Bars remain shut in Malta as COVID-19 continues to bite

VALLETTA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Malta's bars and entertainment venues will remain closed for another month as one of the safeguards against the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Robert Abela said here on Tuesday.

Bars, originally shut down in October last year, were meant to reopen on Dec. 1, but the ban was extended to Jan. 31. Abela now announced that they would have to remain shut throughout February as the country continues its battle against the virus.

However, the prime minister ruled out decreeing a total lockdown, imposing a curfew on open establishments or closing down schools. Last week, the country's doctors called for a 9 p.m. curfew to slow down the spread of the virus, saying that hospitals were reaching "breaking point."

Abela said the new measures, which were due to be announced officially by the government in the coming days, would apply throughout the month of February and would then be relaxed in March.

"We want to ensure that we do not see a rise in infections. We want to reduce infections if possible," Abela told journalists.

The Maltese government has said that it will be announcing aid packages aimed at helping bar owners who have had to keep their business shut for months.

The health authorities announced on Tuesday 138 new cases of coronavirus and the death of another two patients. The number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the country now stands at 255.

Statistics released on Tuesday also showed that 128 people recovered overnight, meaning that there are currently 2,640 active cases of COVID-19 in Malta. The new cases were detected out of 3,248 swab tests, resulting in a positivity rate of 4.25 percent.

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