[WATCH] COVID-19: Restaurants, hairdressers reopen to new reality

MaltaToday visited Valletta on the day that restrictions on restaurants, hairdressers and other outlets were lifted to discover how the new reality is panning out

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli went for a coffee at Cafe Cordina in Valletta on the first day that restaurants and cafes reopened with mitigation measures in place
Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli went for a coffee at Cafe Cordina in Valletta on the first day that restaurants and cafes reopened with mitigation measures in place

Tables and chairs have returned to Pjazza Reġina in Valletta after an absence of more than two months but the situation is anything but normal.

Restaurants, like all non-essential outlets, were forcibly closed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. 

Non-essential retail outlets were reopened at the start of May, with the second batch of relaxation measures coming into force today.

In the second batch, restaurants, hairdressers, beauticians and other service outlets could reopen subject to strict mitigation measures to lower the risk of virus transmission.

Social distancing measures imposed on restaurants mean that they will operate with fewer tables. And to further minimise risk, the maximum number of people on any single table has to be limited to six.

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Waiting staff are required to wear masks, menus have to be disposable and tables disinfected after every use.

Similar mitigation measures have been imposed on hairdressers to limit the number of clients inside shops and minimise the risk of virus transmission.

On Friday morning, people started returning to these places in what appears to be a very slow and cautious return to a social life.

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli went for a coffee at Café Cordina in Valletta with five other people from the Malta Tourism Authority, while Minister Carmelo Abela was at his hairdresser to encourage people to venture out with caution.

The gradual and cautious reopening comes a day after Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association President Tony Zahra capriciously labelled the COVID-19 caution as “Project Fear” in an interview on TVM’s Xtra.

The MHRA has been clamouring for the lifting of travel restrictions and a reopening of the airport to encourage tourism. However, the health authorities have so far ruled out this option as they assess the impact of the decisions taken so far.

READ ALSO: Business conditions decline to 2009 recession levels, Central Bank of Malta study shows

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