Around a fifth of Malta’s restaurants have closed down since the start of the pandemic, a worrying new study has found.
The study, conducted by the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) in tandem with a number of food suppliers found that around 19% of establishments closed down between March 2020 and March 2021.
An additional 12% have put their operations on sale or to rent.
The ACE urged the government to immediately reopen restaurants, arguing that they weren’t to blame for the spread of coronavirus.
“Despite the clarity in statistics and the statements made by health officials that restaurants are not the cause, the health authorities have decided to discriminate against these, depriving them from their daily bread,” the association said.
Restaurants have been closed to seated diners since 5th March, and the government has so far refused to set a target date for their reopening. Times of Malta reported today that the plan is for them to open their doors by mid-May.
Malta’s COVID-19 numbers have steadily been on the decrease for weeks now, with strict measures in place and a relatively high number of fines still being issues on a weekly basis.
However, employees and employers in various sectors, including catering and entertainment, have spoken out about being left alone to fight this pandemic.
“Catering establishments are being deprived of the right to work and earn a living,” the ACE said.
“The situation is desperate, with mental health issues related to solvency problems also being reported to the ACE.”
“The Association has also been in touch with psychologists who have confirmed that they are surprised on the number of catering establishment owners that are approaching them in view of the circumstance. Restaurateurs’ lives should matter to the health authorities.”
“Many in the retail sector have also expressed solidarity with restaurateurs given also that their establishments are also being affected by the closure of catering establishments.”
“In this alarming situation, the ACE calls on Government to open Catering Establishments at the immediate, to issue vouchers on the opening date and to maintain full wage supplement up to end of year.”