Businesses affected by the mandatory COVID pass have expressed both anger and relief at the Government’s decision to overturn the latest measures, just a week after they came into force.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that controversial vaccine certificate requirements for entry into hospitality venues would be gradually scrapped at the start of February.
After making changes to their operations over the past week, several businesses who spoke to BusinessNow.mt were understandably irate about the sudden U-turn.
“It’s extremely confusing and frustrating. We’ve had to invest in extra equipment like scanners and even phones because the app only works on Android devices. Staff are being told something different every day. It’s very confusing for them,” said Kate De Cesare, director of operations at Eden Leisure Group, which owns various establishments such as Eden Cinemas, Eden Super Bowl, Cynergi Fitness Centre and Casino Malta.
“In the meantime, a lot of negativity has arisen. Some customers have got upset with us when we’ve explained the regulations, blaming us as a business for adopting these rules that were beyond our control. We hope these customers won’t hold it against us. Some of them feel we should’ve stood up to the Government,” she added.
Ms De Cesare also questioned why certain types of establishments, such as casinos, still had restrictions in place.
“It makes you wonder how they make their decisions,” she said.
Asked if the U-turn had dented her trust in the authorities, Ms De Cesare said:
“I wouldn’t go that far. No one really knows the best way to go about things. It’s been a trial-and-error approach by everyone. You can only assume that the authorities are taking what they think is the best course of action. At the end of the day, we’re glad there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Calling the situation “ridiculous”, one gym manager in Mosta told BusinessNow.mt he was glad the change had come swiftly, as the gym was on the verge of upgrading its IT system to be able to track when its members took their vaccine and when their certificates were due to expire.
“Thank God we only added stickers to our members’ cards. We thought that this system would be in place for the long term,” he said, adding that the gym had tried its best to deal with the situation in the fairest way for both itself and its members.
“We still had to replace all the cards, which obviously comes at a cost and involves some amount of work. That’s what you get for following the rules,” he said.
“The app doesn’t even work well so we’ve had to turn away people who in fact had a valid vaccine certificate,” said Sylvana Zarb, a manager at Bertu’s Gym in Gharghur, adding that several members had said they wouldn’t return to the gym until 14the February, when the rules are relaxed for gyms.
However, while pointing out that gym-goers pay monthly or annual subscriptions, Miss Zarb said that, unlike during previous closures, when the gym extended memberships, this time it was not in a position to give any extra time or return any money.
“We’re not happy at all with this. We had to close twice, then they imposed this new measure. We had to take the time to learn how to use the app when even 111 [the COVID-19 helpline] admit it’s not working well,” she said.
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