The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Christmas in the city… Not such a great idea during a pandemic

Wednesday, 11 November 2020, 08:44 Last update: about 3 months ago

On Monday, the Tourism Ministry announced that Christmas in the City will be held, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

This decision caused an uproar in the health community, with both the Malta Union of Nurses and Midwives and the Medical Association of Malta calling the move ‘irresponsible’.

Now, the government might have a number of reasons for wanting to hold Christmas in the City. The most obvious that comes to mind is helping Valletta businesses stay afloat, given how hard they have been hit by the pandemic due to the lack of cruise liners, and the political crisis before that. Another would be to give people something to look forward to in terms of Christmas and try to lift spirits.

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The government had explained that no mass events will be held, and said that what will happen is that Christmas street lights will be installed and that the Valletta Cultural Agency intends to, through music, small choirs, and performing arts, bring a positive Christmas spirit to all those families who choose to go to Valletta to buy presents or eat at a restaurant during that period.

The Ministry said that on direction of the health authorities, these small initiatives held in the open will be in absolute conformity with all directives and protocols which are in place, and also said that every person in Valletta must abide by the laws.

While it is a good thing that no mass events will be held, the government must be vigilant in not attracting vast crowds to the streets of Valletta, and while most people love Christmas and want to enjoy the festive season, such an atmosphere could, even if unintentionally, attract large numbers of locals.

If the government is to go through with this, and it seem that it is, then extra police officers will need to be in Valletta to ensure that crowds do not congregate, and that shops do not get overcrowded.

The government made a mess last summer with the steps it took while bowing down to the needs of the tourism industry, and the tourism minister should be wary of any initiatives that worry the health unions, given that they were right on so many occasions.

This will not be a normal Christmas. Perhaps the best gift we can give each other will be lowering the pandemic numbers and keeping the elderly safe.

Elderly people want to be with their families, want to embrace their loved ones, don’t want to be left alone. The more the government does to act as though this would be a normal Christmas, the more people will begin to believe it is, and it will result in more Covid-19 numbers.

Perhaps this year caution is the best Christmas gift the government could give to the country. Perhaps not enticing people to congregate in one area and supporting the Valletta businesses by coming up with different schemes would be the better way forward.

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