Malta-24 News Briefing Wednesday 29th July 2020

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Updated 1750 – Tourism Minister rules out banning mass events, would consider limiting numbers

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Fortelli suggested that limiting numbers for mass events was a possibility following a barrage of calls calling for their suspension in view of a recent spike in cases of coronavirus.

However she seemed to rule out banning such events, insisting that Government was discussing the “way forward” with health authorities, indicating the need for clearer and more definite health protocols.

Questioned about the strong statement issued by doctors this morning, Farrugia Portelli argued that a balanced approach was needed, recalling Government’s refusal at the early stage of the pandemic to listen to doctors’ calls for a total lockdown.

Updated 1301 – 12 new coronavirus cases

The Health Department said that 12 new cases of coronavirus were identified from 1,615 swab tests carried out during the past 24 hours, taking Malta’s total to 720, with 46 active cases. Give of these cases are related to the St Venera feast cluster, while two relate to Friday’s party-related cluster.

The Department also said that in addition to these cases, a total of 66 positive cases form part of the cohort of migrants who disembarked yesterday.

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Updated 1022 – 31 further migrants brought in

Net News reports this morning that another 31 migrants were rescued by the Maltese authorities and disembarked in Senglea harbour in the early hours of the morning.

No official communication has been released on the matter so far.

 

Updated: 0834 – Newspaper Review

Malta Today reports that a once-secret MoU with Vitals was signed by Chris Cardona on behalf of the government. In his testimony, however, the former Economy Minister laid the main responsibility on the OPM and chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The Independent quotes a statement by the National Audit Office following an addendum to the original probe which says that the Memorandum of Understanding between the government and Vitals Global Healthcare was ‘staged and deceitful’.

The Times says that a series of mass events are expected to bring thousands of partygoers to Malta in the coming weeks as local promoters stepped in to host festivals cancelled in other countries after spikes in Covid-19 cases.

In-Nazzjon quotes PN Leader Adrian Delia who called on the Prime Minister to make clear decisions on healthcare. He said that there is no reason left for the government not to withdraw the hospital concessions deal.

Malta Today says that 65 migrants from a group of 94 who disembarked in Malta last weekend tested positive for the coronavirus. They will be kept in isolation at the Ħal Far Initial Reception Centre.

In-Nazzjon says that the 65 migrants who tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday contributed to the highest number of infections recorded in a single day. There are now 99 active cases in Malta.

L-Orizzont reports that migrants who disembarked on Tuesday were kept in quarantine as per procedure. Covid-19 test results were out for 85 people in the group of 94, with the remaining results expected today.

The Independent questions Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo about the latest wave of irregular migrants. The minister said that the government has succeeded in limiting the number of arrivals to 3,000, thanking the governments of Libya and Turkey for their help.

In-Nazzjon follows the debate in parliament on Tuesday about the appointment of the President of the Republic, with the Opposition insisting on an agreement between the two sides of the House. A final vote on the amendments will be held today.

The Times quotes MEP Roberta Metsola who said that the Nationalist Party must be prepared to change direction. Her article comes ahead of a vote by party councillors this weekend over whether to open a fresh leadership race.

L-Orizzont quotes Prime Minister Robert Abela who warned against ‘baseless fear’. He said that if fear is allowed to seep to the roots of society, it will hold the country back from further progress.

 

Morning Briefing

Migration & Coronavirus: The 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.

Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, 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.

Constitutional Reform:

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 chose to drop anti-deadlock mechanism, which would have allowed Government to appoint the President with a simple majority after failing to get through a two-thirds vote.

NAO Vitals Report:

The prime minister’s former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, played a hidden role in negotiations with investors involved in the Vitals Global Healthcare venture, according to a report by the Auditor General.

While the NAO said in its report that it has not managed to get in touch with Schembri to discuss these findings, the former Chief of Staff was quick to issue a denial of his involvement yesterday evening.

“I did not negotiate this MOU, I did not write it, I did not sign it, and I had no involvement in it,” Schembri said.

Previously both Malta Enterprise and the former Economy Minister Chris Cardona distanced themselves from any involvement, but Schembri threw again the ball in their court saying those two parties had signed the Vitals MoU.

PN General Council starts voting

PN Councillors will start voting from today until Saturday as to whether the paid-up members will then vote to either confirm the current PN Leader, Adrian Delia, or else to elect a Leader in an open race, in which Delia himself confirmed that he would contest.

The vote officially takes place on Friday and Saturday, with the Party offering an early voting opportunity later this evening.

CDE News

 

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