March 16, 2020 / 4:52 PM / 18 days ago

Malta to close bars, restaurants after first local coronavirus infections

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Malta is closing all bars, restaurants, gyms and clubs indefinitely from Tuesday night at midnight, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Monday, after the country reported its first three cases of locally transmitted coronavirus.

The Mediterranean island has confirmed 30 cases of the virus so far. All previous cases had come from people who had been abroad.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said the focus was on social distancing. He said children should not be taken to see their grandparents since the elderly were the most vulnerable to the illness.

Malta reported its first coronavirus case on March 7. None of the patients have died. The island has banned travel with Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland and travellers from all countries are being put in quarantine for two weeks.

Abela said the government was doing all it could to avoid ordering a lockdown, however such a measure would be taken if necessary.

Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Editing by Peter Graff

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