All flights to and from Italy have been suspended until further notice, and ships will only be allowed to carry goods, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Monday evening.
The move came after Italy extended its lockdown nationwide, and after Malta confirmed its fourth case of Coronavirus.
The government said that the fourth person to be diagnosed with Covid19 is a foreigner who lives in Malta and who has recently travelled to northern Italy. He is in good condition.
Addressing a press conference, Prime Minister Abela said all passenger flights would be stopped, and only cargo, food and medicines would be allowed in from Italy. Efforts are being made to help Maltese people stuck in Italy return to Malta.
The Malta to Sicily catamaran will only be carrying food and cargo, Abela said.
The travel ban starts with immediate effect and the decision has already been communicated to all relevant transport authorities. The ban remains in place until necessary, Abela said.
Cabinet will be meeting in coming hours to discuss the situation to take decisions in best interest of the Maltese, the PM continued.
Abela said he wanted people to have peace of mind. “The priority of this government is the wellbeing of the Maltese,” he said. “We will take all necessary measures, even if drastic, to safeguard the wellbeing of the Maltese.”
Abela said there is no cause for alarm, the country is well prepared for any eventuality and Tuesday is a normal working and school day.
Abela said that a cruise liner that was scheduled to dock in Malta on Tuesday will not be allowed in any Maltese port.
Asked for more details on the fourth Coronavirus case, Abela said the Deputy Prime Minister will be giving a briefing in the morning.
Asked why flights to Italy were not stopped sooner, the PM said decisions are being taken hour by hour. This might look like a drastic measure, he said, but all necessary measures will be taken to safeguard the wellbeing of the Maltese.
Asked if flights to other countries would be stopped too, the PM said the decision at this time was to suspend flights to Italy given the infection rate there, but nothing is excluded.
Abela said that, up till now quarantine was voluntary and was being observed by many. The family who tested positive for Coronavirus had observed the recommendations. However, he does not exclude any other measures if others do not do the same.