The new measures announced on Monday led to mixed reactions among the public who complained that the restrictions placed after bad decisions made would impact heavily on small businesses that had observed restriction measures but now had to suffer because the government had chosen to accommodate specific sectors.
While some are applauding the government for taking a stand on trying to fight the spread of the pandemic in Malta, others expressed concern about the alarmingly high number of cases in Malta that will cost many their jobs. Further comments spoke about the burden that will again be placed on the sick and vulnerable.
A common sentiment in the complaints seems to be that people who were being careful are the ones who will suffer the most, while big players in the tourism industry had profited from a risky situation.
Monday’s press conference was an awkward one for Health Minister Chris Fearne who had to face journalists with the bad news once again while it emerged that Prime Minister Robert Abela had returned to Sicily to resume his holiday on his luxury yacht.
Abela only returned on Sunday to address the nation on the Labour Party’s TV station, saying the situation in Malta was “under control” and that he had been “teleworking” amid criticism that he had abandoned the country during a crisis.
As the number of infected people spiked once again over the weekend, with Malta now in third place in Europe in terms of the number of infected people per capita, Abela was photographed while abroad on his yacht, worth hundreds of thousands of euro, and participating in spin classes and social activities observing no social distancing measures.
The Health Minister refused to comment on Abela’s trip to Sicily this weekend despite repeated questions from journalists.
“I want to address this press conference focusing on COVID-19,” Fearne said, upon being asked the same question about Abela for the third time even though the questions were focused on the Prime Minister’s failure to be in the country to lead in time of crisis.
It is has become evident that whenever new restrictive measures are announced, the Prime Minister leaves his Deputy to face the hard questions.
He said that most cases in Malta are mild and those infected are recovering at home. The Prime Minister also announced that migrants who test positive for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Malta will not be counted in the country’s total number of cases. This goes against a previous government statement that the numbers would be included in the daily total.
Robert Abela has been facing criticism for his decision to open Malta for travel, and for having Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli promote Malta as a destination for mass events during the pandemic.
The Health Minister has now announced a number of restrictive measures, including the complete closure of bars and nightclubs. Restaurants will remain open, though crowds of more than 15 people in public spaces will no longer be allowed.
The public’s concerns build on comments made by the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine (MAPHM) which said that the people in Malta are currently at the highest risk of getting infected in the EU: “We have gone from one of the countries that responded the best to the COVID-19 pandemic to one of the worst hit countries in terms of having to deal with new cases”.