The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - New guidelines, more confusion

Thursday, 21 May 2020, 08:48 Last update: about 8 days ago

It was a never-ending press conference on Monday, but it still left many people dazed and confused.

As has been the case in other instances when the government announced the introduction or easing of restrictive measures, the message was not communicated well, and mixed messages were sent out.

We understand that these are unprecedented times and, perhaps, certain situations are difficult to foresee, but the authorities really need to up their game and think of all the questions that might need to be answered, before announcing half-baked measures.

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On Monday, Abela said restaurants will be able to reopen on Friday, although they must follow a number of regulations, such as the spacing between tables and the number of people that can sit at each table.

Restaurants that have outdoor areas are being urged to make use of them, but if they do, they cannot use their indoor space too. This means that they cannot operate at full capacity.

Restauranteurs have argued that this is not a viable option, pointing out that, while they are being forced to use only part of their dining space, their landlords will not cut their monthly rent by half, and energy bills and food prices are not going down by 50% either.

The upbeat PM, who spoke about hope and a return to normality, said inspectors should not dish out fines for major infringements – such as the space there must be between tables – and should focus on educating.

But barely 24 hours later, Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said that restaurant owners who do not follow the rules will be fined and, on strike three, they could lose their license.

And while the impression given on Monday was that reopening would be a simple thing, this feeling is not shared by restaurant owners who received a 75-page manual filled with rules and regulations they are expected to abide by.

We are not saying that the rules are bad. On the contrary, all measures should be taken to ensure that we do not experience another spike in Coronavirus cases, but things should be made clear from the onset, and the politicians announcing them should be on the same wavelength.

There was a similar case with hair salon and barber shop owners, who received a guideline manual which said they must test their water tanks for legionella before reopening. The test, which the document described as a ‘legal requirement’, could take up to 10 days to process. Owners were unsure whether they would be able to reopen by Friday and were, as a result, refraining from taking client bookings.

Reacting to this confusion, the authorities revised the rules, saying that small shops and those who draw their water directly from the mains do not need to carry out the legionella test.

Once again, we appreciate the fact that these are unprecedented times and there is no standard Covid-19 user’s manual, but this confusion and backtracking can be avoided if things are properly thought through before being announced.

A couple of extra days of brainstorming will not cripple the economy, but they might save us the weekly headache of trying to figure out how things are going to work.

 

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