Pharmacies and other outlets which this week started selling Covid-19 self-testing kits are being warned by health officials that they are breaking the law and may be liable to sanctions, including court summons, despite Health Minister Chris Fearne’s hurried announcement earlier this week that the tests were being made legal.
In an unexpected move last Monday, in the middle of an early morning TVM programme with a very low audience, the Deputy Prime Minister announced that self-testing kits are to become legal, as part of the government’s loosening of restrictions.
Immediately after Fearne’s announcement was reported in the media, pharmacies began selling hundreds of self-testing kits even though no legal amendments have yet been made, thus meaning that the selling and use of such kits is still illegal.
“So far, despite the unprofessional announcement chosen by Minister Fearne, no legal notice has been issued by the government and we have been warned not to sell test kits as this is illegal,” the owner of a leading pharmacy group told The Shift.
“While the minister, clearly for political purposes, made the announcement which set in motion demands from clients for these kits, he has still not found the time to issuing the necessary legal notice. To add insult to injury, when we started selling, senior health officials called to warn us that we were breaking the law,” he said.
Senior health officials confirmed to The Shift that no legal notice has been published by the government yet and that the selling of these kits is still illegal.
“These kits can start being sold and used only when the legal notice is issued,” they insisted.
“This was just a political gimmick, and we were not consulted,” leading medical officials revealed.
Several health professional organisations, including the Chamber of Pharmacists, the Medical Association of Malta and the Malta Union of Midwifes and Nurses expressed doubts about the change in policy, insisting that it’s not a good idea to allow self-testing. The three organisations said that the government should not have eased restrictions at a time when covid cases are increasing. They also said that self-testing could increase the spread of the virus due to non-reporting of positive cases and wrong use of the test.
“Who is going to report a positive case discovered through a self-test?” a senior pharmacist told The Shift.
In various other EU member states and in the UK, self-tests have been easily available and legal for a long time. Still, many professionals doubt whether Malta should take these countries as an example.
In Malta, despite the law prohibiting them, self-testing kits have been available on the black market, at a high price, for a long time.
The authorities have not taken any action, despite the practice being widely known.