The COVID measures that came into force on 17 January 2022 are yet again another blow to the Catering Industry. Once again the Ministry for Health has shown that it is detached from reality and yet again is playing Russian roulette with the livelihood of restaurateurs.
With these new measures the Deputy Prime Minister further compounded the misery situation of human resources and many staff are leaving the industry once again since one does not need to be vaccinated in other industries. The Catering Industry has already been facing staffing problems due to measures taken by the same ministry. The 17th January 2022 measures are an incentive offered for further staff to leave the catering industry. In a survey conducted by ACE more than one third of restaurants have one or more frontliner staff who are not vaccinated. These persons may work in other industries without problems but not in the catering industry which is further impacting on the exodus of human resources from the catering industry due to this discriminatory requirement.
The standards published are totally insensible to realities including the fact that there are vaccinated staff with vaccines that are not EMA recognised. Are employers being asked to push employees to take another vaccine or are they being asked to increase the problem of staffing by sending people back to their country? The case is not only with third country nationals but also with Europeans whereby other European countries accept vaccines such as Sputnik. A survey done by ACE indicate that 14% of restaurants has staff has been vaccinated by sputnik or other non EMA recognized vaccine.
In a survey run by ACE, 50% of the respondents stated that they have no option but to reduce operations after the new COVID measures have been announced by the government. Around 36% of respondents stated that they wanted to run their business as usual while 14% of them are closing their operations pending change in measures. It must be noted that the industry already lost 19 percent of its operators since the start of the pandemic.
It must also be noted that the industry is also suffering from a blatant abuse of the new quarantine rules. The ACE recommends that the quarantine period is of 5 days for everyone and that it is deductible from vacation leave.
The Government App does not seem to function properly with certain devices and consequently there are a lot of complaints from customers increasing the administrative burden to Catering Establishments .
Furthermore, functions are being cancelled in view of a minority of persons not being vaccinated.
The Way Forward
Since the Ministry of Health on various occasions stated that we have reached herd immunity at unique levels in the EU, the measures in place are useless and are only endangering the livelihood of people. If the Ministry of Health wants to impose vaccination than it should take responsibility for it and not put the burden on businesses. It should also consider the different vaccinations that are now accepted in other EU countries but not in Malta which again is impacting on the industry in Malta in terms of HR and in terms of Tourists who can visit.