UPDATED: More than 1,000 passengers in sea crossings between Malta and Sicily
The country’s ports also reopened today and after almost four months of only carrying merchandise, the catamaran completing sea crossings between Malta and Sicily today ferried over 1,000 passengers and 350 vehicles in two crossings to and from Malta. A Television Malta crew was on the first crossing.
By 5 am the Catamaran Terminal was bustling with activity as passengers carried luggage to catch the first crossing to Sicily.
At the terminal entrance a nurse from Mater Dei was on hand to take the temperature reading of all entrants and from that point onwards all had to wear masks until landing at the port of Pozzallo. There were also signpost notices reminding passengers to maintain social distancing.
So for the first time since 10th March the catamaran left the Grand Harbour and headed for Sicily with passengers on board after the last four months having only carried merchandise and vehicles.
Maltese passengers on board said they had been waiting for the moment to be able to take a holiday break out of Malta.
One of the passengers on board said she wanted to be among the first to board and when the Prime Minister announced the reopening of the ports and the airports, she was probably the first to ring to book her travel experience.
Another passenger said she was accustomed to travel and having a closed airport and ports created difficulties for her and she had looked forward to their reopening and making her booking.
Yet another passenger said his travel was of need because of work and it appeared that all was under control and passengers were respecting the measures that had to be taken.
The first voyages by Virtù Ferries carried a considerable number of passengers. For the first trip from Malta to Pozzallo there were 500 passengers on board while for the return trip there were 600 passengers on board of which 420 were Italian.
Foreigners were also anxious to renew their travels.
One said, “As soon as we heard that it would open today, we booked the ship, and have been driving to here from Denmark. We arrived for the opening. I think it is safe as in Denmark, or even safer. So of course I am comfortable.”
The Head of Cabin Crew, Brenda El-Kazmi, said that while passengers are able to enjoy facilities on board, they need to follow social distancing measures and follow seating indications.
She said that Maltese travelling to Sicily have to register a mobile app in case assistance is needed. On the other hand those coming in from Sicily have to fill two forms as to their whereabouts over the last two weeks and the close contacts they have had with other persons.
Captain Tim Fenech expressed his satisfaction that after four months of just boarding merchandise and vehicles he has now seen the catamaran return to normal life.
He said that Malta’s links to the European continent have been renewed and he is happy he was the Captain who had performed the reopening trip to Sicily.
On the catamaran’s return to Malta we witnessed the resumption of tourist activity. Van and vehicle drivers were once more awaiting the arrival of passengers who were carrying baggage but to a reality background of having to pass through thermal scanners on arrival.