Malta should be promoted as a safe and responsible country, not a reckless and unsafe country for tourists flying to Malta this June, the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) has said.
The Malta Independent contacted the MAM to ask for its reaction to the Tourism Recovery plan announced by Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Clayton Bartolo last Tuesday. The plan will see tourists from European countries – specifically the United Kingdom – making their way to Malta at the beginning of June. Bartolo had said during the announcement that the rate of the vaccine will be more satisfactory by June than the rate it is at currently. He also said that “European countries will also have a satisfactory rate of vaccination by early June too”.
EU countries are also considering the introduction of a digital certificate for Covid vaccination and testing. The certificate will serve as proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, has tested negative, or has recovered from Covid-19.
According to MAM President Martin Balzan, the MAM has no issue with tourists coming to Malta this June, so long as they have received the vaccine or have received a swab test with a negative result.
He expressed concern over the way the country could end up being marketed, arguing that Malta shouldn’t be seen as a reckless country where one can get away from Covid-19.
“This could lead to a repeat of what happened last year”, Balzan said. “Marketing Malta as an unsafe country will attract tourists who are interested in reckless tourism. They will come to Malta because they will think it is a reckless country with loopholes, and those loopholes will attract the wrong kind of tourists”.
Balzan insisted that the most important thing is that tourists come to Malta with a vaccine certificate or a negative screening, which they must present before boarding the aircraft. Should this be ignored, patients may be carrying Covid and affect other travellers, both in the plane and in the airport. Balzan also said that a tourist could be a carrier of a variant that is resistant to the vaccine, which could jeopardize the safety of other passengers.
As of Monday 29th March, all countries on the travel green list were transferred to the amber list, meaning that all incoming visitors are obligated to present a negative Covid test result before boarding the plane.
This newsroom also contacted the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) with regards to the same tourism this summer.
Asked about its reaction to the Tourism Plan, MUMN president Paul Pace said that he is fine with tourists coming to Malta this coming June.
“If we see the impact of last year’s tourism, we can see that it did not leave a major impact on Covid-19 cases”, he said. “As long as there are gatherings where social distance can be kept and where there is no free alcohol, the issue will not be the tourists themselves”.
What is of concern, he said, is the same issue which Balzan reiterates: that he doesn’t want Malta to be marketed as a reckless country rife with large social events.
“What we’re worried about is that parties, especially by-the-pool and boat parties, will cause us problems”, Pace said. “We don’t expect a large number of tourists, however it is easy for cases to rise. With ferry boats going to Comino crowded with people and lots of boat parties, it will only be a matter of weeks of Malta being one of the best destinations to travel, to becoming one of the worst destinations to travel to”.
This newsroom also asked Pace if he believes Malta will be one of the safest places to travel to this summer, after Deputy Minister Chris Fearne said recently on BBC Radio that “Malta, by summer, will be one of the safest places to travel to in Europe and the world”.
Pace disagreed with this statement, saying that the safety of Malta as a country largely depends on the behaviour of Maltese inhabitants, not only the vaccination roll-out program.
“While the vaccine certainly helps, it won’t be enough on its own. Getting the vaccine does not simply mean that we can rapidly go back to a normal lifestyle as we had prior to Covid-19, with no masks or social distancing. We could be one of the safest destinations in Europe, so long as we keep track of the measures we need in June”.
“The situation can change completely – it depends on what measures and restrictions are going to implemented in June”, he continued. “The mentality that we are one of the safest countries in the world can easily change overnight. To remain one of the best destinations in Europe, we need to safeguard our country. It’s not an open cheque for tourists to take advantage of”, he concluded.
The Tourism Recovery plan aims to recuperate the local tourism sector, with no less than €20 million planned to be invested in the plan. The sum will be divided across a number of schemes and incentives, all of which will be targeted at aiding local tourism.
Minister Bartolo had said that the plan will see a boost in advertisement campaigns, which will promote the narrative that Malta is “an ideal country that one can come to where the measures are respected”. He said that a “more aggressive campaign” will be targeted at the United Kingdom specifically, in order to “capitalize” on the interest British tourists have in Malta.