Covid-19’s effects aren’t just in infection hotspots. As events unfold, we’ll bring you dispatches from around the world, showing how Covid-19 is affecting people’s day-to-day lives in areas outside of affected regions.
As a gig-economy gal with the attention span of a fruit fly, I have lots of different jobs. One of them is teaching English as a second language in Malta. Thanks to nearly endless sunshine and warm weather, the tiny island is a mainstay for ESL students of all ages, from all parts of the globe. Though the English language school industry in Malta is thriving, it is entirely dependent on foreign students.
Last week, cancellations started rolling in from students based in areas affected by travel bans.
I reached out to colleagues for their take on things. Many (privately) shared concerns about the welfare of their students and personal job security. (It’s a small island)
Karl Sammut, Sales and Marketing Director from Gateway School of English had some answers.
In an attempt to contain Covid-19, Italy has enacted a partial travel ban to and from affected areas. How is this affecting Malta ESL schools?
We have seen a few cancellations from Italy, China, Thailand and Japan, and students travelling to Malta are very much concerned about spending time in quarantine after landing in Malta. We are receiving a lot of enquiries about this and we normally check with the Malta International Airport to see for which destinations passengers are being quarantined on arrival. As you know, the situation is still developing, so there might be other destinations added to the current list, and this is a cause of concern for students as this would disrupt their learning plans in Malta.
Do you think there will be a ripple effect from other countries sending teen groups to the island?
I am of the opinion that the situation is being blown out of proportion by the media, especially the foreign media, and there is no need to panic as probably come spring the situation would have improved and the coronavirus issue won’t be in the news any longer, just like any previous virus scare.
What methods are schools taking to keep teachers and students healthy?
We are asking students who feel unwell to leave the classroom immediately and encouraging students who feel unwell to stay home. This is mandatory at our school. We are also encouraging students to use alcohol gel dispensers that are made available in each classroom to avoid the spread of infections among classmates and staff.
Has the Maltese government put a system in place for monitoring students coming from at-risk areas?
Yes, the Maltese government is taking the situation really seriously and a screening process started on passengers arriving at Malta’s airport this week. We also have regular meetings with health authorities who keep us updated about the situation. This is facilitated by the English Language Teaching Council, which is the regulatory authority responsible for all licensed English language schools in Malta.