Malta approves bird-hunting season despite coronavirus

VALLETTA (Reuters) – Malta said on Monday it would allow hunters to hunt quail from April 10 until the end of the month, despite health authorities urging everyone to stay indoors to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision angered environmentalists, who said the police, heavily engaged in enforcing coronavirus regulations, would not be available to police hunting laws.

BirdLife Malta, an environmental lobby group, said it was absurd that the government had even considered the opening of a spring hunting season. Four Maltese newspapers, including all the English language print media, joined forces in an appeal to the prime minister to halt the hunting.

The Federation of Maltese Hunters and Trappers, which is a powerful lobby in Malta, says coronavirus regulations will not be breached since hunters go to the countryside alone or in pairs.

The government gave no explanation for its decision.

Health authorities have banned any public gatherings of more than three people. They have also ordered all those over 65 and those suffering chronic medical conditions to stay indoors. Hunters aged over 65 have had their licences withdrawn and will not be able to hunt.

Malta has so far reported 227 COVID-19 cases but no deaths.

On Sunday the superintendent of public health, Charmaine Gauci, repeated her appeal for everyone to stay indoors:

“It is important not to go out. Stay home to reduce the chance of encountering the virus. Only go out when it is necessary.”

Reporting by Cris Scicluna; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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