Last updated 4.30pm, adds MUMN statement.

The doctors' union on Wednesday again threatened industrial action over the government's handling of COVID-19, saying a legal notice to regulate bars, issued on Tuesday, is completely different from what was announced by
the superintendent of public health.

The legal notice, it said, undermined public health measures aimed at controlling the epidemic.

"The Malta Tourism Authority is in self-destruct mode and fomenting epidemics
again putting profit before health. The government should offer financial compensation to bars and clubs and not act irresponsibly endangering the lives of people." the union said. 

Bars were originally meant to close from Wednesday, but the legal notice to implement that order states that they will be able to stay open as long as they seat patrons at tables and serve food with drinks there.

The MAM said it had been understood that only bars with a licence to function as a restaurant would be allowed to operate as restaurants.

"Serving a bag of crisps with a drink, does not modify your licence, neither does it change the genetics of a virus. Whoever drafted the legal notice is insulting the intelligence of all the Maltese people," the MAM fumed.

Whoever drafted the legal notice is insulting the intelligence of all the Maltese people

It said the Ministry for Tourism by promoting rave parties, was responsible for causing a major epidemic in Malta, with one of the highest numbers of daily new cases in Europe. This had resulted in one country after another adding Malta to its black list, leaving the tourism industry in Malta in tatters and on the way to a complete shutdown.

"MTA officials should realise that disregarding the advice of the superintendent of public health renders itself, and whoever follows its notice liable to
civil and criminal damages should patients become seriously ill and die," the MAM said.

It said its council would be meeting today to discuss whether to reactivate directives for industrial action.

MTA - The issue is social distancing, not the definition of food in bars, restaurants

In a reaction, the Malta Tourism Authority explained that the legal notice makes clear that food and drink at bars and clubs may be served only at table to sitting patrons.

The emphasis was on patrons being seated and not standing and mingling around, with the consequent social distancing issues. 

The definition of food as served in a bar or a club was secondary to the principle of social distancing, as explained.

The authority said the serving of food is to be interpreted as snacks and platters, in a spirit of reasonableness and common sense.

Attempts to circumvent the rules to the detriment of public health would not be tolerated. 

No shared food at table - Charmaine Gauci

The superintendent for public health, Charmaine Gauci, said in reply to questions by Times of Malta readers that shared food is not allowed on tables because that too could lead to a spread of the virus.

Food had to be served in individual plates, she said. And crisps did not apply as food for the purposes of this issue. 

MUMN stresses importance of enforcement

In another statement, the nurses’ union (MUMN) welcomed the MTA’s but said it expected the authority to check menus and ensure patrons on the same table were not sharing food.

It also stressed the importance of enforcement saying government credibility in this area was poor and it had great reservations on how successful the new regulations would be.

It noted there was no guarantee that the new measures would be enough to control the second wave and said time would tell if the government was taking the Maltese people for a ride at the expense of their health and the economy. 

It said it would be monitoring the situation and would issue directives if things got worse.

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