The doctors’ association (MAM) will convene its council to present a revised position on the new enforcement measures on COVID-19 announced by the Prime Minister on Friday evening, President Martin Balzan has told The Shift.
Balzan was critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic: “It looks like the new reported daily infections are still at triple figures. I am left with no choice but to hold a council meeting and discuss our new position. I am questioning the government’s will to enforce”.
MAM issued a statement on Saturday morning where it welcomed some of the new measures, namely the introduction of obligatory mask-wearing in public. Yet the Association said it remained sceptical of the government’s will to enforce measures on bars and band clubs.
Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Friday that bars and band clubs will have to close down at 11pm. The measure was criticised by the association adding that this will have no effect if it is coupled by pardonable fines or no enforcement.
“The crowds that are gathering outside of bars and restaurants in Paceville and Valletta are no different to mass events. The government’s attitude of ‘business as usual’ and the illusion of fake normality have clearly backfired,” Balzan told The Shift.
“It is mind-boggling how the government issued 800 fines in two months. That means around 12 to 15 each day. There are over 3,000 bars and restaurants on the island. How is that supposed to work?” he asked.
Balzan’s comment comes as unions gave the government an ultimatum that led to Health Commissioner Charles Messina at the Ombudsman’s Office to write a letter to the Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Vella urging the authorities to get a grip on the COVID-19 situation in Malta due to the escalating number of COVID-19 cases having reached “alarming proportions”.
“The Health Ministry seems to allay its conscience with the often-repeated statement that those who died had other underlying conditions. Those people were coping with their other underlying conditions,” Messina said in the letter.
Abela has dismissed the Opposition’s call to declare a public health emergency saying that this would only ‘instil fear’.
His stand that everything is ‘under control’ and ‘open for business’ was harshly criticised in a paper published in a medical journal signed by medical professionals, including Gauci, though she has the authority by law to override government decisions to manage the pandemic.
Opposition Leader Bernard Grech lashed out at the Prime Minister’s “know-it-all attitude”. He said in an interview on Sunday that Gauci wanted to introduce certain measures to fight the pandemic but was being ignored by Abela.
Concern was also expressed in a statement published last week by the Association of Anaesthesiologists, which expressed concern over the admission of “young and previously completely healthy patients with no underlying chronic medical conditions at the ITU”.
The association said the number of patients at intensive care is worrying as this is also the same period when seasonal influenza sets in.
Forty-five people have died of COVID-19; most of them in the past month. The number of people at intensive care will soon reach a critical state, health workers agree.
It’s not only medical professionals who are calling on the government to take concrete action to control the pandemic. Trade unions that form part of the Forum Unions Maltin (FOR U.M) issued a statement expressing “grave concern” about the evolving COVID-19 situation.
“This situation could quickly get out of hand, both in terms of hospital and ITU capacity, but also in terms of the ability of people to go on with their normal life and activity,” the forum said while calling on authorities to take steps to mitigate the spread of the virus.