated to no longer feature the Mu variant as a key criteria when deciding whether a country should be on the red list or the dark red list.

This is expected to get a slew of countries in South America off the dark red list, he said.

On the other hand, with the situation in Eastern Europe worse than ever, with Russia recently registering the highest number of deaths in a single day so far, countries in the area could go from red to dark red.

The Minister also announced that Malta would now also be accepting vaccine certificates issued by Armenia, Moldova, Iraq and South Korea.

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