Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that Government has prepared a 1.8 billion euro package to support the economy, business and families. Government’s priority is that no jobs were lost but if people lost their employment they would be given all support to find alternative employment. This is equivalent to just under 13% of GDP (2019 figures).
Minister for Finance, Edward Scicluna explained that the largest chunk, 1.6 billion euro, will consist of liquidity (tax deferrals to the tune of 700 million euro) and bank guarantees (900 million euro). The latter can give access to an additional 4.5 billion euro in credit. Businesses will be able to request a three-month loan repayment moratorium with their banks.
The other chunk includes a 210 euro million investment in the economy, primarily in the health sector.
Economy Minister Silvio Schembri explained that with regard to those industry that came to a standstill due to the crisis such as those in the hospitality sector, language schools and others, government will cover two days per week of employees’ salaries. The same applies for the self-employed who will be paid for two days a week capped at 800 euro a month. Government will also cover the self-employed’s employees for three days a week.
Government also announced similar measures on a smaller scale for entities who have lost at least 25% of their business. In this case, Government will be covering the salary for one day a week.
Employees losing their job will be able to a benefit from an 800 euro special benefit.
Other benefits include:
- A 350 euro cash grant to all businesses for each employee on quarantine leave.
- Two months of additional leave so that one of the parents will be able to stay at home with children.
Schembri also noted that no new applications for third country nationals to work in Malta will be accepted.
Prime Minister Robert Abela sought to re-assure viewers, insisting that “the Situation in our country is calm and under control. Put your minds at rest, our Health Authorities are prepared for any eventuality.”
Abela said this project was costed and intended to ensure that once this crisis is over the economy re-starts in a swift manner.
Press Conference Live
Prime Minister Robert Abela is expected to address a Press Conference at 2000h. Reports indicated that the Press Conference is to focus on the economic relief measures.
PN Press Conference
PN Deputy Leader Robert Arrigo has described Governmetn as “reactive” with regard to actions taken so far to support businesses and criticised what he described as a lack of serious incentives to safeguard employment.
PN MP Herman Schiavone explained that restaurants have thrown away thousands of euro worth of food and reiterated the Opposition’s proposal that 50% of wages in affected sectors are to be covered by Government at this difficult time.
MP Ryan Callus condemned comments expressed by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri who yesterday claimed that foreigners who lose their job should go back to their country.
Press Briefing by Professor Gauci
Ten new cases confirmed, including for the first time an elderly Maltese man, aged 70. The elder had not travelled abroad.
There are now 48 cases of coronavirus in Malta. Prof Gauci explained that while the majority remain travel-related, and that a number of locally-transmitted cases remained linked to the imported cases, it appears that a few cases have been transmitted in the community.
In this context, social distancing was at this point more imperative.
Prof Gauci denied rumours of any deaths related to the virus.
Two of the new patients appear to have become infected in hospital, following tests carried out after a first such case was reported yesterday. Other cases include two women who traveled to Germany and Poland, an Italian couple who were in contact with someone who went abroad, a 48-year old woman who was in London, a Maltese man who was in contact with a foreigner who traveled to the UK and a 26 year old related to a COVID-positive patient.
In a statement, Government has confirmed that schools will remain closed until the scheduled Easter holidays. Unless further actions are necessary, students will return to their desks on 20th April.
Earlier: In two late night developments, Malta’s airspace has reportedly been closed as from Saturday, while school closure has been extended.
Through a Legal Notice issued late last night, the Public Health Superintendent extended the closure of schools indefinitely for both students and educators. Schools had orginally been shutdown for a week, until Friday. Through another Legal Notice, the immediate closure of various outlets, announced on Sunday Prime Minister, was confirmed. This covers restaurants, cinemas, gyms, clubs, open-air markets, gaming premises and parlours, betting outlets as well as lotto booths.
The Horizon Facebook Page, reports that a Notice to Airmen was issued tonight, whereby it informed that following a decision taken by the Malta Health Authorities all passenger flights inbound to Malta are temporarily suspended. The flights departing before 2359utc on the 20th march 2020 are exempted. The ban does not apply to ferry flights, cargo flights, humanitarian flights and repatriation flights.
The tally of COVID19-infected persons continued to grow yesterday reaching 38, as new cases, imported and locally-transmitted continue to be registered, piling further pressure on Malta’s healthcare system. Yesterday evening many joined a collective round of applause at 9pm in a show of support and solidarity with health sector workers who are involved in the frontline at this delicate moment.