The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) has issued a call for the Government to introduce an emergency support package for struggling hospitality businesses, as the latest wave of COVID-related restrictions have been introduced.

The industry body made the call in a statement following an announcement by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne, that as of the 17th January next year, all visitors at hospitality establishments will be required to present an up to date COVID vaccine certificate.

This includes bars, snack bars, restaurants, kazini, gyms, pools, spas, casinos, playrooms, cinemas, theatres, sporting events and other organised events.

Additionally, Minister Fearne revealed that all standing events will be cancelled as of next Monday 27th December.

This came amidst rapidly rising cases locally, with the country recording the highest single day increase on Thursday – as 733 new cases were detected.

The first cases of the Omicron COVID mutation have now been detected in Malta, and as such, the Deputy Prime Minister revealed that from 17th January, the COVID Certificate will be based on the booster jab.

The vaccine certificate of people who have already had their second dose of the vaccine but who are yet to receive their booster will expire three months after the date of their previous jab.

In its statement, the MHRA asserted that the hospitality sector has, in the last years, “ended up as the main target and victim of the pandemic related control measures,” and is now caught waiting to see the impact of the Omicron variant.

MHRA President Tony Zahra stated that: “The industry is trying to keep its head above water now we are kind of in limbo at the minute.”

He also added that MHRA members understand the importance to adhere to public health advice but are concerned of the impact on the industry of measures that are announced at the last minute.  

“Significantly, it is important that we avoid a situation of ongoing, rolling closures of hospitality for as long as the pandemic persists. This is soul destroying for businesses and for our teams and the many communities across the country that rely so heavily on tourism at a time when they are already struggling, with events cancelled and occupancy levels at near all-time lows, he said.

Aside from the emergency support package, the MHRA asked for better engagement on what the plan for living with the virus is going forward.

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