Hospitality industry in limbo over mandatory vaccine for employees and patrons

With three days until new mandatory vaccine pass comes into force, business owners are getting ready for a new enforcement headache

Businesses have said they are in limbo over rules coming into force on Monday 17 January that require a valid vaccination certificate to visit various establishments.

On Wednesday, the Nationalist Party called on the government to scrap the coronavirus measures making certain establishments accessible only to people with a valid vaccine certificate.

The Eden Leisure Group’s operations director, Kate De Cesare questioned why specific industries have been selected over others. “Why limit cinemas and gyms and not retail outlets other activities. Gyms, in particular, are instrumental in keeping people fit and healthy; why compromise an unvaccinated person’s health prospects?” De Cesare said.

The Eden Leisure Group runs cinema halls, hotels, restaurants, a bowling alley, a gym and a casino in St George’s Bay.

De Cesare said the lack of information available on the science employed was also frustrating, saying businesses needed more clarity. “When we ask questions to the authorities, we’re told to wait for the legal notice which has not yet been published, so we can’t plan properly or offer reassurance to our employees or patrons,” she said.

De Cesare said that while Eden Leisure Group will comply with all regulations, it has received enquiries from many patrons who were upset that they don’t meet the requirements.

“Of course, there will be a negative impact on our businesses; for example, casinos are normally a 24/7 business, so closing its bar at 1am will definitely mean a loss of business – but we must wait to see the extent of the impact.”

The Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) said that while it supported the introduction of measures, this should not be to the detriment of the catering industry.

“The ACE feels that some of the restrictions and measures announced as from the 17th January by the Superintendence of Public Health will add further pressure on an industry which has already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ACE said that losing non-vaccinated staff was not an option. Moreover, the measures announced for non-vaccinated staff should not be limited to the catering industry but rather should be implemented across the board to ensure a fair and just system. “The industry does not afford to have a different time bar on foreign vaccine certification vis-a-vis a domestic one.”

ACE said it was pointless to implement policies that can never be adhered to. “We want the Superintendence of Public Health to be reasonable, to keep in mind the challenges the industry is facing and reconsider the measures proposed.”

ACE also called for further enforcement on people blatantly abusing quarantine. “Such reconsideration and recommendations are being proposed so as to avoid that such measures and lack of enforcement will be the nail in the coffin of the catering industry,” the association said.

Valletta pub owner Nathan Brimmer, who runs The Pub on Old Archbishop Street, said that enforcement of vaccine passes would not be too hard but an added headache for establishments.

“Quite frankly I don’t think it will make a huge difference anyway. Business is at the worst we’ve ever seen it. I hope the introduction will put peoples minds at ease but I’m doubtful. If it is the case, however, then I hope all establishments will enforce it properly, but the ultimate question remains. Who will watch the watchmen?”