Alternattiva Demokratika has criticised tourism industry representative Tony Zahra for "minimising and ridiculing" efforts to contain the pandemic. 

In a statement on Saturday, the Green Party said Zahra's recent comments, branding continued restrictions "Project Fear" and warning of mass unemployment unless the airport reopened, were "irresponsible" and risked undoing months of effort. 

"Tony Zahra should realise that an immediate opening of the tourist season would ruin all the sacrifices made by people and healthcare workers. The focus should be on a new normal for tourism," AD secretary general Ralph Cassar said. 

Cassar called on the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) head to instead reassess the sustainability of an industry which depends on nearly three million tourists a year, and whether the eco-contribution paid by tourists (currently 50 cents a night) should be increased to fund green transport and green energy infrastructure. 

"Maybe we should decide once and for all to stop increasing tourist beds and stop building hotels to limit the amount of tourists to a more sustainable number. Maybe Tony Zahra could explain how the industry makes its profits off the backs of poorly paid workers," Cassar said. 

The Green Party added that it was everybody's duty to continue to act responsibly and avoid situations which could increase the spread of COVID-19, out of respect for doctors, nurses and other frontline workers.

It called on the authorities, the Prime Minister and other ministers to refrain from taking rash decisions and to ensure the situation remained under control. 

Zahra's comments - in which he also questioned early predictions of a higher death toll - have already drawn criticism from healthcare workers' representatives. 

The nurses' union has warned that reopening any form of a tourism season this summer would risk further deaths. 

Restrictions to contain the pandemic have been further loosened in recent days with restaurants and other non-essential services allowed to reopen with measures to ensure continued social distancing. 

The tourism minister has also spoken about efforts being made to establish travel corridors at the appropriate time with nine countries having only a few cases of COVID-19.

Authorities have however so far emphasised that there are no plans, as yet, to reopen the airport to foreign travel. 

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