Malta will reopen its airport to passenger flights on Wednesday, July 1, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Sunday, as the Mediterranean island rolls back restrictions introduced in March to halt the spread of Covid-19 infections.
Tourism accounts for almost a quarter of Malta's economy and hoteliers have urged the government to reopen the airport or risk mass unemployment.
Tourism authorities are negotiating "safe corridors" for travel with countries that have low numbers of Covid-19 cases. At the moment, the proposal includes Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Latvia and Lithuania.
Malta has recorded about 600 cases of the virus and nine deaths, having carried out an intensive testing and contact-tracing programme. Restaurants and non-essential shops were allowed to reopen in mid-May, but churches and schools remain closed. Bars and gyms will reopen on Friday.
"These are exciting time for Malta. We are returning to normality," Mr Abela said.
He said the government would announce a budget on Monday, June 8, with the aim of encouraging consumption and investment. The budget is normally announced in October.
The government has paid €800 (Dh3,270) per month per employee to discourage layoffs in companies affected by the virus and said it would maintain that initiative until the economy picked up again.
Malta's decision to reopen its airport follows Sri Lanka's announcement that it plans to reopen its tourism sector in mid-June by allowing small groups of visitors to enter the country to begin with.
Groups of people from across the world would be allowed to visit and stay in approved five-star hotels that have strict safety measures in place, Sri Lanka's Tourism Ministry Secretary S Hettiarachchi said, according to a report in The Sunday Times.
“The tourists will be required to carry a Covid-19-free certificate issued either by their governments or a reputed agency,” he said.
Tourists would also need to wait on arrival at the airport for coronavirus testing, he said.