Malta’s leading business lobby group has joined calls to revise quarantine rules, saying the current 14-day requirement is “unsustainable” for the local economy.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry said that the government should cut isolation periods to 10 days, with fully vaccinated contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 required to quarantine for seven days – half the current requirement.

Times of Malta calculated on Tuesday that at least 20,000 people – and more likely close to 30,000 - are currently in quarantine, as the country experiences a massive spike in virus infections.

The Malta Employers Association has said that many sectors are struggling to operate effectively, as staff shortages force them to slash services, and teachers have said that schools cannot reopen if the situation continues following the new year.  

The Chamber’s calls for quarantine rules to be slashed reflect advice from the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine, which said on Tuesday that quarantine rules can be reconfigured, in light of the latest evidence.

The MAPHM is advising a 10-day quarantine period for COVID-19 positive cases and their household members, with a seven-day period for high-risk contacts.

In its statement, the Chamber said that adapting quarantine rules would encourage people to comply with the rules, at a time when contact tracing and enforcement “are stretched to the limit”.

“As things stand, there is a real risk that businesses providing essential services will be unable to operate uninterruptedly. Companies that cannot shift to remote working, such as manufacturing will run into serious disruptions that will further compromise supply chains.  Supermarkets, essential retail and the tourism sector will also be adversely affected,” the Chamber said.

It noted that the US has slashed quarantine rules for asymptomatic patients and that other countries have also reduced quarantine periods.

Vaccine mandates

The Chamber also asked authorities to be clear and offer support to employers mandating vaccination for employees in direct contact with customers or with several other employees.

“People who are fully vaccinated are significantly less likely to be seriously sick and less likely to spread the virus. Therefore, those who are refusing to be vaccinated are exposing their workplace to higher risk,” it said.

“Employers need to be supported in mandating vaccines on the basis of a risk assessment.”

Malta will introduce expiry dates on its vaccine certificates come January 17. As of that date, only holders of valid certificates will be allowed into cafes, bars, restaurants, theatres and other such public places. 

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