VALLETTA (Reuters) - A group of 128 French students who all tested positive for coronavirus will be flown home on Thursday on a special charter flight, Maltese officials said.
The students, mostly in their late teens and unvaccinated, came to Malta to study English earlier this month after testing negative for the virus. However, they subsequently tested positive and are in quarantine ahead of their departure.
The island had encouraged students to come to Malta in an effort to boost local language schools, offering vouchers worth 300 euros ($350) to the visitors to spend on the island.
However, the outsiders were then blamed for a spike in daily virus cases, which jumped from single digits in June to over 200 in July. The superintendent of public health on Wednesday confirmed that a quarter of current virus cases in Malta were among language students, by far the biggest cluster.
Language schools were ordered closed last week and some 200 students who had tested negative for the coronavirus were flown home to Rome, Frankfurt, Paris and Madrid on Monday on flights chartered by the Malta government.
Malta has tightened restrictions on all visitors wishing to enter the country, giving direct access only to those who have completed their full vaccine cycle.
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(Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Kirsten Donovan)