Restaurant tables a ‘safe’ distance apart, reduced headcounts at nightclubs and limited classroom sizes.
These are some of the measures being considered by a small team of government ministers and advisers tasked with figuring out what life in Malta should look like after COVID-19.
Times of Malta has reported that the government is this week expected to announce the first coronavirus containment rules to be lifted, but insiders say these are not likely to immediately change the restricted way people have been living life in recent weeks.
“We are looking at a very soft easing to start off with but this will be staggered, with more announcements to follow,” government sources said.
And while they say it is still a way off, the experts know that their exit plan talks will eventually have to look at what the “new normal” could look like in the summer months.
Restrictive measures may have been eased by then, allowing bistros across the island to open their doors once more. But tables might have to be a regulated ‘safe’ distance apart and the number of people allowed inside could be cut down significantly.
Waiters working in these new emptier restaurants would have to constantly use sanitiser hand wash and inspectors roped in to do spot checks. This is one of a series of scenarios that the sources say will be up for discussion.
Outside on the street, public transport may be running but only half the number of passengers previously allowed to board could be allowed. Drivers would still not be handing out small change and crowded bus stops would be banned.
Tables might have to be a regulated safe distance apart
Nightclubs could eventually be allowed to reopen but the once crowded dance floors would most likely be much roomier, the sources said, as advisers will have to consider new “temporary” headcount restrictions on all entertainment venues.
“Imagine having a half-empty cinema – it could be that this is how they are reopened at first,” one source said, stressing that it is much too early to make firm decisions on any of these suggestions.
On the neon-lit streets of the once-bustling Paceville, police previously used for raids and stopping street fights could now be tasked with dispersing large crowds.
“It’s early days, and we are still in talks, but at this point we have agreed that it is time to start discussing what this ‘new normal’ should look like,” an adviser said.
And while a move away from the current restrictions is on the cards, social distancing is expected to continue “at least for the time being”.
This could even apply to the workplace with potential measures including an initial limit on the number of people allowed to work from the office at a time.
Remote working, the sources added, had worked for a number of companies and could help ease the transition into ‘the new normal’.
As for children, talks have briefly raised the issue of where to go with daycare centres and summer schools, particularly as this impacts thousands of parents’ ability to return to work.
Schools were among the first to shut when the virus reached the island last month – the authorities are wary of reversing this decision too soon.
Limiting classroom size, and perhaps introducing a split roster, where children go in on alternate days, are two possibilities on the table.
“Again, it is really early days here, but yes this is something to consider,” the adviser said.