Maltese business owners were left surprised and dismayed yesterday after it was revealed that the UK had left the island out of its safe-to-travel green list.
On the island, there were a range of reactions, with some saying it was a political move by the UK, whereas others said that it may actually give the UK time to stabilise their Covid-19 Indian variant situation.
Noting their frustration, the Malta Hotel and Restaurant Association said the UK’s decision did not follow any “scientific and logical reasons” in light of Malta’s management of the virus.
Noting that the UK represented 33% of all tourists arrivals in Malta in 2019 and that losing the market was “significant”, they asked if the UK’s decision was aimed at undermining the “decades-old free movement of trade and services which are tantamount to protectionist measures rather than purely based on a scientific basis”.
“MHRA calls on the EU to support further the hospitality industry and to ensure it defends one of the major freedoms of the union,” they urged.
The Malta Chamber of SME’s Philip Fenech told Lovin Malta that it was imperative for the island “not to be hasty” during this critical moment, saying the association was feeling “cautious but optimistic”.
Fenech noted that business owners were having mixed reactions, with some worried this would keep them out of the UK market whereas others said this may actually give the UK a chance to stabilise their concerning Indian variant situation before opening up to Malta.
More than anything though, the Chamber didn’t want to see businesses have to close again, and urged for strict controls to be kept up at the airport and that anyone found to not have the correct documentation to be “scrutinised appropriately”. The last thing the island wanted to see was Covid-19 cases to rise due to an influx of people to the island who were not appropriately tested and checked beforehand.
Similarly, Abigail Mamo, the Chamber’s chief, told Lovin Malta that the list was different than they had anticipated.
“It is no longer a contest of which country manages to get on the list for progressing on Covid-19. This time from Malta’s side we can surely say ‘it wasn’t me’, Malta was in a good shape to make the list under the original parameters.”
“What worries me greatly about all of this is the level of inconsistency,” she continued. “The stop and go attitude will do more harm than good.”
Tourism minister Clayton Bartolo said he was “disappointed” by the UK’s decision.
“My disappointment stems from the fact that our country is the only European nation to achieve herd immunity, is in the very front of the inoculation programme and has the lowest rate of infection in the European Union.
“In a few words, this situation is not due to any shortcoming from Malta’s end,” he continued.
While no new countries were added to the UK’s green list yesterday, seven countries – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago – were added to the red list.
The last time the UK revealed new rules regarding green list countries was on 7th May, when Malta also missed out on making it on the green list. For now, the country stays amber.
The next time the UK is set to update their travel list is 21st June.
What do you make of the UK’s decision?