Will mask-wearing on the beach be a pushback on tourism?

Blogpost my Marica Micallef

While David Casa is hopeful that the green certificates, which he together with the MEPs have decided on our behalf without any consultation to come into action before Summer, so to restart the economy, tourism, protect jobs and create new ones, the Health Superintendent Profs Charmaine Gauci decided to decree that outdoor masks must also be worn on the beach, quashing the hopes, especially of the vaccinated, that with the vaccine, mandatory mask wearing will be lifted.

While the recurrent “philosophy” seems to be “Let us do a ‘little’ sacrifice, to save summer and tourism”, implying that tourism is a god-sent blessing to idolize and far more important than the happiness of the majority of the Maltese and that summer is the only season worth living for, I doubt how many tourists will opt to visit Malta having to go around muzzled. They will surely not opt for a tour guide, since walking around with the mask on and not being allowed to sip a cold drink while standing, is not allowed.

Our beaches, sea and beautiful hot weather are quite one of the main attractions to tourists. So what makes Profs Gauci think that tourists will still make Malta their holiday choice, when it seems that masks will be the new beach wear this Summer? Since numbers seem to be going down, then why the mask?

How come the Malta Tourism Authority and the Minister for Tourism, had nothing to say? How come this outdoor mask decree was not met with dismay by Malta’s tourism industry?

When in Spain a law was recently introduced which required all tourists and locals to wear a face mask at all times including at the beach, even while sunbathing or swimming in the sea,  a u-turn was immediately made after the news received a back lash and talks followed. The Spanish tourist industry reacted with dismay to this government’s decree and were angry that it wasn’t consulted at all.  Jose Luis Zoreda, vice-president of Exceltur, the umbrella organisation that represents Spain’s tourism industry, said “We’re going through hell with thousands of jobs and businesses threatened and now they want to turn the BEACHES INTO OPEN-AIR FIELD HOSPITALS”.  Are our local health authorities turning our beaches into such hospitals?

Following talks, the Spanish health authorities issued a statement stating that people can remove the masks while on the beach or at lakes or swimming pools, as long as a 1.5 metres distance is respected. Why aren’t the local tourism representatives asking for talks with the health authorities, after Profs Gauci issued the statement that masks won’t be allowed to be removed at local beaches? Is she aware that in certain states in US, masks mandates ended? Aren’t the local tourism authorities worried that tourists will choose countries like Spain now where masks can be removed in certain public places like beaches? Why are they staying silent? Did Profs Gauci consult the Tourism Minister, Mr Bartolo, to come up with such a statement? What ultimate benefits (if any) are they foreseeing in keeping people masked on the beach? Don’t they think that this will backfire and no tourists will visit Malta? Why will a tourist decide to visit Malta while he has to stay walking around and sun-bathing with a mask on?

Have the health authorities become gods on earth and stepping upon the natural laws that the best doctors a human being can have to stay healthy are sunshine, fresh air and water? Wearing masks outside and at beaches deprives us of these best natural doctors.

Welcome to these extraordinary times where the need to explain to people and the authorities that blocking your nasal passage and mouth will most definitely restrict oxygen but amid low-vibrating fears, let us restrict this oxygen while you swim or sunbathe, lest the virus decides to roam around on a speedboat or have a dive.

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