Standing events will “certainly not be allowed” from 16th August, said Minister for Health Chris Fearne, pointing to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the community as the reason for the decision.
He however left the door open to “limited and restricted” standing events, and said the authorities are in constant contact with industry stakeholders.
“We regularly speak to all stakeholders,” he said during the press conference providing importance updates on the number of cases, booster shots, and lifting of restrictions for vaccinated people in contact with a COVID-19 case.
“We always said that if there is a change in the number of active cases in the community or hospitals, we might go back to tighter restrictions.”
“In this case,” he continued, “despite an increase in community cases, because the number of hospital cases have not increased so much we can continue rolling back measures.”
He was referring to an increase in the number of people allowed per cluster for seated events (see below).
Responding to a question about the reasoning in not allowing standing events, despite a fully vaccinated population which makes up 88 per cent of all adults ,the Minister said that standing events are different because the relevant protocols and social distancing measures cannot be enforced.
“Imagine an event of 300 people,” he said. “If the next day we see a positive case, we don’t need to hold everyone in quarantine. There’s the mask, there’s contact tracing.
“On the other hand, if a single positive case is found in a standing event, where by definition social distancing protocols cannot be followed, everyone in that event will need to enter quarantine.”
He reminded listeners that while the number of cases in hospital are lower than they were, “they’re not nothing”.
Early in July, Minister Fearne announced the possible return of standing events, saying, “If the situation and the numbers allow us to do so, we will consider allowing standing events with small numbers after Santa Marija.”
“That way, we can continue approaching normality.”
Soon after the announcement, and despite the conditional nature of his statement, popular club promotor Glitch Club Series opened ticket sales for a stand-up event on 16th August, which was sold out in minutes.
In reaction to the Minister’s announcement today that standing events will not in fact be permitted from 16th August, Glitch organiser Kevin Ellul took to Facebook to express his disappointment.
In the since-deleted post, he asked how it is possible that “the most vaccinated country in the world” can believe that a 100-person event for fully vaccinated people is “a threat to society”.
“I have said if before and I will say it again,” he said. “Politics is the only thing keeping my business restricted and not science.”
“I sincerely hope most of you are as frustrated as I am,” he continued. We have all been taken for a ride, the vaccine promises keep on changing.
“The sad truth is that everyone took the risk (to a certain extent) and got vaccinated, yet our freedoms are long gone. This is not what we signed up for.”
He pointed out that event promoters have not received an financial assistance despite being practically shut down for 18 months.
“To add insult to injury, the Malta Arts Council was supposed to be helping the culture and arts with a support scheme. This scheme clearly mentions standing events, on an official Government document. I wonder if we have 10 different governments running this circus.
“We’ve been left in the dark for most of the time. When we piled up the pressure, Government shut us up with empty promises and lies. Now on the eve of re-opening, this is what we get. I am truly disgusted.”
In an appeal to his followers, Mr Ellul said, “Today it is us, tomorrow it could be you or your families. Our freedoms are history, as we slowly transitioning into an even more sick totalitarian state.”
Last week, the Malta Entertainment Industry and Artists Association warned that planning any activities after 16th August was impossible without the relevant guidelines, and insisted on their publication.
Minister Fearne said that seated events can today take place in clusters of 200 persons per cluster.
“From 16th August, this 200 person number will go up to 300,” he said.
Events will remain open to people who are vaccinated and have a valid certificate.
From 30th August, the number of each cluster goes up to 500 persons.
The Minister was clear that this refers to events that are controlled for those who are vaccinated, with social distancing respected.
He said that this follows the experience with events having 150-200 people per cluster, which has maintained a stable situation.
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