The Federation of English Language Teach Organisations Malta (FELTOM) has called on the health authorities to lift social distancing in classrooms to avoid putting a burden on schools for a third consecutive year.
FELTOM argue that this measure – together with a limit on the capacity of public transport vehicles – is inconsistent with the lifting of measures for other sectors of the hospitality industry.
“If said measures are not lifted imminently, they will once again burden the schools by limiting the number of ELT travellers they can accommodate,” the federation said.
“Such industry-specific restrictions are also proving to be grounds for concern for agents looking to promote Malta as an ELT destination. They fear that this continued singling out of the niche may result in yet another closure. It is important that the relevant authorities appreciate that our industry is extremely sensitive to any government decisions, especially during this period, due to the heightened awareness of foreign partners vis-a-vis the unilateral closure of solely English language schools in July 2021.”
Despite its concerns, FELTOM said it welcomed the recent announcements made by the Government regarding the lifting and easing of a number of COVID-19 related measures, with the next round of relaxations set to take place on 7th March.
These include changes to quarantine rules, both domestic and those related to inbound travellers from so-called ‘dark red’ countries; the acceptance of all vaccine certificates recognised by the World Health Organisation; bars, restaurants and other such establishments being able to stay open as long as their licence allows them to. From 10th April, outdoor standing events will be allowed to resume without restrictions. However, indoor events will be limited only to people who hold valid vaccine certificates.
“As the year advances, FELTOM is filled with cautious optimism that this may truly be the year where the industry will begin on its road to recovery. The recognition of vaccination certificates is vital to our industry and its service providers, as agents are once again considering Malta and its local ELT schools for educational travel,” FELTOM said.
On the issue of vaccine certificates, the federation pointed out that the industry would only benefit from the recognition of more certificates if the people who have them can travel to Malta in the first place.
“Therefore, FELTOM would like to urge the relevant authorities to include educational travel on the list of exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers in possession of a recognised vaccine certificate from dark red zone countries. To capitalise on this opportunity, FELTOM has planned two market-specific online workshops, where agents will have the opportunity to meet virtually with ELT schools and sponsors.”
The ELT industry will be desperately hoping for a reprieve this summer after schools were abruptly closed at the height of the season last year following a spike in the number of COVID cases. At the time, many in the industry felt they were being unfairly singled out.
“I feel that the Government took a hasty decision which had repercussions beyond the authority’s expectations, not only on the ELT industry but on all its stakeholders, both locally and internationally,” FELTOM CEO Caroline Tissot had told BusinessNow.mt.
Paolo Barilari, President of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (FELCA), had also sent a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela, in which he accused the Government of “destroying the image of Malta as a study-travel destination.”
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