Malta imposes restaurant curfew

VALLETTA, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Restaurants, snack bars and kiosks across Malta must halt services at 11 p.m. and remain closed until 6 a.m. till the end of February, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Wednesday as he announced a raft of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Abela said the restrictions aim to curtail a spike in infections as had been seen during the year-end holidays and to prevent crowds from gathering during the upcoming carnival season.

The new restrictions come a day after the government extended the closure of bars for another month. To mitigate the impact, Abela said the government was doubling the aid for bar operators to 2.2 million euros (2.7 million U.S. dollars).

"February has to be different this year," he said, adding that talks were being held with schools to postpone the usually two-day carnival break, which this year will fall on the weekend of Feb. 12-14.

He also announced measures to control the crowds crossing over to the island of Gozo, which is part of the Maltese archipelago and which usually sees large numbers of visitors during the carnival weekend. All carnival activities in Malta including the island of Gozo have been canceled.

These new restrictions will take effect on Feb. 1, he said.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said that one of the reasons for the new restrictions was that several restaurants were still operating like bars.

"We know that when people go out to eat, they sit down and eat but when people go out to socialise, they mix with more people. The measure announced today gives a clear message: you go there to eat and not to socialise in a bar-like environment," he added.

The Maltese health authorities said Wednesday that 193 new COVID-19 cases had been detected overnight, bringing the total number of active cases to 2,682.

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