Malta-24 News Briefing Tuesday 28th July 2020

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Update 2045 – Government and opposition have agreed on a number of constitutional amendments which will better empower the President of the Republic.

The method with which the head of state will be appointed has also been amended, meaning the president will now be elected through a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

The opposition voted in favor, despite calling for a division on the clauses, after government choses to drop anti-deadlock mechanism.

Through a government proposal, when a presidential nominee fails to obtain a two-thirds majority, the threshold is lowered to a simple parliamentary majority.

The opposition had objected on such a mechanism, arguing that a simple parliamentary majority would defeat the whole purpose of the reform.

While no details have emerged on what the alternative fallback position will be proposed, MP Chris Said said that government would be tabling amendments on Wednesday, which would make it possible for the opposition to support the reforms. – Maltatoy

Updated 1830 – Migrants who were brought to Malta by the AFM on Monday have been placed in isolation after 65 tested positive for COVID-19.

The Health Ministry said 85 of the group of 94 migrants had been tested so far, of whom 65 were positive.

“As per usual procedure, migrants arriving by boat are immediately quarantined for 14 days and tested. The migrants who are positive will continue to be isolated at the Ħal Far Initial Reception Centre and the rest will remain in quarantine and followed up,” the ministry said.

Updated 1800 – A 60-year-old man has lost his life after crashing into a wall in Sellum Road, Victoria. The incident occurred at around 2.20pm.

Initial investigations revealed that the man, resident of Xagħra, crashed into the wall while driving his Honda. A medical team was called to the scene to give first aid, but unfortunately, he was certified dead on arrival.

Update 1530 – A second member of staff at the Luqa government summer school has tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibiting symptoms over the weekend, MaltaToday reports.

Updated 1355 – Lija band march cancelled

The committee of the San Pio X Band Club, following medical advice, has announced that it was calling off the popular march scheduled on 5th August. It has taken this decision to safeguard the safety and security of the Lijan population and all those who attend this celebration.

In a statement on Facebook, the Band Club said that health was its priority.

Updated 1243 – Malta’s reproduction rate at 0.45  – Vincent Marmara

Malta’s Covid-19 reproduction number is currently 0.45, even though there has been a spike in cases in recent days, statistician Vincent Marmara has said on Facebook.

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Updated 1232 – Seven new cases of coronavirus in Malta

The Health Department announced seven new cases of coronavirus in Malta, taking the tally of active cases to 34.

1,353 swab tests were taken in the past 24 hours. Of the seven new cases only one forms part of the party-cluster. All cases were symptomatic, two of which were imported.

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Updated 1214 – Woman dies while swimming at Marsascala

A 70-year-old woman died on Tuesday after experiencing difficulties while swimming at St Thomas Bay, The Times of Malta reports.

The woman was hoisted out of the water in Marsascala at around 12pm by an Armed Forces of Malta helicopter. A doctor immediately pronounced her dead.

Updated 1140  – English-language students and their teachers to wear visors or masks during lessons

Timesofmalta.com reports that teachers and students who are in Malta to learn English have been ordered by their union to wear visors or masks during lessons and not to accept students who refuse to do so.

Graham Sansone, from the Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers, said the directives were issued after three students attending a school which teaches English to foreigners were found to have contracted COVID-19.

Updated 0806 – Newspaper Review

The Times reveals that state witness Melvin Theuma is out of intensive care and has been transferred to the ENT ward at Mater Dei Hospital. A police statement said that his condition remains stable.

The Independent quotes statistics released by the police showing that just under 5,200 crimes have been reported in the first six months this year. In the previous two years, over 6,000 crimes had been reported in the same period.

In-Nazzjon publishes an interview with virologist Chris Barbara who said that the Covid-19 transmission rate has risen to above 1.0 again. Dr Barbara warned that the virus is still spreading.

The Times reports that four major media organisations wrote to Prime Minister Robert Abela on Monday warning that proposed broadcasting laws could make online news shows financially impossible to sustain.

L-Orizzont quotes General Workers Union secretary Kendrick Borg who welcomed proposals by the Permanent Committee for Gozo Affairs to promote remote working for Gozitans. Borg said the step would bring more flexibility to employment.

The Times says that ten medical organisations issued a joint call for authorities to forbid mass events after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases was linked to a party. The organisations urged the public to be vigilant.

The Independent reports that various mass events have been cancelled or postponed in the wake of an uptick in Covid-19 cases. In the meantime, calls for a temporary ban on such activities have increased following a spike in the virus last week.

In-Nazzjon quotes unemployment figures for June which show a steep rise from the same month last year. Official data records over 4,200 registered unemployed, more than double the figures in 2019.

L-Orizzont says that a new coronavirus case was linked to a local feast march in Santa Venera, the first to emerge from such activities. Health authorities are urging people who took part in the event to take a swab test.

Morning Briefing

Coronavirus developments in Malta

Although only one new coronavirus case was reported in Malta yesterday, the situation remained high on the agenda with a number of concerning developments throughout the day. Among these:

  • A medical ward at Mater Dei Hospital has been closed off after a patient was found to have COVID-19. Health authorities have also placed a number of doctors under quarantine while patients and staff are being tested.  The Times of Maltareported that  that the patient, a tourist who attended the Hotel Takeover party, tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday afternoon.
  • A staff member at Luqa Government Summer School has reported positive to Covid-19. The Health Superintendence confirmed this news adding that this person was in contact with three classes. The parents of affected children are being contacted for a swab test.
  • Health authorities have urged people who have attended a number of activities as part of the Santa Venera feast last week to get tested, particularly an event inside the band club on July 22 and an outside band march on July 23. The patient was one of three sporadic cases discovered on Sunday.
  • Throughout the day a number of organisations made their voice heard calling for a ban of mass events and large social gatherings including parties and feasts. The Malta Chamber stopped short of calling for a ban on mass events, but argued that these should be organised in a responsible fashion and are able to manage responsible crowds, taking into consideration all safeguards and mitigation measures.
  • These calls have yielded their desired result with a number of organisers announcing the postponement of their events. However, a number of parties, including weekenders, remain scheduled throughout August.

Economy

The National Statistics Office announced that there is an increase of 2,654 people registering for work compared to June last year. Figures for June this year show that people registering for work have risen to a total of 4,270 people. However, this number reflected a decrease from the 4,409 looking for a job at the end of May, a figure which Government attributed to a pick-up in economic activity.

Education

Education Minister Owen Bonnici said that Government is committed to start the new scholastic year on schedule, on 28th September. While precautions will be taken, Bonnici assured Parliament that the first day will be a normal day.

He described Skolasajf and childcare centres in Summer as an experiment which allow schools to operate in a better manner throughout the normal scholastic year.

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