We’re not infecting anyone, maybe

We’re not ones to use a crisis for promotion or to announce a sales pitch for advertisers. This is a message to those who should know better.

The Shift is built on a flexible structure, necessitated by the funding model it is based on – so most of us work from home, some in different countries, with an office where we meet and discuss. We’re hardly a danger to society, although we are proud to know that those in power think of us as a danger to them.

The Shift has taken the precaution of shutting down the office to follow guidelines by international health authorities on minimising contact in this situation. Yet our measures will be useless unless the government acts responsibly.

How are journalists supposed to cover court cases? While some cases have been cancelled, a journalist’s diary in court is never empty. What is the point of telling journalists to stay at home if they have to cover court proceedings stuck in a packed room and with minimal, if any, health precautions till you get there?

How are journalists supposed to cover government events? This doesn’t apply to The Shift because we’re excluded anyway, but it does apply to other newsrooms. The government has just announced some of its communications would be limited to social media except for cases the government deems important – on what grounds?

Minister Edward Zammit Lewis is busy pushing a gender equality law forward to show that for government, it’s business as usual. It’s a controversial law, despite its positive label. It’s not made ok by the PN agreeing to it – that’s the politics of the past.

Not only is the government implementing half-measures but using the void to push things through as is usually done at times when everyone is busy with something else. That’s why the list of new Maltese citizens buying passports is always published in the government gazette in the week between Christmas and New Year – you don’t get more distraction than that.

While newsrooms with limited resources are trying to grapple with the challenge that this situation presents, the big companies are having none of it. God forbid they allow their employees to work from home.

We have heard from these employees who tell us their bosses will have none of it – demanding they turn up for work. Staff meetings on this have almost turned into fist fights, but the employees are left with little choice if they are to sustain their families.

These are companies that make more in one week than most of us make in a year. These are companies that have benefitted from corrupt deals and kickbacks to members of government.

Is the government’s hesitation on decisive action a result of lobbying from corporate interests? Is the reason the tourism industry? Is Robert Abela’s government doing a reenactment of Muscat, prioritising Party interests – and his own campaign to be elected Prime Minister – at the cost of the nation’s wellbeing?

Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia yesterday denied Opposition Leader Adrian Delia’s request for Parliament to suspend the agenda to discuss updates on the virus. No, it’s business as usual.

We do our bit. That implies we need to be comforted the government is doing its bit too and not seeking to take advantage of the distraction.

The government must show true leadership in this situation. Half-measures are in nobody’s interest except those at the helm. And if Abela wants to distinguish himself as a leader, he must understand that the people need to rebuild trust in government.

Just like citizens are saying they don’t trust the government telling them they were safe in buildings that collapsed, so too they will not take the government’s word for it when Abela says the situation is under control. This isn’t something you wash away in a spin cycle.

Meanwhile, all of us at The Shift would like to stress the need for solidarity. The way to fight this is by coming together, not the raping of supermarkets or insulting those affected.

As such, we extend our help to those who may need support while dealing with a difficult situation. If you’re quarantined and need supplies, if you’re sick and need support, please contact us and we will do our best to help you. You have helped us build The Shift. We’re here for you.

                           
                               
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