Malta reopens airport in a bid to rescue tourism

Social distancing will be enforced at Malta’s airport, all travelers will have to wear masks or visors inside the terminal and thermal cameras will be used to screen passengers. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 July 2020

Malta reopens airport in a bid to rescue tourism

  • The country hopes to welcome 700,000 tourists by the end of the year
  • Malta has had only two new COVID-19 cases in the last week

VALLETTA, Malta: Malta reopened its airport on Wednesday to allow visitors from several European countries, but the move will not include Britain, which accounts for 30% of the island’s tourist arrivals.
The reopened connections include cities in France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
“We hope to welcome 700,000 tourists by the end of the year,” Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli told a news conference on Tuesday.
The figure is a far cry from the 2.7 million who visited Malta last year, contributing a quarter of the country’s output. Farrugia Portelli said talks were underway to widen the list of destinations, particularly Britain.
Tony Zahra, president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, said he expected a slow start with possibly 15% of arrivals in July compared to the same month last year.
Malta “could no longer keep the airport closed,” he said.
Travel was banned in March due to the spread of the coronavirus in Europe. Restrictions on economic activities, including bars and restaurants, were eased early in June.
Malta has had only two new COVID-19 cases in the last week, and health authorities said they are treating only 26 active cases. Nine people have died of the virus.
“Malta is being advertised as a safe country,” Farrugia Portelli said, adding that tourists arriving in Malta will not need to quarantine.
Social distancing will be enforced at Malta’s airport, all travelers will have to wear masks or visors inside the terminal and thermal cameras will be used to screen passengers.


Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”