Last updated at 9.19am with hoteliers' call for 'balanced approach'

The Malta Employers' Association (MEA) has urged health-sector unions to suspend planned industrial action in view of the cancellation of mass events.

The MAM doctors' union and the MUMN, representing nurses, threatened industrial action earlier this week unless mass events were cancelled in view of the risk of spreading COVID-19. They renewed their threat after finding measures to limit attendance at those events, announced by Health Minister Chris Fearne on Thursday, unsatisfactory.

But with organisers of mass events taking the initiative to cancel them, the MEA said the imminent threat to the population had been reduced and the unions should therefore suspend their plans and take any grievances to the negotiating table.

"Striking a balance between public health and business interests is a daunting task for policymakers, who may also be faced with conflicting interests between economic sectors," the association said, adding that it was confident that with good will and proper consultation the best solutions in the national interest would be found.

Doctors: We will wait for the government response

Meanwhile, the MAM doctors union in a statement early on Saturday said that while it welcomed the cancellation of the four potentially catastrophic revellers' parties, it was continuing to insist that the advice of the Superintendent for Public Health should be heeded and all mass events should be banned as from Monday until the new spike/epidemic is brought under control. The country otherwise risks blacklisting for tourism by all other EU countries.

Legally enforcible regulations of the wearing of facemasks indoors enforcible by fines, identical to those in virtually all other EU countries should be introduced with immediate effect, the union said. 

"MAM will wait for the government response and the MAM council will decide whether to suspend the directives planned for Monday," the union said. 

Hoteliers: Extreme positions will guarantee disastrous results

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said it was evident that the pandemic was still very much active at a global level and no one knew what course it will take, how fierce will it be and how long will it take to end.

"All stakeholders agree that there are no clear solutions but MHRA believes that the way forward should remain that of working on a balanced approach. Lessons are being learnt from our experience and the experience of others and accordingly, the best approach remains that to keep applying reasonable protocols which ensure that life keeps going on whilst securing safety by mitigating risks and embracing sustainable economic conditions," the association said.

"Extreme positions will guarantee disastrous results and therefore MHRA calls upon Government to keep taking the necessary actions which reflect a balanced approach for the benefit of the public, employers and employees.

"The fact remains that if the tourism sector receives a blow, then the rest of the economy will suffer and many jobs, not only those directly related to tourism, will be put at high risk. We are in this together and the only way to get out of it successfully is by working hard together around a table governed by responsible discussion and decisions."

The Malta Entertainment Industry & Arts Association (MEIA) in a separate statement said it welcomed the new regulations announced by Fearne on Thursday.

It said it would support recommendations by the Superintendent of Public Health that may require halting all mass gatherings when necessary, and it proposed talks with the authorities on a pragmatic approach to prevent uncertainty.

"A tiered risk assessment structure distinguishing between low risk to high risk mass gatherings is also recommended," it said.

"This will help both the health community as well as our industry react better to the pandemic which seems to be an unfortunate reality we all have to with for a while."

The association noted the cancellation of many planned events and noted that this would have a negative impact on the livelihood of artists, technicians and suppliers.

It therefore called on the government to improve the level of public subsidy including the COVID wage supplement currently given to the sector.  

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