Three months since Malta received its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, around one in 10 people in Malta has received a jab against the virus. While the effort to inoculate the whole nation is well underway, one group of frontliners has been pushed down the priority list – customs officers.
“We’ve been working around the clock since day one of the pandemic. We still search passengers, ports, outlets and warehouses,” a customs officer, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Lovin Malta.
This newsroom spoke to customs officers working on the literal frontline of the nation – carrying out checks at the airport, seaport, trailers, cars and ships, on how they feel left in the dark by health authorities.
“We’re praised for our work with police, the seizures we make and money we collect for the government, but no one bothers about our health,” they said.
Workers like doctors, nurses, police officers or soldiers were placed at the top of the list of Malta’s vaccine roll-out, because their work was deemed essential and required contact with people, putting them at higher risks of contracting COVID-19.
Customs officials must also punch into work and mix with potentially infected people, but have not received appointment letters for a vaccine. What’s more, officials told Lovin Malta they get pay cuts if they need to self-isolate.
“Customs officials at the airport, port, scanners, enforcement, cashiers, those working against money laundering and K9 officials all have to work and meet several people on a daily basis. If we get quarantined (which happens), we get a dock on our pay since our job can’t be done via teleworking,” another official explained.
“This in turn leads to people not being honest about getting in contact with people infected with COVID-19. It is discouraging,” they added.
The officials said they were only contacted to express their interest in the jab two weeks ago, but haven’t heard anything since.
“We don’t want to skip lines but we are only asking to be treated the way soldiers and police are being treated, after all, we work on the front line too,” an official said.
“We’ve been meeting the virus first hand at the border since day one.”
Lovin Malta reached out to the Health Ministry about the situation for customs officials a week ago but is yet to receive an answer.
Do you think customs officials should be prioritised?