Restaurants and snack bars are set to be permitted to reopen from 10th May, but they will only be permitted to serve diners till 5pm, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced at a press conference on Sunday.
Speaking the day before non-essential retail and services are set to open, the Prime Minister explained that Malta has managed to keep the number of its COVID infections under control and that the situation in hospitals is a very good one.
Along with the reopening of restaurants, Dr Abela announced additional relaxation measures for 10th May, including the permitting of training for contact sports and the resumption of non-contact sports (with no spectators).
Open-air markets, extracurricular events, and non-essential travel between Malta and Gozo will also be permitted.
In addition, no reopening date has been set for bars and gyms.
However, despite these limited relaxations, Health Minister Chris Fearne emphasised that the protocols by the health authorities will have to be followed as measures are eased. This includes the wearing of masks and a limitation of four people per party at restaurants.
Addressing the reopening of Malta to tourists in June, Mr Fearne said that travellers will be required to present a negative COVID test before boarding flights, and that mass events and parties will not be allowed to kick off in June. Only safe and cautious tourism would be allowed, he said.
The prize for Malta’s continued compliance with the restrictions, he said, will be for the country to feature on travel green lists in June.
A date for the reopening of bars and gyms was not provided, and when questioned on this, the Prime Minister acknowledged they are “the worse hit”, but that the Government has to “continue to be guided by science”, in any lifting of restrictions.
Responding to the Government announcement, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), which has been campaigning for the immediate reopening of restaurants said while it is positive that “we have a reopening date”, this will not be enough to save Malta’s restaurants.
This is because “the reopening conditions will not be of much help to the majority of restaurants to ensure sustainable operations of their business”.
MHRA President Tony Zahra stated, “it’s positive that we now have a date for the re-opening of restaurants but opening only for lunch does not make business sense for the majority of restaurants”.
“Many restaurants will continue to remain under a lot of pressure and our appeal to Government is to allow restaurants to serve dinner too whilst ensuring proper enforcement measures to guarantee that rules are abided for by all”, he continued.
Malta’s hospitality industry has been decimated by the COVID pandemic and the public health restrictions it prompted. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE), 19 per cent of Malta’s restaurants have collapsed under the strain of the measures.
As part of state support for the restaurants upon reopening, the Government is also expected to issue its second round of COVID stimulus vouchers within weeks of Malta’s restaurants and eateries reopening for in-house dining.
Also announced at Sunday’s press conference, is that Malta’s rollout of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine will begin this week, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stated that whilst blood clots are a “very rare” side effect of the vaccine, its risks are outweighed by its benefits.
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