Facing yet more uncertainty, a leading Maltese restaurateur has directly appealed to Charmaine Gauci for a plan on when life will return to a state of pre-COVID-19 normality.
Isabelle Debattista, who owns Fat Harry’s Pub and who sits on the council of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), challenged Gauci following the government’s announcement that all COVID-19 wage supplement aid will end in December.
“We were promised normality upon achieving herd immunity; now 93% of the country is vaccinated and all arrivals must be vaccinated too,” Debattista said at a tourism conference organised by the MHRA.
Noting the impending end of the wage supplement, she warned that establishments have had to drastically increase their wage payrolls to ensure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions. At the same time, they faced an increase in overhead costs due to rises in importation costs.
“The industry isn’t isolated and we depend on the supply chain,” she said. “We believe that we all need to plan ahead.”
“We need to know when we’re returning to normal, not vague comments, becasue we all need to plan ahead.”
Debattista also urged Identity Malta to be more understanding when processing work permit applications for foreign hospitality workers, warning that excess bureaucracy results in establishments losing out on staff they’d have selected following a virtual interview process.
Meanwhile, Eden Leisure Group co-founder Kevin De Cesare vented his frustration at the lack of communication channels between government authorities and the hospitality industry over COVID-19 measures.
“While we congratulate the health authorities for a job well done, there’s a limit to how much you can stretch the situation,” De Cesare said.
“We don’t get anywhere when talking with the health and tourism authorities; I don’t expect health to speak to us directly but if we can speak to the MTA and they can represent us with health, it will be a great help.”
Gauci, who was one of the only conference attendees to wear a mask during an event, provided a non-committal response.
“We’re always ready to listen and understand the sector more, which is why I spent a whole morning here,” he said. “Health involves caring for people, but there’s more to it than that. We’re interested in Malta’s wellbeing, including economically, so we welcome all the feedback you can give us.”
She argued that the vaccine isn’t 100% effective and that the health authorities therefore still need to be careful when lifting restrictions to prevent a sudden spike of cases.
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