The Malta Independent 24 January 2022, Monday

Hospitality sector is being ‘unfairly and rashly singled out’ by new vaccine measures - MHRA

Friday, 14 January 2022, 15:04 Last update: about 9 days ago

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) has described the new measures announced by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne as a “hammer blow” for the hospitality sector as these lead to anomalies in the rules applicable to different economic sectors. 

The MHRA said that the assurance made by Prime Minister Robert Abela that the wage supplement will remain for as long as it is needed was well received however after Fearne’s announcement the sector has been left feeling “anger and frustration.”  

“The government singled out the hospitality sector making it an obligation upon establishments to ensure that only the fully vaccinated are to be allowed access to their venues,” the MHRA said. 

The association continued that this measure discriminates between vaccinated Maltese residents and vaccinated tourists “as the Maltese Health Authorities are being more stringent on the interpretation of the validity of vaccine certificates and goes against the EU Commission which ruled that as of December 21, member states must accept any vaccination certificate that has been issued less than nine months since the administration of the last dose of the primary vaccination.” 

“Indeed, with this measure we have just created a three-tier society – those vaccinated in Malta, those vaccinated elsewhere and the unvaccinated,” MHRA said. 

MHRA pointed out further that frontline staff working in the hospitality are now also being mandated to be vaccinated, something which they said contradicts government’s previous statements that it would not impose mandatory vaccination on anyone. 

“It is also clear that the authorities are not taking into consideration that some staff in the hospitality sector will not be vaccinated by the time this plan would be rolled out or simply because they are exercising their right not to be vaccinated since this is not compulsory,” MHRA said. 

It said that no direction is being given to employers and employees alike on what will happen with the employment status of such unvaccinated frontliners.  

MHRA said that it also requesting a scientific reason as to why this requirement is being imposed only in the hospitality sector. 

The association stated: “Our staff are critical now more than ever before as it is very difficult to attract and retain staff working in the hospitality sector and these new measures go against any other efforts being spearheaded jointly with Government to address this matter.”  

The crux of the issue however is that the requirement for vaccine passports and other new protocols is being limited to the hospitality sector only, and no other service providers, they said. 

“Yesterday we were reassured that this measure will not be extended to other service providers and that Government is against making vaccination mandatory. It appears that hospitality is the only exception. Clearly Government does not appreciate the challenges we face on a daily basis to run the businesses because of rising absenteeism due to quarantine and sick leave. This new measure will compound the problems further. We are sending a message to those unvaccinated employees, that they should look for alternative employment in other sectors of the economy where it’s ok to be unvaccinated. This measure is discriminatory and will certainly have a long-term negative effect on employment in our sector,” the MHRA said. 

The association asserted that “the new measures are unjust and put the hospitality sector on an unlevel playing field with other sectors of the economy.” 

“We have over 90 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, and this we recognize as an important achievement. Our authorities however are now missing the wood for the trees and will unfortunately be causing major repercussions in a sector which is critical for the wider economy without ultimately achieving any major benefits in our fight against the pandemic. Once again, the hospitality sector which undoubtedly has been the hardest hit economic sector by the pandemic, is being subjected to further unnecessary hardships.”  

MHRA President Tony Zahra said that, “The latest decisions are baffling, and without proper reasoning on economic or scientific grounds from Government, so we have no choice but to state that the hospitality sector is being unfairly and rashly singled out”.  

MHRA said it is ready to engage with Government to find workable solutions to get hospitality back on its feet as soon as possible. 

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