In a harshly worded statement on Thursday, Malta’s Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) attacked new Government measures closing eateries, as a “PR exercise”, that it believes makes “out of restaurants the sacrificial lamb”.
In the stinging rebuke, ACE condemns the Government “attitude”, which it says failed to give establishments necessary notice for the closure so they could consider possible wastage of stock.
The controversial announcement on Thursday dictated that (amongst other measures) as of Friday, restaurants, kiosks and snack bars will only be permitted to serve takeaways until at least 11th April.
Debate had erupted this week around possible measures to restrain the spread of COVID this week in the wake of enormously increasing COVID cases, as Malta recorded more than 300 new daily cases for its first and second time ever, in the space of a mere three days.
Hospitality industry stakeholders, including the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association and ACE were firm in their absolute rejection of additional measures to restrict the spread, instead arguing for tougher enforcement.
Ultimately, it seems the Government felt additional measures were necessary, and ACE is resolute in its condemnation of this, accusing the Government of failing to reach a balance between “lives and livelihoods”.
It maintains that it was enforcement that was lacking, and reiterates its criticism of “the behaviour of the few which led to the increase in [COVID] numbers”.
ACE believes that Government authorities have failed to “address the bullies”, and singles out the Health Authority as “very weak in handling the situation”, and without an “adequate strategy”.
It identifies licensing issues as a key area that should have been addressed saying, “Authorities have not even solved the licensing issues which was also a major issue in certain operations”, which saw some “licensed snack bars operating as strip clubs”.
Furthermore, ACE “does not agree with [Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci’s] statement catering establishments are a source of diffusion”, and calls for the publication of studies to vindicate her claim.
It also asks for studies to be published detailing virus spread in schools and mass events in households and elsewhere. Whats more, ACE called for the release of statistics concerning depression and other mental health issues, in view of the circumstance.
Finally, ACE said it was encouraging its members to manage already depleted cash flows in a very prudent manner, which may mean “the delay of payments for preferential creditors”.
This is a response to the fact that whilst authorities have closed establishments for the second time, relevant authorities including “the Commissioner for Revenue, the Health Authorities, and the Malta Business Registry” have not taken account of the situation and are rendering businesses insolvent.
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