The government is in the process of finalising a new economic stimulus package to help kick-start the economy again after the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said on Wednesday. 

He urged people to get on with their lives while taking the necessary precautions. “Life must go on. Life is too beautiful to continue being closed in a cage. More than the coronavirus itself, there is also people’s mental health and solitude, which I think is far more worrying. We allowed the reopening of shops providing certain services to encourage people to socialise again,” he said. 

Schembri was speaking following a visit to Baxter, a company which produces medical supplies, which is employing 100 more people to keep up with the increased demand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Baxter increased its production by 20%. 

He said Baxter was a success story and testament of how challenges were transformed into opportunities. 

However, not all companies were doing well. Shops that reopened their doors just over a fortnight ago had seen very little or no business at all, with many of them saying they were better off when shut.

Times of Malta reported last week how shop owners complained that they were losing money: “We’re open but every minute that passes we’re losing money,” one angry business owner said.

Non-essential retail outlets were ordered to close on March 23 to curb the spread of COVID-19 and were allowed to re-open on May 4, with obligatory use of masks and restricted footfall. Hairdressers and restaurants are due to reopen on Friday.

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The Chamber of SMEs said it had put forward a proposal to the government to subsidise rent but no decision on the matter was forthcoming. 

When asked whether the government will help shops, Schembri confirmed that the proposal had been made and others were also made by other organisations representing businesses and employers. He said the government was finalising a holistic plan which is expected to give the economy the required kick-start through economic stimulus. This package will be unveiled in the next few days, he said. 

Schembri said that despite the hardships caused by the pandemic, Malta continued to attract investment because there were other companies which, like Baxter, expanded their operations. 

“COVID-19 brought about its challenges, but we were creative and turned these into opportunities. Baxter took the necessary precautions and continued its operations because the demand was increasing. Throughout the pandemic, the company increased production by 20%. The demand for one of its products, related to medical supplies for kidney treatment, increased five-fold,” he said. 

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