EF language school in St Julians is taking precautions to keep swine flu at bay and has pasted posters to the walls urging students to wash their hands.

Alcohol-based bacterial hand rubs are available in every classroom and students who look unwell are sent back to their accommodation. They are only accepted back if they produce a doctor's note confirming they are clear of the flu.

"We are doing all we can to protect staff and students," school director Roger Bugeja said, adding all surfaces were cleaned daily with antiseptic wipes.

Precautions at the Malta branch of the international language schools' company were upped last week after the first case of swine flu was confirmed in Malta.

Similarly, AM language school is keeping a close eye on students, calling the school doctor when anyone felt unwell, Julian Cassar Torreggiani, one of the directors, said.

Students were given all the information about the precautions they could take so as not to spread the infection, such as frequent hand-washing.

He said six students arrived in Malta last week on the same flight as the rugby players who fell ill with the influenza but they were all fine.

ESE chief operations officer Ivan Faurè said a qualified medical practitioner visited any sick students and teachers, students and other personnel were fully aware of the need for general hygiene.

Pharmacies around the island have seen an increase in the sale of antiseptic wipes and alcohol rubs as concerned people increased their level of hand hygiene.

Michael Galea, pharmacist at Paola's Agius Pharmacy, said the demand for antibacterial wipes and sanitising hand gels had increased dramatically since Friday morning, a day after the first cases were announced.

Collins Williams Pharmacy also saw an increase in demand, Max Borg Millo said.

At Saint James Hospital in both Sliema and Żabbar, a nurse was taking the temperature of patients as soon as they walked into the hospital, ensuring nobody was showing symptoms of influenza.

Swine influenza has also had an impact on outgoing tourism, a number of tour operators said.

"It was the final nail in the coffin after the global recession," Norman Hamilton, from Hamilton Travel, said.

Mr Hamilton said people were mostly scared of travelling to the UK and Spain and some had even tried to cancel their holidays, although in the end they stuck to their original plans. He argued that with swine flu present in Malta, it was as bad staying at home as going abroad.

"There is a good chance that incoming tourists would bring it with them," he said.

Similarly, Richard Magri, from Mondial, said the advent of swine flu led to mass hysteria and a number of people called asking for information or trying to cancel their flights.

"I would have thought that once there were cases of swine flu in Malta, people would feel more comfortable to go abroad because there is still a chance to get swine flu here," he said, adding that the main inquiries were about Spain and the UK.

Mark Anastasi, from Tristar Travel, said some people who were going on holiday preferred not to travel to Spain.

Lourdes Grech, from Europa Tours, said the company saw a reduction in bookings even before last week but this could be because of the financial crisis rather than the swine flu.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.