Residency and work permits of third-country nationals working in the healthcare system will be extended for three months amid growing COVID-19 concerns in the country, Junior Minister for Citizenship Alex Muscat has announced.
The measure will apply to all healthcare workers, whether they work in the hospital, elderly care, or with persons who have disabilities. Such workers have been asked to email email@example.com for a free automatic extension.
Malta’s healthcare system has been gearing up for a major outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus and the decision will protect vital human resources for the time being.
The total number of confirmed cases is up to 53. However, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci today warned that this was just the beginning.
The news comes just a day after the government revealed that Malta will no longer accept any work permit applications for third-country nationals looking for a job in the country unless they are highly-skilled individuals.
Meanwhile, Lovin Malta has also revealed that hundreds of third-country nationals have been told to pack up and leave by employers who will not be renewing their work permits, or face deportation or being declared an illegal immigrant.
However, the government has insisted that will work to help all third-country nationals currently living Malta find alternative employment should their current positions be terminated.
Economy Minister Silvio Schembri was even made to apologise to foreigners in the country after telling parliament that the government would prioritise the jobs of Maltese people and that third-country nationals who lose their jobs will have to return to their home countries.
The minister was citing a longstanding EU law for third-country nationals but several people, Maltese, EU nationals and third-country nationals alike, accused him of being insensitive.
The announcements have raised fears among Malta’s foreign workforce. According to Jobsplus, there are currently over 13,000 third-country nationals living on a work permit in Malta.
A massive deportation effort would require enormous resources from the state, while thousands of people will be left unemployed and effectively stranded in Malta.
Economic concerns have grown in recent days with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak set to trigger an economic recession. Malta is already taking a heavy hit ever since the government effectively closed its borders to non-essential travel through mandatory quarantine for all arrivals.
The tourism and hospitality industry is facing the most significant threat. However, businesses across the entire spectrum are expected to feel the pinch.