Following the news that only seated events will recommence at first, and will only be open to vaccinated persons, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne was faced with questions as to whether this constitutes discrimination.
Asked by The Times of Malta to respond, Minister Fearne retorted by saying just because the seated social and cultural events that will take place once restrictions are lifted on 5th July are limited to vaccinated persons only, it does not mean those who have chosen not to vaccinate must stay at home.
“There are many activities that are open to them [non-vaccinated persons], there are social and cultural activities, restaurants, bars and churches which are open to everybody.
“Eventually, all activities will be open to everyone, but, at this point, we have two options before us. Either we do not open at all, or we start to reopen events in a limited way, using the tools available – the vaccine.”
Strictly speaking, in view of Malta’s clubs requiring a bar licence to operate, industry insiders say clubs are able to welcome seated guests without a vaccination certificate so long as they follow all protocols in place covering bars. One events stakeholder said that once the seating requirement and sound restrictions are removed for bars, clubs would be able to operate under more ‘normal’ conditions.
In his address, Minister Fearne said now that close to 80 per cent of the population has chosen to vaccinate, this allows the Government to reopen further activities.
Seated events only
The news that until at least mid-August, events may only be seated, has come as a shock to Malta’s party sector, which traditionally is not conducive to seated activities and has been de facto ordered shut since mid-August. With regards live performances, the news will be slightly more welcome as it is not uncommon for bands and dance troupes to perform before seated audiences.
Co-founder of the ever-popular house and techno music-oriented Glitch festival, Kevin Ellul, took to social media and issued a strongly worded statement:
“We have always felt a lack of respect towards our industry. This is the biggest insult ever. We have been waiting to work for a year and a half.
“Seated events…Is that the level of confidence in vaccines?”
Currently, 57 per cent of all adults in Malta and Gozo are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received both doses or have received the single-dose Johnson and Johnson jab.
The recently formed Restart campaign, representing businesses and individuals forming part of Malta’s broad events sector, had proposed their own reopening plan, with staggered capacity increasing to 100 per cent by September, non-seated.
On its part, the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA), decried the Government’s “disregard towards the livelihood of professionals, where such measures do not make it feasible or even practical unless the event is subsidised by Government”.
“Furthermore, it is discriminatory for our industry when all other sectors are allowed to operate without such bold measures whilst tourists are at least given a choice to show a negative test in the absence of a certificate of vaccination. Measures submitted by MEIA included bold recommendations to avoid random mass gatherings which unfortunately were not taken into consideration either.
“Our industry, which generates 7.9 per cent to [Malta’s] Gross Value Added is not being given the respect it deserves & MEIA will take all the necessary action to protect the interests of its members.
Questions are also raised about the numerous festivals organised on the island in September, such as Annie Mac’s Lost & Found Festival and the Malta Drumcode Festival.
Restrictions on weddings, capped to 100 seated persons indoors and 300 outdoors, remain unchanged.
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