Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne has finally provided details on the upcoming introduction of vaccine certificate requirements for hospitality establishments, including how staff will be affected.
Speaking earlier on Thursday, he confirmed that the Government is proceeding with controversial plans to force visitors and staff at hospitality establishments including bars, restaurants, gyms, pools, sporting events and cinemas to present a valid vaccine certificate (unless exempt) from Monday.
This rule has been attacked by several groups, including the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE), which on Tuesday decried the impact the loss of unvaccinated staff would have on already struggling establishments, saying operating without them is “not an option.”
Minister Fearne has now offered a compromise, providing an exception for back of house staff and those who do not come into direct contact with customers.
“We are setting an exemption for staff of businesses covered by the new rules, those people not in contact with clients… so in restaurants those at the back, or in the kitchen, washing plates, with no contact with clients, will not be obligated to have a vaccine certificate,” he said.
Additionally, referring to the requirement that individuals get a booster jab within three months after their first course of vaccination (to jabs for Moderna and Pfizer, and one for Johnson & Johnson), Minister Fearne introduced a short grace period for staff, of two weeks – meaning those without a booster will be allowed to work until 1st February.
This is in line with previous reporting by BusinessNow.mt, which last week revealed that hospitality insiders expect an unofficial grace period for the implementation of the vaccine certificate and its booster requirement.
The exemption for staff working in back go house positions need to be clarified, and a number of questions remain unanswered, including for example, whether bartenders at establishments offering exclusively table service will count as back office staff.
Additionally, Minister Fearne refused to give a direct reply to press questions on what employers are expected to do with client-facing unvaccinated or unboosted staff. When asked, he said the Government was setting up walk-in vaccination clinics around the island to make it easier to get the jab, and urged such staff to get their shot.
A legal notice detailing the implementation of the rules still has not been published, but further information, including on the exact venue types effected, will be published in the coming days.
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