Malta will acheive its herd immunity target by tonight, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Monday afternoon.
He said that by Monday night, 70% of Malta’s adult population will have received at least one dose of the vaccine, hence meaning that the country has reached its herd immunity target.
42% of the country’s population meanwhile is now fully vaccinated, Fearne said. He noted that this contrasts with the situation abroad, where globally only 10% of the population has been vaccinated.
Because Malta is not in its own bubble by itself, Fearne said, we must remain careful, despite hitting this target.
He also said that current statistics show that the vaccines are working as intended: he said that there are only six people currently receiving treatment in Mater Dei Hospital in connection with Covid-19. Four people are in ITU, but none of them are positive for the virus anymore.
Fearne said that the reopening of the country will continue to be done gradually and in line with the Covid-19 situation at the time: he said that if the numbers spike, they might have to either delay relaxations or move back a phase.
He said that just because a timeline has been given till the end of June, it doesn’t mean that more measures will not be relaxed after that. He said that measures will continue to be removed step-by-step and added that they are in talks with stakeholders, such as the bishops in Malta and Gozo on religious feasts and the arts sector body the MEIA on how to reintroduce cultural and social activities in a safe manner.
The key to all of this remains the take up of the vaccine, Fearne said, adding that there are still 30% of the population to be vaccinated.
He said that a vaccination certificate will become available in the coming days, and added that this will permit the opening of more social, cultural, and commercial activities in a secure and safe manner which would take into account the security which the vaccine gives.
He said that if the case numbers continue to permit, fully vaccinated people will be able to stay outdoors without a masks as from 1 July. If they meet a fully vaccinated person, they too can remain without a mask; however the masks will remain obligatory for groups over two and for entering establishments.
Gauci gave a rundown of the relaxation of measures which came into place today.
She said that the country’s seven-day moving average of cases stands at just 3, while the seven-day moving average for the positivity rate of swab tests is at just 0.2%.
The press conference comes on the day that further restrictions have been relaxed, hence extending the opening hours of restaurants and snack bars, while also allowing gyms to open and contact sports to resume.
Malta currently has 72 active cases of the Covid-19 virus, after weeks of prolonged low numbers of cases. No deaths related to the virus have been registered in over two weeks as well.
Over 300,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine as well, while just over 180,000 people are now fully vaccinated.
Asked by this newsroom how it will be ensured that individuals who have not received both doses of the vaccine are not taking advantage of the no-mask measure, should it go ahead on the 1st of July, Fearne said that individuals will be in possession of a vaccine certificate – either digitally or in print – to show that they have received both doses of the vaccine.
Asked if children will need to wear their masks outdoors while their parents won’t need to come 1 July, he added that Malta is waiting on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to provide the Pfizer vaccine to children aged 12-15 and that the vaccine will be offered to this group “in the next few weeks”.
Despite this new rule, Fearne stressed that it is still recommended that the public continues to wear their masks as of 1st July onwards.
As of 1 July, two fully vaccinated people meeting one another outdoors will not need to wear a mask in each other’s company, however if more than two people meet each other outside, they will need to wear masks together.
It is important that masks continue to be worn indoors when in public, Fearne added.
Full immunity will be reached in Malta depending on the roll-out of the vaccine and on people who are eligible for the vaccine to register for their jabs. He encouraged those above the age of 16, who are the latest cohort to apply for the vaccine, to register in order that Malta moves closer to full immunity.
Gauci said that Malta is prepared to distribute the booster doses when immunity begins to drop.
Fearne urged those eligible for the vaccine to apply and receive their dose, in order to ensure that measures for residents of elderly homes are relaxed further.
Asked if doctors should be facing time in jail and losing their warrant for advising women that abortion is an option, Fearne said that internal discussions are currently on-going into the matter and that in the “not far off” future, the document of consultation of sexual health policy will be published.
While village feasts certainly won’t be held this June, Fearne said that discussions are currently being held with the Curia to address the measures around village feasts in the next few months.
The vaccine certificate, he added , will be made available in the next few weeks. While it is not obligatory to be in possession of it at all times, Fearne said that vaccinated individuals will be asked to present their certificate for certain activities and events.
Tourists will need to be in possession of the certificate at the airport, he added. If they are not in possession of a certificate yet, they are required to present a negative PCR test to travel.
Lastly, Fearne confirmed that Malta is the first country in Europe to achieve herd immunity. As of today, 42% of the population have received their vaccination.
He encouraged the public to continue applying for their vaccination and that, with the public’s coordination, he is “confident that we will live a normal life again”.