Authorities in Malta have announced that all unvaccinated travellers above the age of 12 will no longer be permitted to enter the country from Wednesday, making it the first nation in the EU to introduce the policy.
Health Minister Chris Fearne said that starting 14 July, incoming travellers must prove to be fully vaccinated with a certificate, or will not be allowed to enter the country.
“We will be the first country in Europe to take this step,” Minister Fearne said. “We are not changing other parts of our [reopening] plan for now, but we will do so if the science suggests we should do so.”
Local unvaccinated citizens and residents wanting to travel abroad will also abide by these new rules.
“The rules are the same as for red zone countries. People without a vaccine certificate cannot travel there without authorisation, for whatever reason,” Minister Fearne said. “Unvaccinated people must have permission from the Superintendence of Public Health to enter or exit the country.”
Previously, only travellers coming to Malta from the UK had to present proof of vaccination, while all other travellers coming from ‘amber list’ countries only had to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test.
Verified proof included local vaccine certifications, UK-issued NHS COVID passes, and the EU COVID pass.
Malta has seen a rise in COVID cases in recent weeks, including 109 new cases on Sunday, which made it the fifth consecutive day that the number of new infections has doubled over the previous day’s figure.
Malta’s health minister argued the policy was made after a majority of the cases within the country were linked to overseas travel.
Notably, Malta has one of the highest vaccination rates in the EU, with 79 per cent of adults fully vaccinated and 84 per cent with at least one dose.
The announcement comes as a surprise to its highest tourism contributor, the UK, especially as the nation currently does not vaccinate children age 12 to 18 – a fact that is subject to change soon.
A spokesperson from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) told The Guardian: “It is rather confusing for customers because as well as our own requirements there are [other] countries themselves and their views.”
However, the agency hopes it will be a once-off, as other EU countries remain open and maintaining restrictions.
“Nobody’s got a crystal ball but countries such as Spain and Greece are very keen on letting British holidaymakers back,” said the spokesperson.
“Generally, throughout Europe, they are very keen to welcome back British holidaymakers, particularly if they’ve been double vaccinated.”
Air Malta, the nation’s largest carrier fears its profits will see a “dramatic decline” with the new prerequisites.
Its UK travel in July fell 30 per cent when the announcement was made for travellers to be fully vaccinated, according to Times Malta. Currently, the airline is dealing with an onslaught of calls from customers to cancel bookings.
“Our London Heathrow route has gone into decline, with 13 consecutive days of cancellations and no net positive booking activity registered during this period for travel during any summer month,” the airline spokesperson said.