The current surge in COVID cases is worrying many employers, with the Malta Employers Association (MEA) warning that “inaction on the part of Government might lead to a serious economic slowdown during the first quarter of 2022.”
Malta broke new records on the number of infections registered in 24 hours, clocking in 582 new cases on Wednesday.
In response, the MEA said that that public health should never be subject to popular opinion.
“In such emergencies, all necessary actions need to be taken to ascertain that the negative effects of the pandemic are not prolonged. Contrary to what some may believe, there is no trade-off between public health and economic imperatives, and any attempt to enforce such a trade-off may only yield short term gains which will certainly be paid for with interest in the medium to long term,” it said in a strongly worded statement.
It called the latest spike a worrying trend, which, if sustained, “might lead to strong disruptions in business activity in all economic sectors in 2022”.
These disruptions will be caused due to absences caused by illness, more people under quarantine, possible school closures and stricter measures to compensate for the postponement of decisive actions which are currently needed, the MEA added.
It also said that queries which have been repeatedly sent to the Ministry for Social Dialogue and the Ministry for health about COVID and employment related issues have remained unanswered, and meetings at the Employment Relations Board remain unconclusive.
MEA appealed for leadership to prevail over populism through measures that prevent dense public gatherings, strict enforcement of such measures and setting the right example.
“There have been too many reports of lax enforcement in public gatherings, even those organised by politicians themselves which are giving the wrong impression that COVID is not to be taken seriously because many people have taken the vaccine.
“People have to be made conscious of the reality of the situation, and that 2022 cannot be another year where Government will have to retain the wage supplement with all the fiscal consequences it entails, and where enterprises will continue to struggle against the difficulties brought by COVID, especially if such situations are self- inflicted.”
Catering establishments, on the other hand, warn of consequences from more restrictions
In a statement also issued on Wednesday, Malta’s Association of Catering Establishments backed a recent statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne, calling on the focus to remain on offering the COVD-19 booster shots instead of considering further restrictions, including the possible closure of food outlets.
“The ACE believes that this is the best way forward keeping in mind the impact any eventual closure will have on food outlets, keeping in mind that according to a recent ACE survey, 18.7% of registered outlets have closed down permanently and also keeping in mind the financial unsustainability of the COVID wage supplement for the government.”
“The ACE calls for common sense to prevail and for caution in the way individuals and entities express views on the media keeping in mind that a lot is at stake especially for those in the catering industry. The ACE also encourages its members and their employees to take the COVID vaccine and booster in their interest and in the interest of the community at large.”
Indeed, as case numbers continue to climb, business interests will also start to clash.
As those sectors dependent on gatherings calling for the focus to remain on administering the booster and keeping a close eye on hospital numbers, office-based, non-client facing organisations will prefer not to risk allowing gatherings in a bid to ensure staff are not bogged down by quarantine and isolation from coming into contact with a positive case or testing positive themselves after socialising.
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