Health authorities’ decision to postpone the Freedom Day Regatta has victimised the local rowing community and was done without taking into consideration the ill effect it has on their mental health, the Malta Rowing Association has claimed.
Despite the recent relaxation of Covid-19 measures, health authorities failed to issue a permit for the iconic regatta, set to take place this weekend, following concerns that it may attract a large crowd of spectators and break current protocols.
“The association made it clear that arrangements had been made to live stream the races and to broadcast the regatta live on TVM2,” the MRA said in a statement.
“The association further ensured that strict measures were in place to guarantee that the public would not be given access to the regatta race course from any vantage point,” it continued.
Current restriction measures dictate that noncontact sports may resume as long as spectators aren’t present. In an attempt to abide by the rules, the MRA had planned to close off the Valletta Waterfront and the Cottonera Waterfront, with Transport Malta monitoring the waters.
“In addition, all clubs publicly announced that no persons without permission would be allowed near their premises with a number of clubs making agreements with local police, Transport Malta and local councils to help them enforce this ‘no-access’ policy,” the statement said.
Nonetheless, according to the MRA, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci refused to issue a permit for the race to be held, despite multiple appeals by the association and clubs to adhere to current measures.
“On 21st May, when all necessary permits and preparations were made in line with all guidelines issued by the health authority, the Superintendent of Public Health publicly announced that permission was not to be given,” it said.
Following the relinquishing of further measures on 24th May, the MRA made a third, and final, attempt to organise the rowing event for 6th June.
“The answer to this third official request, made on the behalf of all participating clubs, was a straight and clear ‘no’ because of possible spectators being present,” it continued.
“The sport of rowing was the first victim of this ban with attempts to organise rowing races in the Grand Harbour being quashed without taking much notice of the ill effect on the mental health of Maltese rowers.”
The association also criticised health authorities’ piecemeal approach to restriction measures by drawing comparisons to rowing events of last September, when restrictions weren’t as strict and Covid-19 cases were much higher.
“In the meantime, whilst attempting to identify what and/or who is behind this ban, we would like to thank the rowers and their families for all the sacrifices done from January till last Friday, when, following circumstances beyond our control, the regatta races were brought to an abrupt halt,” it ended.
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