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The Malta Chamber of SMEs and the Childcare Centres Provider Association (CCPA), has launched industrial action over the continued implementation of “unfair” COVID restrictions on the sector.

As a result of the dispute, the SME Chamber announced on Thursday that with immediate effect, the usually required visits and checks on the sector by authorities or entities will not be accepted in “any shape or form.”

Only emergency situations which are brought to the attention of the association will be considered for visits and checks. 

Among the COVID restrictions the centres take issue with are the “temporary” capacity limits imposed at the peak of the COVID crisis over two years ago, which still haven’t been update or removed. 

CCPA is an official independent association representing the interests of childcare centre probers, catering to children in pre-school three years old and younger.

The associations argues that as these centres are already bound by limited capacities linked to their licence, there are already appropriate safeguards in place to avoid overcrowding by far. 

The restrictions are resulting in centres not being able to operate according to the thresholds given to them by the licence, meaning not just a loss in revenue but also a lack of service to parents, according to the announcement.

In practice this means that parents are left on waiting lists or only allowed limited times at their preferred centres.

When the restrictions were first unveiled when the schools were permitted to reopen in June 2020, it was explained that the restrictions and protocols would be intensified as necessary, with social distancing measures mandated across centres.

“It feels like we are living in a parallel universe where COVID is only a threat in childcare centres,” the SME Chamber and CCPA said, referring to an almost total lifting of COVID restrictions in the last months. 

The organisations say they launched the industrial action after their “numerous” attempts in resolving the issue have failed to reap change.

Should the situation not be rectified, they warn that action will be further escalated in the days to come.

“The stance to maintain such regulations in place is considered an unjustified and overly burdensome imposition on these businesses,” they added. 

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