The health measures that come into force on January 17 are a “hammer blow” for the hospitality sector, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association warned on Friday.
From Monday, only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to access restaurants, cafes, gyms and other public places. Those working in those venues, who have direct contact with clients, will also have to prove their vaccine status.
MHRA said the new measure has left the sector feeling “anger and frustration”.
It said in the past two years, the hospitality sector has faced "unimaginable difficulties" for both employers and employees, but remained resilient thanks to the wage supplement.
MHRA said the government has now "singled out" the hospitality sector by making it an obligation for establishments to ensure that only the fully vaccinated are allowed access to their venues.
It pointed out that the new measure also discriminates between vaccinated Maltese residents and vaccinated tourists.
Maltese residents must take a booster shot to receive a certificate that is valid for nine months, while certificates issued by other EU member states will be considered valid for nine months from the second dose.
“Furthermore, apart from contradicting the government’s statements that it will not impose mandatory vaccination on anybody, it is also clear that the authorities are not taking into consideration that some staff in the hospitality sector will not be vaccinated by the time the plan is rolled out or simply because they are exercising their right not to be vaccinated since this is not compulsory.”
There is no guidance for employers and employees on what happens to unvaccinated frontliners.
“Our staff are critical now more than ever before as it is very difficult to attract and retain staff working in the hospitality sector and these new measures go against any other efforts being spearheaded jointly with government to address this matter”.
The lobby said the government does not appreciate the challenges the sector faces on a daily basis because of the rising absenteeism due to quarantine measures and sick leave.
MHRA president Tony Zahra said: “The latest decisions are baffling, and without proper reasoning on economic or scientific grounds from the government, so we have no choice but to state that the hospitality sector is being unfairly and rashly singled out”.
Stop quarantine for contacts
In a seperate statement, the Malta Chamber of SMEs reiterated its call to end quarantine for vaccinated people who come in contact with virus cases and to reduce quarantine to five days for those who test positive.
It highlighted how Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, UK, Switzerland and Slovenia have all reduced quarantine periods.
"The side effects of such a long quarantine period has great repercussions on mental health and damages our social fabric. The prevention of persons from interacting, families from supporting each other as they would usually do and making one's ability to earn their livelihood more difficult requires serious consideration," it said.
It said that businesses have reported facing difficulty dealing with quarantine.
"Having the backing of Malta’s successful vaccination strategy is incomparable to the levels of other countries. Moving towards the (quarantine) recommendations made by the Centre for Disease and Prevention is, therefore, essential," it said.