The government’s recent measure to impose a 14-day quarantine on whoever enters the island – Maltese or foreigner – has thrown into disarray the plans of hundreds of tourists who came to visit, leaving them with expensive return fares and hotel bills and complaining they had not been informed of disruptions.
Among these are two young women from Lincoln, UK, who had their weekend trip to Malta booked since January. The 19-year-olds landed in Malta just as soon as the government ordered a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all arrivals as part of the measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
On their arrival at the hotel, Rosie Marrows and Bethany Page were told that they had to pay for 14 days of quarantine or else spend it in prison with a fine of €1,000 a day. When they called the embassy for help, they were told there were no official guidelines, according to reports in the British media.
“We decided to get a taxi back to the airport. We had no help from companies that should have supported us. I rang Ryanair and my insurance company over and over and their phones were simply turned off,” they said.
They ended up taking a one-way return flight that cost them around €900.
“If we got a flight back on Monday as planned, or we couldn’t pay to stay in our hotel room, we would be arrested by the Maltese Police force and quarantined in prison for 14 days (paying €1,000 a day in fines). It was truly scary,” they told the British press.
British High Commissioner to Malta Stuart Gill warned people travelling to Malta – and those already on the island – to keep themselves informed as the travel advice was changing according to the government’s guidelines.
“We recommend that British nationals who want to leave Malta, contact their travel operator as soon as possible while commercial flights are still operating. The reason why I emphasise this is because it is consistent with what Prime Minister Robert Abela said yesterday and the commercial flights are currently running,” he said.
In a recent press conference, Abela said it was extremely important for all people who were in Malta on holiday to return back home and for the Maltese abroad to return to the island.
Tourists who are stuck in Malta are turning to social media for answers – especially from the airlines and insurance agencies who are not providing information about refunds and rebookings.
— Kayleigh Small (@kaylismall86) March 17, 2020
Low cost airline Ryanair was one of those most frequently mentioned, with people lambasting it for not replying to their calls and still operating flights. People who have flights booked for March are calling for a full refund from the airlines and questioning why these have not yet been cancelled in light of the mandatory quarantine.
The need for non-essential travel has also been highlighted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who is calling for the closure of EU borders in an attempt to contain the ongoing spread of coronavirus on the continent.
“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” she said, while also calling for Europe-wide collaboration to address the virus rather than unilateral action by Member States. The European Council is due to take a vote on Tuesday.