One of the sectors to be shuttered the longest due to pandemic restrictions, Malta’s events industry, has been left out of the Government’s pandemic exit plan, leading to stakeholders on the island unhappy and frustrated to be excluded. There is also anger at not being given any information or indication under which conditions standing events can resume.
Some have taken umbrage at mass events and sporting events being among the few businesses left where the public and client-facing staff will require a vaccine certificate.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne revealed that vaccine certificates will not be needed for entry into restaurants, snack bars and social clubs from 7th February, and for bars, gyms, spas, pools, cinemas and theatres from 14th February.
They will still be required for entry into mass events, sports events, casino, night clubs and travel, however, while he also confirmed that for the time being, mass events will be restricted to seated only activities.
For most of Malta’s nightlife event organisers, this is simply not an option, as evidenced by the relatively few organisers who attempted hosting such events. One major complaint has been the difficulty in getting the public to comply with rules once the night wares on.
Speaking to BusinessNow.mt following a request for comment, Kevin Ellul, co-founder of the popular Malta-based Glitch festival – which hasn’t been able to host its flagship August event since 2019- said:
“Not even an indication of when, how or under which conditions are needed for standing events to resume.
“We are left guessing, and the worst part is the discrimination of it all. We are back to vaccine certificates only needed for casinos, sports events and mass events. We cannot understand how the risk is limited to these events, especially in a country where so many are vaccinated.”
He pointed towards England, which has had most restrictions lifted and events allowed to go on since July. “They are learning to live with it, Ireland too.”
Mr Ellul questions if whether this U-turn by Government will cause a drop in uptake for the booster. Just eight days after the new vaccine certificate rules came into force, Minister Fearne announced that they will be scrapped in February. “Many people took the booster because they thought they wouldn’t be able to go to restaurants or gyms. Now that they are removing this requirement, will there be people, who having not taken it already, feel less inclined to do so now?”.
On Tuesday, Minister Fearne also revealed that 75 per cent of Malta’s adult population has taken the booster, leaving 25 per cent who have taken their primary dose only.
“The people that haven’t taken the booster will not be able to attend events, so essentially 23-30 per cent of the market has been wiped out.
“I understand the difficulties restaurants and other establishments faced recently, as we’ve had to work with vaccine certificates in 2021. It’s good that Government acknowledged the massive impact on business within this sector, but what about us?”
Mr Ellul said that back when there was no vaccine, and less was known about the virus, it was completely understandable to put the breaks on many activities. “Now, two years on, we’ve been through every excuse to keep standing events closed. It’s time to move on now, all disruptions from summer onwards have been a waste of time.”
Earlier on Wednesday, local singer and a judge on Malta’s X Factor show, Ira Losco, expressed frustration at the vaccine certificate entrance requirement being retained for music and sporting events only.
“Very disappointed that music and sport as always will be suffering the injustice of not having equal measures as some other sectors. I would like to ask why?”
Speaking to Malta Daily, owner and director of the popular clubbing complex Gianpula Village, Matthew Degiorgio, called out how in Europe the entertainment industry has been given some direction, yet in Malta it is deemed as “third class”.
“Can we have a direction? Our business needs an idea of what is going on!”
On Wednesday, Minister Fearne posted a graph showing Malta’s seven-day-moving average of infections and the number of patients at ITU on Instagram, seemingly in response to criticism that has been expressed from several quarters.
“I want to make this clear – we can reduce restrictions because the booster take-up has been very successful,” he said a day after the relaxation of rules were announced, while in a radio interview.
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