Malta, Pakistan tighten virus restrictions

·3-min read

Authorities in Pakistan and Malta have imposed new restrictions on outdoor gatherings in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19 as India's financial capital brought in a night-time curfew and Germany's capital mandated higher grade masks.

Malta limited the number of people who can meet in public spaces to two on Sunday as it seeks to prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases over Easter.

Prime Minister Robert Abela said measures introduced earlier in March, including the closing of schools and restaurants, had proven effective but although the number of new cases has been going down, this was not the time to ease restrictions.

He said fines for those disobeying the rule were being raised to 300 euros ($A465) per person from 100 euros.

The rule does not apply to members of the same household.

The island had previously allowed up to four people from different households to meet.

Abela also said that all travellers to Malta will, from Monday, be required to produce a negative test result for the virus taken not more than 72 hours before departure.

People who turn up without a test result will be tested on arrival and those who refuse, or test positive, will be put in quarantine.

Pakistan on Sunday banned all public gatherings including marriage ceremonies as part of ever-stricter measures to bring down a rising number of new infections.

"All kind of gatherings (indoor/outdoor) will be banned with immediate effect. This will include all social, cultural, political, sports and other events," said the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the body responsible for the country's response to the pandemic.

Virus hotspots or cities with higher rates of infection would be put under more restrictions from March 29 and there would be a "complete ban on marriages" from April 5.

The disease was spreading fast and filling the hospitals up with critically ill patients, NCOC head and planning minister Asad Umar said.

Earlier this month, virus hotspots were put under lockdown, wearing a face mask was made mandatory, schools were shut and markets and parks closed early.

In neighbouring India, the western state of Maharashtra imposed night curfews on Sunday as its financial capital Mumbai reported its highest single-day jump in infections since last March.

"We are seeing a higher COVID positive rate in high-rise residential buildings than in slums... to stop the spread only essential services will be allowed (at night)," said Mumbai Mayor Kishor Pednekar, adding that hotels, pubs and shopping malls must observe the curfew.

Residential areas in Mumbai with five or more reported COVID-19 cases have been ordered to be sealed off.

India overall recorded 62,714 cases of the coronavirus in the space of 24 hours, the health ministry said - the highest single-day rise since October - as well as 312 deaths.

Higher grade FFP2 masks will become mandatory in many public places in Berlin from Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the German capital's Senate government said on Sunday.

The protective masks will have to be worn on public transport, in doctor's offices, hospitals, care facilities, shops and cultural institutions, she added.

Surgical masks were no longer sufficient.

Some residents of the capital have already taken to social media to criticise the new mask requirement, for example because of the higher costs associated with FFP2 masks.