Those who have just recovered from COVID-19, and therefore must wait four weeks to get their booster shot will be granted a six-week exemption from the new vaccine certificate rules expected to come into force next Monday, should the legal notice be published in time.
On Wednesday evening in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that those just recovered would be exempted from the upcoming rules, following which The Times of Malta reported that the exemption will be for six weeks, citing sources.
An announcement on the new rules is expected on Thursday afternoon (today).
From Monday, vaccine certificates where the individual has received their second dose or single dose Johnson & Johnson will only be valid for three months. The validity of vaccine certificates for those with a booster will be two weeks after they received their third shot, for a period of nine months thereafter.
Also from Monday, visitors to bars, restaurants, gyms, pools, sporting events and cinemas will require valid vaccine certificates for entry.
Without the exemption, the thousands of people who were infected with the virus in recent weeks and are unable to get their booster would have been unable to attend the aforementioned establishments, dealing a blow to businesses and consumers.
While hospitality insiders have predicted to BusinessNow.mt that their will be an informal grace period once the new rules are expected to come into force on Monday, this has not been communicated in any official capacity by the authorities.
However, when considering the high volumes of adults who have been infected in recent weeks, and the high uptake of the booster shot, one can argue that the need for an informal grace period is significantly reduced.
Minister Fearne has said that two-thirds of Malta’s adult population has received the booster.
Nationalist Party calls for a scrapping of upcoming vaccine certification rules
The Nationalist Party (PN) on Wednesday evening called on Government to scrap the proposed rules for 17th January, “which effectively make the vaccine booster mandatory”.
It said that given the high uptake of the booster, and the less virulent Omicron variant becoming the dominant strain in Malta, the Opposition believes the proposed measures no longer strike the right balance between public health and people’s freedoms.
The PN added that while it fully supports health advice to take the vaccine and booster, it also wants to lay stress on the rights of people to take their own decisions, especially in the constantly changing environment of the pandemic.
“Those who are sceptical of the booster are more likely to be convinced by medical advice from a trusted doctor than by being checkmated by the government. PN is confident that given the right information, people will be responsible in their choices and attitudes, while being more respectful towards others, especially those who are vulnerable.”
Catering establishments fear banning of unvaccinated staff is a final nail in the coffin
Being that entertainment, leisure, hospitality and catering establishments have been hit by the new vaccine certificate rules, and being that these sectors have experienced significant challenges throughout 2021 to retain staff and stop the exodus of workers from the industry, the Association of Catering Establishments said catering businesses cannot afford to lose unvaccinated staff, and called on the authorities to either make the requirement for workers to be vaccinated across the board, not just in catering, or to reconsider the upcoming rules.
People visiting retail shops or working in offices, for examples, will not be impacted and will be allowed to continue working whether they have been vaccinated or not.
The new rules come into effect from 1st January 2024
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