Malta to return to mandatory mask-wearing as COVID-19 precaution

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VALLETTA, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Malta will return to mandatory mask-wearing in outdoor and indoor spaces as from Saturday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Thursday.

The measure is being taken as a precaution to prevent any major increase in COVID-19 cases, although the Mediterranean island has not yet detected cases of the recently discovered Omicron variant.

"It has been shown that masks, as well as booster doses, are effective to ward off the virus, including the new Omicron variant," the minister told media.

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He added that the administration of booster doses was being brought forward and people will be eligible for the vaccine four months after having had their second jab, instead of six months, as was the case to date.

Children aged 5 to 11 will start getting their own vaccine from Tuesday.

Malta had 81 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with 26 patients needing hospitalisation.

Fearne said the situation was well under control and the government did not intend to introduce further restrictive measures, as long as everyone acted responsibly.

Malta has had one of the highest vaccination take-ups in the European Union, with well over 90% of the adult population vaccinated.

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Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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