Updated 6.45pm, adds ACE's reaction

Restaurant and snack bar owners are set to receive €1,000 each to cushion the financial impact of COVID-19 containment measures, which has forced many of them to shut down.

Applications, which need to be filed through the Malta Tourism Authority, will be open from Wednesday, and owners will be able to apply to receive funds by the end of the month, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said.

The minister promised a swift delivery of funds, saying the application process is straightforward.

Applicants will receive the funds before April 11, when the measures limiting restaurants and snack bars to take-away and delivery service are set to expire, Bartolo told a news conference.

This scheme, which totals €2 million, is in line with the government’s approach to help other types of catering establishments, Bartolo added.

Bars and social clubs will also receive more aid. A scheme, which previously amounted to €1 million, will now increase to €3 million in funding.

The aid offered to bars and social clubs will now be as follows:

  • Category A applicants (commercial bars): €3,820
  • Category B applicants (social clubs/każini): €2,490
  • Category C applicants (non-political organisations that own a club): €1,660

The sums to be given to these applicants are intended to cover the period between October 28 and April 11. Owners who already applied do not need to apply again as the changes will be included, Bartolo said.

Over 10,500 inspections in February

Bartolo said that workers in MTA’s enforcement arm are currently being vaccinated because of constant contact with people in their line of work.

The minister expressed dismay about establishments that failed to abide by the COVID-19 containment measures.

He said the MTA conducted over 10,500 inspections in February alone, with three establishments closed down as a result of breaches of protocol.

Twenty two establishments were found to be in breach of the 11pm curfew and another 20 were found in breach of protocols.

When asked about complaints made by restaurant owners about having to throw out perishable stock due to the 11th hour decision announced on Thursday to close them down, amid rising virus figures, the minister said this was not “an ideal situation.”

“Ideally, we would have given advanced notice, but this is not an ideal situation. We are coming up with this scheme because we want to help them face these hardships... This is an extraordinary situation."

ACE reacts

In a statement later, the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) said the new scheme might prove sufficient for stock losses.

But apart from stock there were also rents, water, electricity and other expenses it hoped would be addressed for jobs to be saved.

More than ever before, it said, the wage supplement had to be given to all employees and not only some if redundancies were to be prevented.

It also called for VAT payment deferrals.

As for enforcement statistics, the ACE said the number of visits is irrelevant if visits are not targeted. 

It accused officials of shifting responsibilities saying that most illegal activities were published on social media and included pre event advertising.

While health authorities bullied small entities that had no or minor infringements, they ignored the real issued in spite of warnings.

The ACE also said that while standalone restaurants had been closed, a blind eye had been turned to those in hotels.

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