The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Covid-19 measures need to be relaxed before the situation ‘explodes’ – MEIA president

Jake Aquilina Saturday, 19 June 2021, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Covid-19 measures relating to event organisation need to be eased before the situation explodes, Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) president Howard Keith Debono told The Malta Independent.  

“It’s like having a pressure cooker and the valve needs to be loosened; if not, this is going to explode, and it is already exploding”, he said.

Malta has recently experienced an increase in reports of mass illegal gatherings around the country, where people are gathering in tens and hundreds, barely following any form of measure in place. But, officially, mass gatherings are still not allowed.

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The MEIA has been calling for a safer opening of such gatherings, where they handed proposals to the relevant authorities. The measures announced by the relevant authorities, however, did not match what the association has been calling for, as a sitting audience on 5th July for a maximum of 100 people, with a gradual reopening, was announced.

In light of this, the MEIA is organising a demonstration which will take place next Thursday, after the industry "was left with no choice but to call for a demonstration titled ‘Daqshekk Siekta’ on behalf of the people working in the entertainment and arts sectors"

“You have all these illegal activities and gatherings taking place, as opposed to giving a limit of, for example, 50%,” Debono said.

“When it came to events, after we had a meeting with the relevant authorities and the Deputy Prime Minister, they committed themselves for some controlled and limited events. We put forward our proposals at once and we spoke to them, but we didn't hear back from them – no feedback was received,” he remarked. “What the media and the people outside knew was what we knew.”

Debono, however, remarked that the association is involved in discussions with the relevant authorities “based on our proposals so that they reason and realise that we, at the end of the day, want health to be the topmost priority, but in a reasonable way,” he said.

“We are in constant contact with the Government, both with the Health Authorities as well as the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). We have a meeting planned very soon, and they know what we have proposed on the table vis a vis what we can do for this sector,” Debono remarked.

Up till now, the protest is still going to take place, Debono remarked. “We have the green light and everything is prepared for it; those who will be speaking, those who will be performing, and so forth. Of course, with all measures given by the Health Authorities in place.”

“So yes, it has the green light until our criteria are accepted.”

The MEIA president said that their position is that “the relevant authorities committed themselves to open in some way in July.”

“The way that they are looking at opening up is not sustainable, reasonable or responsible, because of this valve of the pressure cooker that needs to be loosened before it explodes,” he remarked. “We need a plan that we agree with – which we have already proposed ourselves – between July and December.” 

However, Debono remarked that this meeting has to be different from last time, as they don't expect to simply put forward their proposals and wait to receive feedback, but rather an agreement has to be reached there and then.

"No way, this is one of the criteria for sure. The plan from July to the end of December needs to be discussed, month by month in terms of what will happen.”

This is for two main reasons, Debono said. "Firstly, the 'what if' negative narrative needs to be changed into a positive one. What if things stay positive as they are? There is no reasonable explanation why we cannot agree with this plan."

"If things take a turn for the worse, as already happened with the waves of the virus we had before – which happened while our activities were closed – in that case, we take a step back, and go to the previous measure," Debono said.

The MEIA president also highlighted the "discrimination" between tourists and the Maltese. "A tourist is offered the opportunity to choose between a PCR negative test and a certificate, so we have to do that with the Maltese as well when it comes to events." 

"They are the health experts, and that is fine, but we are the experts of human behaviour with entertainment., and the country right now has a problem with this. So let us guide them as to how this should happen and we control them, and they, as experts in health, tell us what measures we have to take to give the priority to health as well,” Debono said. 

 

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