Exclusive: Malta reveals July reopening, with British travellers welcome

Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta Credit: getty

Malta has confirmed that British holidaymakers will be allowed to fly to the country from July 15, as one of Europe’s most popular destinations looks to kickstart its travel industry.

三级成人视频Tourists from the UK will be welcomed back to the Mediterranean island nation in the second wave of what will be a staggered two-step reopening of its borders after more than three months of self-imposed isolation. The first holidaymakers – including summer visitors from the likes of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Cyprus, Norway and Denmark – will be able to travel in from July 1, with the rest of the planet following a fortnight later.

The green light for tourists coming in from Britain is irrespective of the 14-day quarantine regulations currently in place for travellers entering or returning to the UK - and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice against all non-essential travel.

“We are hoping that the FCO warning and the quarantine requirements will change on the UK side before July 15 – so that people will feel comfortable if they want to travel abroad,” says Tolene Van der Merwe, the director of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) in the UK and Ireland. “But this is independent of what Britain does. Malta will be open.”

Tourists will be checked for the virus on arrival, but will be free to move on to their accommodation if they test negative. “Certain safeguards will remain in place,” Ms Van der Merwe explains. “There will be thermal screenings at the airport. All passengers – arriving or departing – will be required to wear face-masks or visors in the terminal building. This will also apply on coach transfers to and from the airport. And there will be a self-declaration form where people will be asked to share details of their travels in the previous 30 days. But this is to help the authorities trace cases – should anything happen."

Social-distancing measures will be in place in hotels and dining establishments, but Ms Van der Merwe is keen to emphasise that something approaching a normal holiday experience should be possible. “Many restaurants have outdoor seating areas,” she adds. “Luckily, we are going into high summer, so it is easier for restaurants to have more tables outside. Our restaurants and coffee shops have already reopened to local citizens.”

Malta was one of the world’s most decisive countries in reacting to Covid-19. It declared its first case on March 7. On March 13, it introduced a 14-day quarantine window of its own for all arriving tourists - before shutting its borders to all commercial aviation on March 20. This swift action saw the country hailed as “an example to follow” by the World Health Organisation – but such a complete pulling up of the drawbridge was always going to be a risky move. Tourism accounts for some 15 per cent of Maltese GDP.

Tourism is vital to Malta's economy Credit: getty

Speaking to Telegraph Travel last month, Julia Farrugia Portelli, Malta’s Minister for Tourism, disclosed that shutting the borders with the Easter holiday on the horizon “was a very tough decision”. It was, she said, “difficult to close off our ports, and inform airlines and cruise liner operators of our plan. But we had no doubts that stopping incoming flights, and applying quarantine measures with immediate effect, was the correct action.”

三级成人视频While undoubtedly strict, these policies have also proved successful. Malta has recorded only 663 Covid-19 cases, and nine deaths – the last of these occurring on May 29. But for all this – Ms Van der Merwe says – the country is looking forward to the return of tourism.

“We are fully aware of how important tourism is,” she continues. “And during lockdown, we’ve spent a lot of time and money on updating and fixing things that usually never get done. People are excited about visitors coming back. It has been very quiet on the island.”

The reopening of the border is visible in the national carrier’s schedules. Yesterday, Air Malta announced the resumption of 22 routes on July 1, with flights from Valletta to the likes of Rome, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich and Prague reappearing on the departures boards. Services to London Heathrow – along with links to Amsterdam, Brussels, Milan, Lisbon, Madrid and Paris (Charles de Gaulle and Orly) – will take off again from July 15.

Other carriers are yet to confirm their plans. “Obviously, it is up to the airlines as to which airports they are going to fly in from – compared to what they did before the crisis,” Ms Van der Merwe adds. “We don’t know the schedules yet, and it may be that they fly on a reduced basis until things pick up. But key airlines have confirmed that they will be returning – we are working towards restoring the fantastic airlift we had before.”