The Malta Independent 24 January 2022, Monday

TMID Editorial: Christmas, business and Covid

Friday, 3 December 2021, 08:41 Last update: about 3 months ago

With Christmas approaching fast, businessmen are keeping their fingers crossed that it will be a different and better festive time for them than it was last year.

In 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing and the vaccination programme still to start, the restrictions in place limited the number of social activities that could be held.

Many families preferred to meet indoors, in small groups, rather than risk going to restaurants for their Christmas and New Year lunches. Many companies did not even hold their normal Christmas-related activities. Many individuals, then, did not venture to shopping malls to buy presents. Others bought their gifts online, which meant that local outlets which did not provide such a service ended up losing their customers.

It was a strange, quiet Christmas.

This time round, the situation is slightly better. We use the word “slightly” with caution, in the hope that the situation will turn out to be “considerably” better than last year. But, with the world on alert because of the omicron variant, about which so much still needs to be known, things can change very quickly. Added to this, new cases and active cases are on the rise in most of Europe, Malta included, and this once again leads to more apprehension.

We have all heard how some countries are re-introducing restrictions to combat the fresh challenges they are facing. So far, in Malta, the government seems intent on clinging to the idea that, once the number of people needing treatment in hospital is manageable, there is no need to increase restrictions. Many are now receiving their booster dose, too, which will continue to help.

Social activities appear to be on the rise too, with many companies this year organising their parties for employees. Restaurants appear to be fuller too on normal days, and they will be looking forward to a better Yuletide. Shopping malls are also seeing a marked improvement.

We had a minor test on Black Friday, which was described by businessmen as not reaching the levels of 2019, which was pre-pandemic, but it was certainly better than the results of 2020. This is encouraging, even considering the bad weather Malta experienced.

Still, as the Chamber of Commerce pointed out in a statement, shopkeepers want good sales not only on special days, but throughout the year. One could say the same thing for restaurants too.

We are still far from what we used to be in 2019. This pandemic is taking much longer than anticipated to overcome. Many thought that it would be over in two years, like what happened when the Great Influenza pandemic hit the world at the end of World War I. But the world as it is today is different from the world of 100 years ago. For one thing, the fact that travelling is so much easier today makes it easier for contagious viruses to spread.

What is more comforting is that the world has made great strides forward in medical care too, and this is an encouraging factor as the battle against Covid-19 continues.

Then again, we all need to do our bit to win this fight.

 

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