Coronavirus: Malta Employers’ Association proposes national six-day shutdown

The Malta Employers’ Association is calling for a national six-day shut down between 19 March and 24 March

The MEA is proposing a national six-day shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus
The MEA is proposing a national six-day shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus

Employers are calling for a national six-day shutdown next week bridging the public holiday and weekend as fears over the spread of Covid-19 grow.

The Malta Employers Association said that schools and most workplaces will be closed anyway between the 19 and 24 March – the 19 is a public holiday.

“As the 19th March is a public holiday, all work places, including schools, will also close down on Friday 20, together with Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 March. This will imply a six-day continuous break with only three days taken from optional leave,” the MEA said, adding that many companies were already bridging Friday.

The association has called for an urgent meeting of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development to discuss the proposal.

MEA said that such a measure could significantly slow the spread of the virus if people are encouraged to stay indoors as much as possible during the period.

“Although there will be an impact on businesses the short term negative effect will certainly be offset by fewer longer term disruptions due to the containment of the virus, and there will be three less optional leave days for the rest of the year,” the association said.

The MEA said teachers may compensate for the loss of school hours through longer days during the half day period in June.

“Hotels will remain open with reduced staff, which is already happening anyway. Essential public services - hospitals, police - will operate as usual,” it said.

However, it remains to be seen whether a short, arbitrarily-chosen shut down like this will have the desired impact from a public health perspective. Malta has so far not recorded any locally transmitted cases and all nine have been imported.

The government has so far held back from ordering a closure of schools but introduced restrictions on mass gatherings and travel bans to several countries.

MUBE recommends 'lockdown across the nation'

The Malta Union of Bank Employees has recommended a lockdown across Malta and Gozo.

“Taking immediate action will benefit everyone long-term since such a preventive measure should help us anticipate what might eventually happen whilst in itself is the concrete decision to take if we all want to collectively contribute to the reduction of potential risks at source if threatened by a spread of the virus,” the MUBE said. 

The union said that while it acknowledged the government’s decision to close schools, it would be more effective to consider a lockdown, for the benefit of the nation.