A new law obliging Gozo Channel passengers to wear a mask on board at all time seems to have encountered a familiar problem… not enough enforcement.
Lovin Malta has received photos over the weekend of people not wearing masks on board or wearing them wrongly, something which is liable to a €100 fine, reduced to €50 if the guilty party owns up and pays the penalty before the case reaches court.
However, a crew member warned that the ship simply doesn’t have enough human resources to enforce mask wearing on board and that the law isn’t clear whether this is even their responsibility.
“We’re a crew of 11, which includes staff in the engine room and on the bridge, a boatswain, someone working in the cafeteria, someone cleaning the deck, someone in the garage and someone in the lobby.”
“It’s basically one person enforcing the wearing of masks among 450 passengers and that person also has other responsibilities, such as checking out damages, other complaints and medical situations.”
The crew member warned the enforcement of mask wearing can be a daunting task, as passengers have been known to threaten and sometimes even physically assault them.
Indeed, an officer who was injured by a few weeks ago by a passenger who refused to wear a mask is still on sick leave.
“Someone tried to run over a worker while they were boarding after he told him to wear a mask, some dismiss the virus and some ask why they even need to wear a mask if the minister isn’t wearing one,” he said.
“When it’s hot and people have been waiting in their cars for a while, their tempers would be sky-high. Crew are scared of approaching some people because they could end up beaten up.”
However, he warned the ferry’s biggest problem concerns tourists, some of whom don’t speak English and therefore cannot understand the pre-journey announcement of obligatory mask wearing on board, and others who simply ignore the message.
“Once a tourist complained that she had health problems which meant she cannot wear a mask, I asked her how she even came to Malta without a mask and she stopped in her tracks. I asked her how she can manage to wear a mask for a two-three hour flight but not for a 20-minute crossing between Malta and Gozo.”
Moreover, the crew member noted that the law doesn’t specify who should be in charge of enforcing mask-wearing on board the Gozo ferry and made it clear that this should be the responsibility of the police.
“What can I do if someone refuses to wear a mask? How can I report them to the police without their identification? We can delay the trip until the police arrive but the closest police stations in Mġarr (Gozo) and Ċirkewwa are rarely manned so they’ll often have to come from Rabat (Gozo) or Mellieħa and Buġibba (Malta), which delays the trip by 15 minutes.”
“We’re in dire straits and we need a police officer on board to control the situation.”