From today, Malta’s new travel rules are due to come into force as the health authorities grapple with rocketing daily cases of COVID-19.
The major change is the requirement of a vaccine certificate to be allowed a quarantine-free entry into the island and the introduction of a 14-day quarantine for those who choose not to get vaccinated.
Here are some of the rules you need to know before you travel.
I am fully vaccinated, can I visit Malta quarantine-free?
Not necessarily. The authorities are currently only accepting vaccine certificates from the EU, Switzerland and the UK.
And although in principle, anyone who has the EU’s digital COVID certificate (EUDCC) can show the authorities they are fully vaccinated, tested for the virus or have already contracted COVID-19 in the past, the Maltese authorities will only recognise the vaccine part of this document.
Importantly, the vaccine you have been administered must also be approved by the European Medicines Authority – ie, Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
What if I have had a vaccine approved by the EU outside Europe or the UK?
You can’t enter Malta without quarantining, under current rules.
For example, a traveller from the US that has been given an EMA-approved vaccine, such as Pfizer, will not be allowed to enter with a US certificate.
In this case, the government is recognising the certificate, not the vaccine.
While some non-EU countries have administered different doses to those approved by the EU, such as Russia’s Sputnik vaccine or China’s Sinovac jab, others have been giving their citizens vaccines identical to those given in Europe.
Despite this, the Maltese authorities have insisted they will only recognise the EU and UK certificates, even if the vaccines are the same.
But things might actually change in the coming days. Health Minister Chris Fearne confirmed on Tuesday the government was in talks with other countries to start accepting documents from more countries.
He did not say which countries were being considered. Times of Malta understands that the issue with accepting additional certificates is purely technical, meaning the authorities want to make sure they have the systems in place to be able to securely scan documents.
I have a medical reason for not getting vaccinated, can I travel to Malta without quarantining?
Yes. Although initially the health authorities did not differentiate between those opting not to take the vaccine and those who cannot do so because of a medical reason, rules published on Tuesday reverted this decision.
Anyone who has a medical reason proven by a doctor for not taking the vaccine will be allowed to enter the island by providing a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours from arrival.
They won’t have to quarantine on arrival.
What if I chose not to get the vaccine?
In this case, travel to Malta will be allowed as long as travellers quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
It is understood that those who have to go to quarantine will need to go to a hotel designated as such at their own expense but details about this have not yet been announced.
What about children?
Another significant change that comes into force today is that minors will not be allowed to travel alone.
Those under 12 can arrive in Malta without a vaccine certificate, but must have a PCR test and be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult. Children under five do not have to show a negative test.
Anyone aged 12 and over must provide a vaccine certificate, even though there are countries, such as the UK, who do not administer the vaccine in this age group.
Malta began vaccinating children aged 12 and over last month and around two-thirds of those eligible have been given at least one dose. As with adults, only children who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days are handed a certificate.
Are the rules different for Maltese residents?
All the rules in place apply to both locals and tourists. Unvaccinated Maltese residents already abroad before the rules came into force can still return to Malta, as long as they can show proof of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival. They must then quarantine for at least 14 days.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.