A second round of government vouchers to boost business grappling with the pandemic shouldn’t be delayed beyond mid-February, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Lobby has insisted.
“We’re hoping that vouchers aren’t issued beyond mid-February, as our members are extremely eager to get some revenue in their books,” MHRA head Tony Zahra told Lovin Malta.
In the first round of vouchers issued last September, people were given €80 to spend at establishments licensed by the Malta Tourism Authority, such as hotels, restaurants and bars, and €20 to spend at a retail outlet or service that was closed as a result of COVID-19.
This time, residents of Malta and Gozo will receive €100 worth of vouchers like the first batch, but this time with €60 to support hospitality-related businesses and €40 to support retail outlets and other non-hospitality businesses that had to close during Malta’s quasi-lockdown earlier this year.
The fresh round of vouchers was originally supposed to be issued by the end of January, but with recent spikes in cases after the festive season, Malta’s Medical Association (MAM) warned they may encourage more mingling and virus transmission.
“We should continue to support the tourist industry financially rather than encourage behaviours which put people’s lives at risk, and further aggravate the damage to the industry. Only people out of their senses would consider issuing vouchers at this stage,” the MAM said.
Health Minister Chris Fearne said that the vouchers will be issued when appropriate and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said bars and każini, which have been closed by legal notice since October, should be allowed to benefit from them too.
MHRA head Zahra agreed that these extraordinary times call for contingency plans, and that the MHRA hopes cases stabilise in the next few days.
Last week, Malta broke its record for the highest single-day rises in COVID-19 cases, with 245 registered on Saturday. Meanwhile, there are currently 2,322 active cases, the highest amount since the outbreak began in March.
And while the rollout of vaccines provides a light at the end of the tunnel, businesses are still grappling with the effects of the virus. Bars, for example, have been closed since November.
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