As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Malta and just one day shy of the 2022 general election, retailers and local businesses are facing greater levels of disruption once again, however a reduction in quarantine for the vaccinated and the elimination of quarantine for non-household contacts appears to be having the desired impact.
Indeed, while some restaurants in Msida, Birkirkara, Valletta and Sliema confirmed with BusinessNow.mt that there has been a small uptick in no-shows or reservation cancellations, on the other hand, pressure from staff shortages is not as pronounced as at the start of the year.
Around the new year, Malta was experiencing highs exceeding 1,000 COVID cases daily, with health and catering sectors in particular warning of the acute pressures they were under due to the sheer number of staff in quarantine or self-isolation. At the time, apart from the alarmingly high number of active cases, topping 15,000 at one point, the number of household contacts also in quarantine for the then mandated 14-days was paralysing Malta’s economy.
This week, Malta breached 400+ daily new COVID cases on Thursday and Friday, with the number of active cases increasing to 3,590. BusinessNow.mt spoke to a number of businesses to determine if this latest spike, and with a general election this week, they have seen an uptick of disruption.
Owner and head chef at the popular eatery Danny’s in Qormi described the situation right now as “weird,” given the pandemic and election, saying this week was a “slow and bumpy ride with in-house dining slightly decreasing and deliveries being slightly busier”.
Adrian Sammut, owner at the well-established Stanjata’s restaurant in Msida said he saw an increase in no-shows or reservation cancellations this week amounting to around 10 per cent of bookings.
Nicholas Diacono, head chef at Valletta’s Tico-Tico, did not say he experienced a slow-down compared to previous weeks, while none of the businesses spoken to reported a serious increase in staff members in isolation or calling in sick.
Justine Cassano, a co-owner at Beauty Inc By Sue, a beauty salon, confirmed there was a small increase in cancellations, more so towards the start of the week, however it is nowhere near the disruptions faced at the start of the year.
One pharmacy chain who preferred to stay anonymous, but operates over 10 pharmacies across the island, said the number of no-shows did not increase dramatically, and is at par with what they usually experience this time of year, COVID aside.
On the issue of staff reporting sick or needing to self-isolate, BusinessNow.mt also sought the insights of The Malta Chamber’s President, Marisa Xuereb who confirmed that businesses are having more people reporting sick due to being COVID positive, but that the elimination of quarantine for vaccinated non-household contacts has “significantly” reduced COVID-related absenteeism.
“But, if case numbers continue to grow, businesses will inevitably be adversely impacts. On the other hand, the current variant does not seem to cause severe symptoms, so people are treating it much more like a common cold.
“Reintroducing restrictions would be even more detrimental to business, and uncalled for in the current circumstances.”
This month, Malta reduced COVID for positive cases of fully vaccinated individuals to seven days, subject to a negative test, or 10 days, subject to no test.
The same has been done for fully vaccinated household members of positive cases, with the caveat that a household member living with a positive case being unable to be released before the positive case.
In addition, and what is credited as having the most positive effect on limiting workplace COVID-related absenteeism is the removal of quarantine entirely for fully vaccinated non-household primary contacts of positive cases, such as colleagues who work closely together.
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