COVID-19 wage supplement to be extended beyond October, Prime Minister says

Prime Minister says budget will have strong social dimension targeting pensioners, workers and those falling behind

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

The COVID-19 wage supplement introduced as part of government’s economic rescue plan will be extended beyond October, Robert Abela said.

The extension will form part of the budget for 2021, which will be unveiled next month, the Prime Minister said on Sunday. He was being interviewed on One TV by presenter John Bundy.

Abela also hinted that eligibility for the wage supplement could be widened. He did not say for how long the extension will be given but industry players, especially in the tourism sector, have clamoured for an extension until March next year.

The wage supplement that varies between €600 and €800 per month for every full-time employee, sees government footing part of the wage bill of private companies in sectors hard-hit by the pandemic.

Abela hinted that a new voucher system to encourage consumption will be unveiled in the budget but was coy on giving details.

He insisted the budget will have a strong social dimension that will target pensioners, workers and those falling behind.

Asked about the spike in coronavirus cases and whether people had lowered their guard after having successfully contained the first wave, Abela said people remained disciplined but isolation fatigue had also kicked in.

He insisted that dealing with the pandemic was a long-term process that required flexibility.

“The COVID strategy is led by health professionals and I will be bow my head in front of their recommendations but we also have to be conscious that this is a situation that will last and imposing harsh restrictions could be counter-productive in the long term,” he said, adding that decisions required balance to be achieved.

He said that people will be allowed not to send their children to school and instead use alternative means of learning but insisted that as a parent he believed the best education is received in the classroom.

“Tomorrow, I will be sending my daughter to school. It’s a decision I took with my wife. We have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure safety but we cannot guarantee there will be no child who contracts COVID-19 at school or outside school,” he said.

On the issue of migration, the Prime Minister again insisted that Malta was “full up” and that policing efforts in certain localities were stepped up to counter instances of illegality.