Cryptic reply from Health Ministry on science behind decision to relax COVID-19 measures

A request to the Health Ministry to publish the scientific evidence on which Prime Minister Robert Abela’s decision to relax restrictions related to the pandemic was based, got only a cryptic reply and no documentation.

The Shift turned to the Health Ministry to explain the scientific evidence that Abela had referred to when announcing the lifting of restrictions in a recent press conference. The Prime Minister had said the decision was backed by studies.

He announced this in a long drawn out press conference where he said restaurants and bars could open, together with hairdressers and nail bars, among others.

The Health Ministry’s reply was baffling:

“The Transition Plan and the measures therein were drawn up by the Transition Team which forms part of the COVID Public Health Response Team and is composed of senior Public Health Specialists.

The COVID Public Health Response Team produced a detailed Transition Plan which contains all the parameters and criteria for transitioning as well as a detailed risk assessment and scoring model for specific economical and social activities and sectors (eg. hairdressers, restaurants etc), based on well-defined risk criteria. These activities are then ranked according to risk and grouped into transition phases.”

The ministry also failed to provide the risk assessment or any other evaluation on which the Prime Minister’s decision to relax restrictions was based.

It also offered no answer to the question of whether the unions representing medical staff and healthcare professionals were consulted before a number of restrictions were lifted.

Martin Balzan, president of the Medical Association of Malta, told The Shift the association had not been consulted, while warning that viruses and diseases were not to be taken lightly. He was among those who questioned the studies Abela was referring to, especially since coronavirus is new and there are no concrete studies available as yet.

Abela had said the decision was taken after a review of international evidence and good practice, followed by consultations with relevant stakeholders. While the assessment has not been made public, it is also unclear which stakeholders the government consulted.


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