Added: 6 April 2021
The Medical Association of Malta (MAM) has today issued a statement saying the current practice of “free for all” boarding on commercial flights with random swabbing on arrival is insufficient and presents significant risks as positive individuals not only can board the aircraft without a test, but may spread the virus to other passengers at airports and especially on board the aircraft.
The current practice of “board now – check later” presents very significant risk to public health and tourism once the number of flights increases, the association said.
Prior swab tests or authenticated vaccine certificates should be introduced before boarding onto an aircraft, so as to guard against new variants of concern. The association asked whether the whole vaccination process would need to start from scratch should a new variant be imported because of inadequate preventative measures. This would have major implications for the economy as well, MAM said.
In a direct reference to the recently announced Tourism Recovery Plan, the Medical Association of Malta stressed that any re-opening of economic activity should be very gradual and accompanied with close monitoring and adjusted as necessary, based on scientific research and evidence.
MAM also cautioned against any easing of restrictions at events where social distancing is difficult or unrealistic before Malta reaches herd immunity. This is likely to be achieved not before 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The association stated that it seemed that the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) was planning large commercial parties closer to Summer. Such events should be the very last to open possibly after the protective effects of vaccines on such events has been scientifically demonstrated – especially since the UK variant is much more contagious than the previous virus, one event could lead to hundreds of new cases in a few days and this is to be avoided at all costs, MAM said.
Reacting to MAM’s statement, the Tourism Authority categorically denied it is presently planning any “large commercial parties”. It said that while it is working tirelessly to have Malta’s tourism sector operating in a gradual manner, it believes that this should not be done at the expense of the health and safety of tourists visiting the Maltese islands, those who are employed within the industry and the public.
The tourism recovery plan is being presented in a responsible manner and puts a special emphasis on sustainable tourism, the MTA statement concluded.