Updated Thursday 12.10pm

New government measures to fight COVID-19 took Malta "back to square one" since the start of the pandemic, Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech said.

Separately, the Chamber of Commerce said the new government measures, although necessary, would take a toll on Malta’s already suffering business community and should be mitigated.

Shortly after Prime Minister Robert Abela announced the month-long measures, the Opposition leader said the government had reacted in a panic to a situation it was responsible for.

The government, and particularly the prime minister, had made irresponsible pronouncements and given false assurances. It had taken wrong decisions, gambled with people's health, and the country was now paying the price. 

Grech said the current situation was the result of government interference in decisions that should have been taken exclusively by the health authorities. As a result, the health service was strained and collapsing, with management by crisis.  

"The prime minister has taken us back to square one, back to where we were  last March, despite the sacrifices of so many people and the millions of euro spent," Grech said. 

He criticised the prime minister for not having declared a national emergency, which would have enabled the health authorities to take decisions without reference to politicians. 

Grech denied claims that the opposition had not made suggestions to the government, noting its suggestions on the introduction of consumer vouchers, its call for telework and testing of arriving travellers.

He said the prime minister should now admit his mistakes, face the music, and let the medical experts take their decisions. 

All non-essential outlets have been forced to shut down. Photo: Matthew MirabelliAll non-essential outlets have been forced to shut down. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MUT welcomes measures

In a statement after the prime minister's press conference, the Malta Union of Teachers said it welcomed the decision by the government to close all education institutions from Monday.

"The government has accepted the MUT’s proposal as presented this afternoon during the meeting held. The MUT shall be working with educators and respective stakeholders for the transition to online learning," it said. 

Chamber: new measures will take a toll on business 

The Chamber of Commerce said the new measures, although necessary, would take a toll on Malta’s already suffering business community.

"These restrictions must be mitigated. The Malta Chamber, as it has always done, shall be constructive in its support to the country’s authorities in this regard," it said.

"Let’s not allow this great sacrifice to be prejudiced. While the vaccination efforts proceed, let's all come together and pull the same rope, in order for the country to come out of this dark patch with the least damage possible."

MAM: Measures welcome, enforcement needs to be maintained

The Medical Association of Malta welcomed the measures and said it will closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic and its effect on health services.

It encouraged the public, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to stay at home and to have minimal social contact. 

The stepping up of enforcement for non-compliance with public health measures is welcome and needs to be maintained, it said.

MAM said it is is pleased that there is a regular supply of vaccines and encouraged the health authorities to complete the vaccination of people aged 60-80 as soon as possible.

More transparency on the roll-out of vaccination and an efficient and working helpline for this age group would be beneficial, it said.

ACE welcomes new measures and calls for unity

The Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) thanked the government for the assistance to businesses and called on certain commercial landlords to show a better sense of understanding, supporting their tenants with lower rents.

Malta, it said, should unite behind the Prime Minister to overcome this unprecedented moment in the country’s history. 

It called for an appropriate analysis to identify the true main source of the dispersion of the virus and on every resident in Malta to do their best to avoid further transmission.

More economic pressure - MHRA

The new measures have piled even more economic pressure on the hospitality industry which has seen business for most operators reduced to nothing or a trickle, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said. 

It said the hospitality industry is pinning its hopes on the quickest possible roll-out of the vaccine so as one can return to some form of normality and allow the hospitality industry to move out of the "intensive care" zone and into the "rehabilitation zone". 

The hospitality industry needed to see that the so-called herd immunity is reached before the end of June as this would enable the industry to be open for business for the summer season, the MHRA said.


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