Restaurant workers, hairdressers, beauticians and others who work close to clients say they are facing “confusion” as to whether they should remove their face coverings, or ask customers to do so, when masks will no longer be mandatory from tomorrow.

“This is two-sided. On one side, a business owner who decides to enforce mask-wearing can lose clients who have had enough wearing masks. On the other hand, an owner who allows clients not to wear masks might lose those who still don’t feel safe without them,” said Abigail Mamo from the Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises (GRTU).

She said the overall approach of businesses was client-focused and many were doing what was best for their clients, with some trying to designate areas for the vulnerable.

Masks will no longer be mandatory anywhere from tomorrow except on flights, in hospitals and in care homes.

Earlier this week, public health chief Charmaine Gauci said shops and service providers that wish to ask their customers to keep their face coverings on once the masks mandate is lifted are free to do so.

Matthew Pace, from the Association of Catering Establishments, said he was seeing a mixed approach from restaurants and catering establishments. Some are asking their staff members to continue wearing masks, while others were allowing them to remove them.

The government’s position – to allow shops and service providers to ask customers to keep face coverings – was confusing the industry- Matthew Pace, Association of Catering Establishments

Pace said that the government’s position – to allow shops and service providers to ask customers to keep face coverings – was confusing the industry.

“This mixed policy is making restaurants uncomfortable. After two-and-a-half years of COVID-19, that has greatly impacted business, we should now have a clear policy – you either wear or don’t wear a mask,” he said.

Ramon Vella, who owns a salon in Sliema, and represents the Hair and Beauty Federation, said his lobby would not be making any strict recommendations to its members other than calling on them to be responsible.

Vella said he will continue wearing a mask out of respect toward clients but will allow clients to do as they wish at his salon. Things, however, might get tricky if a vulnerable client insists on others wearing masks.

“For example, if I know that a client just had a serious operation, I will ask any client booked at the same time if they can wear a mask,” he said.

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