The raft of new restrictions introduced on Wednesday in response to the record-high number of new COVID-19 cases registered that day include a ban on travel to Gozo except for essential reasons or to visit one’s property.
Two Gozo business lobbies have now responded to the measures, agreeing on their necessity while highlighting the particular hardships Gozitan enterprise will suffer.
The Gozo Business Chamber (GBC) said that the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions are “necessary given that the situation had become unsustainable,” noting that there were “grave risks to the community at large”.
It said that the restrictions imposed on travel on the Gozo Channel continue to show the precariousness of Gozo vis à vis the whole nation, and the special attention that is required so that Gozo’s specific needs are addressed.
“The current situation once again shows that the island of Gozo suffers more than the main island of Malta in such situations. This is why a distinctive regional approach should always be a priority in all policy areas.”
The GBC also welcomed news that the full wage supplement will be provided to all those businesses that will have to close their activity, but also drew attention to the fact that those who continue operating will also be significantly impacted.
It said that the present situation calls for “significant reflection”, and called for proper enforcement and observance of health protocols even after the end of the present measures.
Joe Muscat, CEO of the Gozo Tourism Association, said that the new measures will have a heavy impact on the island’s tourism sector, especially in view of the upcoming public holiday long weekend and the Easter holidays, saying that these are “dates when the domestic market would be very important for Gozo even in normal times, let alone now”.
“It is unfortunate that the Gozitan tourism sector continues to find obstacles,” he said. “I am not saying they’re not needed, but of course the negative impact is there, compounding our problems.”
He said that the GTA, at the beginning of the pandemic, had stressed the importance of continued domestic demand to support the local economy, but the restrictions mean that even this limited market is lost.
Mr Muscat however acknowledged that “the numbers are what they are” and said that until the situation is brought under control, neither Gozo nor Malta can effectively compete in the global tourism market.
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