Tourism during the pandemic

Blog post by Marica Micallef

The catchy sentence “Let’s go back to normality” is on the lips of many in Malta, starting with our authorities. Even the Prime Minister Dr. Robert Abela is optimistic and has used this phrase recently as he wrote, “Let’s take care of each other so that we can kick off the road to normality in consistency with our plan.” It seems that tourism will bring about the normality magic.

So far, even though we were told that masks and social distancing will work, they did not. The government had to introduce partial lockdowns. In fact, it was the lockdowns and restrictions’ turn to do the trick! Having witnessed last year a drop in the number of cases during the partial lockdown but a rise in cases again in autumn, will this pattern repeat itself again this coming Autumn? Is it by mere coincidence that we are being ordered to do a lot of sacrifices before summer so that then, we can accommodate tourism for the sake of the economy and normality? So aren’t our health and safety a priority any longer?

We all know the direct impact on the economy that these lockdowns are having. But such a sacrifice is for the benefit of our safety, the same safety which is then put aside once the restrictions are eased so that the economy flourishes and we are back to normality. It seems that for the authorities, going back to normality means having tourists come again to Malta!

Hence, having the Minister for Tourism, Clayton Bartolo, announcing that Malta is planning to welcome tourists from June, is truly good. But this gives rise to a number of questions. Firstly, will the same restrictions imposed on us, be imposed on tourists? Will there be a distance of two metres between passengers on each plane? Will tourists be wearing masks on the plane and during their stay here? Will they come in groups of two, from different households? Will they be checked in their accommodation by the police? Will they be allowed to sit in large groups while eating out? Shall the above measures be lifted for both tourists and us? What makes the local authorities think that having tourists and Maltese mixing together, won’t see a surge in the number of cases again?

According to Mr. Bartolo, only vaccinated people will be allowed, thus reassuring the public that safety is being incorporated. Yet, we have all come across articles (and I came across Facebook posts too) whereby people either passed away or still tested positive for Covid even though they were vaccinated! So, will vaccinated tourists make it safer or will they make the situation worse? Moreover, Mr. Bartolo is assuming that vaccinated persons will choose Malta as their place of holiday destination. But what makes Mr. Bartolo think that those vaccinated will choose Malta?

The Minister of Tourism is counter-arguing by saying that Malta is discussing with the European Commission to allow ‘green’ passports for those who are vaccinated and who will be allowed to travel without any restrictions! I will not argue here about the fact that vaccine passports are in my opinion discriminatory and in breach of basic human rights or that vaccine passports are the end of liberty as we know it.

Surely, Malta needs to take into consideration that there are many in Europe who haven’t been vaccinated and there are those who refuse to be vaccinated! Judging from what is being said, these will not be allowed to visit Malta.

My positions on these measures that had been advised by the World Health Organization are known. I look forward that Malta is back to normality and wish success to the Maltese Government in his efforts to attract tourists back to Malta.

But for those who are afraid of Covid19, the return of tourism would mean the return of Covid19. Therefore, there are two explanations for this situation. Either many of the measures taken were inappropriate and unnecessary, as I have been arguing in my posts, or else, the government and Clayton Bartolo are grounding themselves with this decision and will have to face the stark reality and the repercussions of their actions this autumn.

I will leave it to my readers to decide which one of the two is the correct version of events.

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