Vaccine passport not a quick fix to normality – Tony Zahra

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January, 2021 at 9:21 am by Andre Camilleri

While a vaccine certificate will help resume confidence in people to travel, it’s only one aspect of a highly multifaced issue in regaining the steps to normality and opening borders. Tony Zahra, President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, told The Malta Business Weekly.

“The reality is we are going to struggle to have some form of the summer season in 2021.  Although calls for a vaccine passport are a positive step forward, we must also consider negative test certificates. By June this year, there will only be some 25/30% of our target markets immunised through vaccination. We cannot afford to ignore the other 75% that has not been vaccinated if we are going to have some numbers albeit much smaller then usual coming to Malta”. Zahra explained to this newsroom.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, Chris Fearne has in the last few days been promoting in European Union circles, including EU Ministers of Health, European Centre for Disease Prevention and the European Medicines Agency, the possible introduction of a vaccine certificate which will ensure that people travelling from one country to another have been vaccinated before they travel.

Zahra continued, “The recovery for Malta’s hospitality and tourism sector is undoubtedly facing a long road ahead. It took us around four years to bounce back from the 2008 financial crisis, and in comparison, the scale of this pandemic is much, much worse. On top of this, different world regions are all at various stages of managing the virus. While we need to ensure that travel is as safe as possible, we must also consider the economy, which keeps people in jobs and pays for our hospitals and national health. We must remember vaccinations for travel are nothing new. I have travelled to various continents which required immunisations beforehand in years gone by.

He added, “At MRHA, we are in continuous talks with the government; discussions are ongoing as to how to manage the sector safely, in combination with health and economy.”

Zahra notes that either a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid-19 test should be the acceptance criteria for travel until so-called herd immunity is achieved.

Speaking about local staycations, Zahra explained, although impacted, Gozo has been impacted positively and has fared much better than Malta. He added that albeit there is a low demand compared to when tourists were visiting in their thousands, all the star levels in the hotels’ sector were benefiting equally.

Zahra concluded that government support has been instrumental, and hospitality counterparts in Europe have been impressed with the way Malta has handled this pandemic.

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