Every day, Malta’s active COVID-19 cases go down as the island continues to hit amazing vaccination milestones. And with a staggered reopening plan slowly unfurling across the nation, the promises and expectations of summer 2021 have never been greater. But the people behind Malta’s celebrations come normality still have no idea what’s happening.
“I honestly don’t know whether to feel hopeful or depressed about summer,” one party promoter told Lovin Malta. “If we really are about to have a grand return to normality very soon, why don’t we know when we’d be allowed to start thinking about organising events again? We don’t even have rough estimates. As it stands, the Prime Minister could announce everything reopening overnight, in a couple of months’ time, or next year… and we would have zero idea or time to plan ahead.”
Malta has made some impressive strides in its fight against COVID-19 in the last months.
Just yesterday, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that one in every four adults has been fully vaccinated against the virus, and the island’s herd immunity target has been continuously pushed up. As it stands, it should be hit in June.
In fact, by Santa Marija – which was the initial estimate for herd immunity – Fearne said Malta would have offered the vaccine to the entire population.
Meanwhile, a number of promoters have been left confused at the complete lack of communication from authorities.
“We know Malta will be in a very good position this summer,” one prominent festival organiser told Lovin Malta. “We’re constantly being reminded just how much better off than everyone else we are. They keep repeating the same things – herd immunity by June, everyone vaccinated by mid-August. And yet, we still don’t have a confirmation or even a timeline. Not even a rough estimate. It’s ridiculous.”
Covid #vaccination registration for 40+ cohort ongoing with 42% in this age group already vaccinated with 1st dose. (67% of 50+ group and 94% of over 60s also vaccinated)https://t.co/xDyYSLM0tY 🇲🇹 pic.twitter.com/jeZaP3i94T
— Chris Fearne (@chrisfearne) April 29, 2021
Earlier this year, as daily infections in Malta ballooned, organisers’ hopeful outlook quickly diminished as the nation buckled up for a month of tight, quasi-lockdown restrictions.
“I completely understand that,” one promoter told Lovin Malta. “And for the record, I didn’t expect to be told when we could organise parties for 300 people in the same week we were getting that many infections every single day. They had no idea of knowing, and the country had bigger things to worry about. But we’re past that now, and the time has come to discuss what happens next. We’re doing that with a bunch of other sectors anyway, so why not ours?”
Another sore point for the island’s promoters crops up when they see what’s happening abroad.
Just last weekend, the UK – one of the only countries Malta’s authorities have compared the islands to thanks to its similarly successful vaccination drive – organised a two-day warehouse rave for 6,000 people in Liverpool and featuring the likes of superstar DJ Fatboy Slim. Requiring the presentation of a negative test upon entry, the weekend or revelery formed part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), which will explore the risk of transmission and the effectiveness of measures such as ventilation and testing.
The UK isn’t alone either – Belgium and the Netherlands are also planning their own events.
“Meanwhile, we’re sitting here in the dark, in a country that’s doing better than practically everyone else, and yet is not doing anything to look ahead,” a local promoter told Lovin Malta. “We’re being told we’re following the Israel model… but Israel is already restarting events!”
In April, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said Malta would be announcing when – and if – it will allow summer festivals in the coming weeks. That was three weeks ago.
“Our priority is to follow the health authorities’ advice,” Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said in response to a question by Lovin Malta at a press conference. “We won’t experiment with people’s health.”
Now, with the end of this long ordeal tantalisingly in sight, many feel this is increasingly becoming less about the money and more about people’s wellbeing.
“We should be able to operate,” another organiser said. “Other countries that are in a worse state than us are already opening or providing concrete plans on reopening, and we have no idea when our clubs will reopen, if they’ll have any restrictions, and whether we’ll see any festivals this summer.”
“If it’s a matter of being overly cautious, by all means let’s push for vaccine passports, in the same way you’d enter a country,” one festival organiser suggested. “Ask for a negative test upon entry. Or a proof of vaccination. Anything. If more and more adults are getting vaccinated, what’s the problem?!”
“I just think the government is too terrified of another round of backlash this time round and prefers to remain draconian,” another promoter bluntly put it. “And yet, if an election really does rear its head again in a couple of months’ time, you can rest assured they’ll be the first people organising mass meetings.”
“The government should stop being scared of some of the comments online,” an organiser added. “Why are we even taking the vaccine if we’re going to keep on being scared? At this rate, people will still be commenting and complaining about events even after every single person receives both doses. And by then, not all your favourite parties might have survived and stayed around to help you celebrate.”
What do you make of this? When do you think Malta should allow clubbing and festivals to return? Let us know in the comments below