Tuesday, May 21, 2024

About face

Malta is to close all language schools from Wednesday 14 July and ban unvaccinated tourists as Covid cases soar, the Deputy Prime Minister Christopher Fearne has ordered. 

The new policy was unannounced following a 500% increase in positive cases in the preceding 10 days. Ninety percent of the cases are in unvaccinated people, with the most cases among 13 to 30-year-olds from mainland Europe, the key demographic for English language students.

Unsurprisingly then, language schools have seen a particular spike similar to that which occurred last year. So far, nine language schools have been affected, according to the government, with a major outbreak reported in one unnamed school. 

Ironically, the government ordered the country’s language schools to re-open in June, while school owners, many of whom had experienced Covid outbreaks among their students in 2020, were reluctant to take the risk. Anxious to attract students to the island, authorities even offered vouchers worth €100 to any of them staying 15 nights or more.  

Responding in a statement the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations of Malta (FELTOM) said: “The sudden announcement of the closure of a specific section of the tourism market will be problematic not only for language schools, but also for the entire tourism sector and other stakeholders, not to mention the greater EU tourism market.”

From Wednesday the island nation will also limit entry to the country to fully vaccinated adults. Any children over the age of five accompanying their parents will require a negative PCR test. 

Malta has the highest vaccination rate in Europe, with 79% of the adult population having received both jabs, but the country remains concerned about its unvaccinated citizens, particularly with the emergence of a small number of cases involving the more infectious Delta stain of the virus.

Image courtesy of M W from Pix
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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