Employees being sent quarantine letters on the last days of their quarantine period is causing employers to rely solely on the honesty of said workers, according to the Malta Chamber of SMEs.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a number of people in isolation because of COVID-19 are yet to receive their quarantine letters despite testing positive for the virus or being in close contact with an infected patient several days before.

At the time of writing, there were 14,962 active cases in Malta. Given that close contacts of these people must also quarantine, the situation for employers is truly unprecedented.

“Unfortunately, the system has failed us a little bit with regard to the quarantine notices. Leaving it up to the individual will totally not work out,” SME Chamber CEO Abigial Agius Mamo told BusinessNow.mt, speculating that the system is overwhelmed and could not keep up.

“When it comes to the public sector, it seems that when it gets overwhelmed they start shifting responsibility and cutting corners, while the private sector battles the current quarantine situation. But we still find a way to operate and remain open while giving a good service,” she said.

Ms Agius Mamo said that the way the system was currently working was open to abuse by those who wanted to skive off work.

“Our position from a business perspective is that if an employee doesn’t show proof that they’ve been told to quarantine, then they can’t just decide to quarantine by themselves. There needs to be a notification,” she said.

“And even if a worker is honest and has good intentions, the quarantine system is just too complicated. We receive a lot of queries regarding the situation with household contacts. How can an employer ascertain that the employee has made the right decision? It’s a real headache.”

Currently, health authority guidelines state that those who test positive with COVID-19 and contacts living in the same household are obliged to self-isolate for a full 10 days. Persons living in the same household as a COVID-positive person are only eligible for a reduced quarantine period of 10 days if both they and the COVID-positive person are fully vaccinated, booster shot included.

“If the authorities cannot keep up, they need to review the system so it becomes implementable.”

The Chamber is proposing that the quarantine system be determined by the condition of a specific individual, and not the people they’ve come into contact with.

In recent weeks, there have been increased calls for self-testing kits to be allowed, in the hope they would allow people to get a quicker result.

On this issue, Ms Agius Mamo said she understood why businesses were making such a call, as they were desperate to solve the quarantine crisis. Ultimately, however, this decision should be left in the hands of the health authorities.

This stance was echoed by Malta Employers Association President Joanne Bondin.

“If they are accurate and assist the country to get over this wave then the access to them can be facilitated. Early detection prevents the spread of the virus and disruption of our daily lives. However we need to make sure that these tests are reliable,” she said.

The Malta Chamber said it was still in the process of formulating its stance on the issue.

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