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11th Aug 2021

Malta allows phased reopening of English schools

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Following the closure of the country’s ELT schools in mid-July, Maltese health authorities allowed the resumption of instruction for continuing students as of 26 July
  • New course bookings will now be permitted of 15 August and active recruiting may recommence on 16 August

Since the abrupt closure of all English language schools in the country on 14 July, the Maltese government has twice updated its guidance to allow the country’s ELT sector to resume operations this month.

English schools were closed in July as COVID cases surged. Government statements at the time attributed the rising case counts to unvaccinated foreign travellers, and to outbreaks reported at nine language schools in Malta. Officials said at the time that up to 700 students had contracted COVID-19 while in Malta to study English.

A statement at the time from FELTOM (the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations Malta) characterised the closure as "disproportionate and extreme," and said that "The Government has not allowed adequate time to the affected stakeholders to manage this sudden reversal of policies for all tourism. We feel that this is a drastic reaction reached by the Government without proper consultation with the stakeholders."

Less than two weeks later, however, the closure order was partially reversed so that schools could resume teaching previously enrolled students as of 26 July. The latest guidance, issued on 2 August, allows schools to admit students who were already in Malta as of 26 July or who had booked their course in Malta as of 26 July and could travel to Malta by 2 August.

Further, the schools were permitted to accept only students who were fully vaccinated with a valid vaccination certificate. Those vaccination requirements are detailed in the guidance document linked above, but, in short, students are not permitted to travel to Malta until 14 days after their second vaccination, and must have received a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Authority.

English language schools are also expected to verify their students' vaccination status through reporting to Maltese health authorities. The following COVID vaccination certificates are currently recognised in Malta:

  • Official Maltese vaccination certificate;
  • An EU Digital COVID vaccination certificate;
  • United Kingdom NHS (paper or digital) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination Certificate
  • UAE Vaccine Certificate;
  • Turkish Vaccine certificate of full course of vaccination;
  • USA CDC record card;
  • Serbian “Digital Green Certificate”
  • Gibraltar, Jersey and Guernsey vaccination certificate
  • The Covid 19 vaccination certificate issued by the Ministry of Public Health, Doha, Qatar
  • The Albanian Digital Covid Certificate

Ready for new bookings

As the above guidelines reflect, Maltese schools may only accept previous or continuing students at this point. However, an additional phase of reopening for the sector will come into effect on 15 August, when schools may once again accept new bookings. The 2 August rules allow that active recruiting of new students can begin immediately after as well, noting that, "Advertising/promotional campaigns will re-commence from 16 August 2021 onwards."

Managing risk through ongoing monitoring

The updated rules for language schools add that, "Due to the nature of the operations and activities surrounding English Language Teaching (ELT) schools and their clients/students, ELT schools have been classified as extremely high risk for the transmission of COVID-19. Hence, for this reason, the standards outlined in this document need to be strictly adhered to."

As that statement suggests, schools will now operate under strict COVID protocols set out by Maltese health authorities, including monitoring and reporting requirements, capacity limits, and limits on gatherings inside or outside of the school.

ELT operators are further expected to regularly test students, including Rapid Antigen testing between five and ten days of a student's arrival and then every two weeks thereafter for the duration of the student's stay in Malta.

Broader travel restrictions remain in place

The latest guidance for foreign travellers to Malta is available here. It details entry requirements for all travellers, with conditions varying by country of origin or transit.

Of particular note there is the list of "dark red" countries, travel from which to Malta is essentially banned and "only permitted for essential travel in exceptional circumstances" with prior authorisation from Maltese authorities. A number of important sending markets for ELT study are currently included on the dark red list, notably Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.

For additional background, please see:

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