Malta’s laws regulating whether or not you can wear a mask when having a picnic outdoors are so confusing that even government ministers aren’t exactly sure what is and isn’t allowed.
Energy Minister Miriam Dalli yesterday uploaded a photo of her and her family enjoying a picnic outdoors without their masks on, the same day that police officers fined people for doing the exact same thing.
Dalli told Lovin Malta that she wasn’t aware that her action went against COVID-19 rules.
“At no point did I hear the health authorities state that picnics were banned,” she said. “As a mother of two kids, I took my kids out in a public space. We went for a picnic with my family in a public park. We were wearing a mask at all times.”
“We sat on a picnic table in a park which was isolated from other tables and we removed our masks before eating and whilst eating. We wore the mask as soon as we finished eating.”
“Other families like ours were doing the same thing. I do not consider myself above the law and if I broke any law I’m subject to it like any other person on our islands.”
Malta made mask-wearing mandatory in all public places last October, with a few exceptions – such as during high-intensity physical activity, during official public speaking, and to take medication.
The legal notice also allows people to take off their masks when “seated at establishments where food and drink is served”, which if interpreted rigidly would mean that taking off one’s mask to eat at a picnic has been banned since October.
However, the authorities have permitted a degree of flexibility to the mask rules, with even Health Minister Chris Fearne confirming last October that people are allowed to temporarily remove their masks to smoke – even though the legal notice doesn’t specifically point it out as an exception.
They’ve since become stricter though, and people were fined by police over the weekend for keeping their masks off while eating outdoors.
Fearne was asked on TVAM this morning whether people are allowed to eat, drink and smoke outdoors, but he brushed off the question by saying that ideally people shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol at all because it’s bad for your health.
His interviewer clarified that she was referring to people taking a glass of water at a picnic, but Fearne was having none of it.“Alcohol and cigarettes aren’t good when there’s COVID-19 around or when it isn’t around,” he said.
“You should take care of your health – you should exercise, you shouldn’t eat excessively… these things always apply even where’s COVID-19 naturally.”