Scenes over the weekend of a packed, non-socially distanced St George’s Bay have caused widespread anger among business owners across Malta. Currently, restaurants and bars have a midnight curfew imposed, while bars are only permitted to serve seated patrons.
With the current COVID restrictions in place, many entertainment and hospitality business owners have expressed frustration about being made to miss out on potential sales and customers in the name of Malta’s common good, while others threaten to derail the COVID recovery by attending beach parties without restrictions.
One such business is Eden Leisure Group, where Kate de Cesare serves as Director of Operations. Responding to the scenes over the weekend, Ms de Cesare decried stark shortcomings in the enforcement of restrictions.
She compared the harsh restrictions placed on the legitimate company’s operations to those seemingly faced by beach party-goers.
The company’s Cinema 16, she said, normally hosts 710 spectators, but under current restrictions can only accommodate 100.
Stringent health and hygiene practices are conducted at the cinema, she commented, including sanitisation, the taking of customer temperatures, and social distancing.
However, despite rules limiting public gatherings between members of different households to six (which the beach parties Ms de Cesare depicted clearly contravene), “massive gatherings go on unhindered at the beach” only metres away from the cinema.
“How is this just?”, she asked social media.
Issues of enforcement, and how rigorously and uniformly it is being carried out have been topics of controversial discussion during the pandemic.
As the country repeatedly faced rising case numbers in early-2021, despite the closure of bars and strict social distancing rules for other venues, hospitality industry stakeholders repeatedly called for improved enforcement.
Whereas during previous discussions, criticism was levelled at a few non-compliant, dissenting restaurants acting as bars, a leading industry stakeholder has informed BusinessNow.mt that this time round he has seen far improved compliance.
On the part of Malta’s authorities, it does seem that some level of enforcement remains ongoing, with data showing that for the most recent week where figures were collected – that of 8th June – 176 people were fined for breaching rules relating to oversized gatherings.
Indeed, a video posted on social media of a beach party in St Julians shows police officers dispersing revellers.
It seems likely, however, that business owners will remain frustrated about what they see as an unfair implementation of the rules.
Especially when considering the controversial recently announced restrictions for the upcoming reopening of social and cultural events, which have been described as “impractical” and “unfeasible”, the sight of massive informal parties being held will continue to feel like a slap in the face for Malta’s long-struggling events and hospitality industries.
Kate de Cesare/ LinkedIn
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