Restaurant owners want health measures that come into force on January 17 to be reconsidered, warning these could be the “nail in the coffin” for the catering industry.

“Losing non-vaccinated staff is not an option,” the Association of Catering Establishments stated, in view of the measure that will allow only vaccinated people into bars and restaurants from next Monday. 

The measures, announced last month as COVID-19 cases reached unprecedented heights, are expected to add further pressure on an industry that has already been hit hard by COVID-19 and the subsequent human resource crisis, the ACE said.

Existing rules also dictate that all establishments must shut down by 1am and  forbid any standing events, except for weddings and funerals.

Gyms, pools, cinemas and sporting events will also only be open to holders of a valid vaccine certificate. Certificates expire three months after a second vaccine dose and nine months after a booster dose. 

Two-thirds of adults in Malta have already received a booster dose, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Wednesday. 

'Keep challenges in mind'

With less than a week before the measures start, the ACE is calling on the Superintendence of Public Health to be “reasonable, to keep in mind the challenges the industry is facing and reconsider the measures proposed”. 

While it supported the introduction of health measures to avoid the increase in numbers of COVID-19 cases, it felt this should not be to detriment of the catering industry. 

The proposed measures also brought on “the risk of a system that promotes two weights and two measures”, it maintained, explaining that “the industry cannot afford to have a different time bar on foreign vaccine certification vis-a-vis a domestic one”.

It was referring to a discrepancy in new vaccine pass rules: while Maltese residents must take a booster shot to receive a certificate that is valid for nine months, certificates issued by other EU member states will be considered valid for nine months from the second dose. 

Health authorities are expected to make further announcements about the certificate rules this week, after the EU Commission raised concerns about Malta's certificate rules breaching an EU-wide agreement regarding access to travel.

The ACE also noted that it is pointless implementing policies that could never be adhered to. 

It also appealed to the authorities to take action against people who are blatantly abusing quarantine, insisting this was causing further damage to the industry.

“Reconsideration and recommendations are being proposed to avoid that new measures and lack of action on quarantine abuse will be the nail in the coffin of the catering industry,” it said.

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