Malta to accept both PCR and rapid tests for travel to island
The Maltese health authorities will be recognising both PCR and rapid tests for travel to the island, a move tourism authorities have for months said is crucial for the sector's recovery.
On Monday, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced Malta will finally be easing travel restrictions and would start allowing travellers who are not vaccinated to come to the island without forcing them to quarantine.
But the minister did not provide any details on how this would work, saying these would be outlined in legal notices later. The notices were published on Thursday afternoon.
The new rules come into force on Monday.
According to the law, travellers without a vaccine certificate can, as of Monday, present a negative test result or a COVID recovery certificate to enter Malta. But guidelines issued on Thursday stipulate that travellers with a recovery certificate will still need to present a negative COVID test to enter Malta.
Government sources told Times of Malta that the guidelines would be updated to clarify that people with a recovery certificate would not also require a negative test result.
Only those whose recovery certificate is not recognised under the EU framework will have to present a negative test, the sources clarified later.
Which tests will be allowed?
According to the notice both the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test will be accepted, although the latter can be done earlier.
For RATs, the test has to be performed "not more than 24 hours prior to arrival in Malta". Those opting for the PCR test, which in some countries is pricier and the result takes longer to come out, can do the test up to 72 hours before arriving in Malta.
According to guidelines published by the public health authorities explaining the legal notice, the RAT tests must be ones that are included on a special list by the European Council.
The result must also be in English, the authorities note.
"If unavailable in English, an English translation certified by the laboratory or a medical doctor is to be presented. RAT tests are not accepted unless on the EU digital COVID certificate format.
"Results from self-testing are not accepted," the guidelines state.
What about recovery certificates?
The latest change in rules will also see Malta finally recognising recovery certificates that confirm a person has recently been infected with COVID-19.
According to the legal notice, a certificate of recovery is accepted for 180 days after a person first tested positive for COVID-19.
The certificate must also be supplemented with a "valid proof of a negative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test obtained no more than 72 hours before arrival".
That means that although the recovery certificate will be recognised, tests will still be required for those who travel without a vaccine certificate.
No word on self-testing rules
Meanwhile, the authorities have yet to publish rules that outline how self-testing will work in Malta. Since announcing that these tests, which are commonly used abroad, will no longer be illegal, they have only said the legal notice outlining the rules will be published "soon".