The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - Summer music festivals

Thursday, 15 April 2021, 09:08 Last update: about 2 months ago

At least three music festivals are being planned for this summer, promising to bring large crowds of drunk revellers to Malta’s streets, and this at a time when the government is trying to pitch Malta as a Covid-safe destination.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has said that there is “no blessing” yet for any mass events. He also said later that while it is currently illegal to hold mass events, it is not against the law to market them.

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Now, we understand that such massive events take months to organise – they cannot be set up overnight. There are a lot of logistics involved, and the organisers would have to confirm the DJ line-ups from months ahead.

The problem is that marketing these events now does not exactly give an impression of caution in the months to come.

The vaccination drive, although moving at a steady pace, is still a long way off from being completed. The government says that herd immunity will be reached by June, but the delay in the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine could derail those plans by at least a few weeks.

Even if we reach herd immunity by the beginning of summer, this does not mean that we can do whatever we like and accept thousands of tourists and mass events. We have witnessed first-hand how such crowded events are a breeding ground for infection. Our population should be fully vaccinated by August, but this does not mean that all tourists will be immune to Covid-19.

If they get sick in Malta and infect others around them, they will still end up quarantining here, possibly needing hospital care.

The authorities have long been telling us that, while the vaccine will make life easier, the pandemic will not go away anytime soon. And this is something we must keep in mind.

To be fair, the people behind these music festivals have put up a disclaimer saying that refunds will be given should the circumstances, or the Maltese government, dictate that the events cannot take place.

But this is also about perception.

We are trying to attract tourists to Malta come summer, to make up for the huge losses incurred by the industry over the past year. Malta, we were told, has to convince tourists that it is a safe place to visit during a global pandemic. Refund schemes have been unveiled to make Malta competitive and attractive. But this could all be in vain if these festivals scare tourists off.

Furthermore, one of the festivals that is currently being marketed is scheduled to take place at the beginning of June.

While August and September may be a safe time to hold these mass events, June is certainly too close to the herd immunity target.

The government should be clearer about the issue. It is pointless for the minister to say that mass events are banned for the time being when the Malta Tourism Authority – an entity that falls under his own responsibility – seems to be one of the main sponsors behind these events.

Yes, there is a delicate balance between public health and reviving the economy, but there are also past mistakes to learn from. If we intend to promote safe tourism, the government should make it very clear that no festivals will be allowed this summer unless it is perfectly safe to do so.

 

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