As Covid cases continue to rise, we are in the midst of a systemic failure and cynical political discourse is costing lives. The widespread anger at the staggering rise in cases needs to be directed towards those who have failed us.
In an ill-judged press conference, Prime Minister Robert Abela and Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne shamelessly stood there and bandied about words like “science” and “economy”. They claimed we are leading the way in vaccination. This claim is both baseless (the rate of vaccination is very slow) and useless.
Vaccination is not going to save those who are already sick. Vaccination is a preventive measure. When questioned about the unchecked spread of the virus, the Prime Minister chose to throw a tantrum while reminding us of his hard work and how upsetting this is for him. Inevitably, the internet reacted with tiny violins. And while this may have been cathartic for some, it is not the response on which we should be focusing.
Sure, irresponsible behaviour by individuals has made matters worse, but ultimately the failure lies firmly on the doorstep of government. When the situation was under control, they responded by encouraging parties, “for the economy”. To nobody’s shock, that set off a disastrous chain of events and we now find ourselves gasping for air (some of us literally).
In the middle of his temper tantrum, the prime minister shamelessly said that nobody could have predicted a pandemic. Strange words from someone who was babbling about evidence, bolstered by Fearne’s claims of following the science. They are, of course, relying on the general population having a hazy concept of science.
Let’s take a look at the actual science.
Scientists have been predicting pandemics all along. We have lived through a number of pandemics (SARS and Ebola, to name two), but of course, they did not affect this blessed rock and so they were ignored. Had the prime minister bothered listening to WHO, or picked up a newspaper over the years, he would perhaps have been slightly less startled.
Had he listened to the evidence, one hopes he would have not gambled with lives in such a nonchalant manner. One hopes he will pay attention this time and carefully consider the link between environmental destruction, climate change and pandemics.
As they stand there glibly reeling off numbers, the prime minister, the health minister and the health superintendent fail to acknowledge they have lost control. They have consistently refused to discuss Long Covid, they continue to play fast and loose with statistics, neglecting to inform the public that they are not testing people after quarantine or carrying follow-up swabs after a person tests positive.
While speaking of thousands of recoveries looks good, Chris Fearne and Charmaine Gauci are well aware that this is not how recovery works. And it makes their actions even more appalling. While they assure us that everything is fine, they doggedly ignore Long Covid or a failure of a testing system that includes non re-testing after an initial positive test and quarantine.
They are studiously ignoring difficulties in accessing a swab test and people being turned away when they say they have no symptoms. They know full well that asymptomatic transmission is deadly. Instead, they are boosting their “success stories” with rapid tests and they know very well they have a significant margin of error.
Meanwhile, people are receiving notice of possible infection days after positive tests. In the meantime they have been to work, school, and so on, unwittingly spreading the virus.
While politicians babble about “teleworking” (because apparently, we are in the 90s) many employers continue to insist that people turn up at offices. This is not simply restricted to private businesses. While the Prime Minister talks about wage supplement schemes, he is neglecting those forced to go into work and stubborn bosses can continue being stubborn with impunity.
Hospitals are overwhelmed. Medical staff reached their breaking point long ago. Vital non-COVID treatment has had to be delayed. This means that cancer patients are at increased risk of death. It means that diabetics and people with heart disease are not getting the care they need because there are no resources.
Women have to give birth without loved ones by their side. Midwives are doing stellar work, but they too are exhausted and overwhelmed. Those who are sick are too afraid to go to hospital or seek adequate care, in case they get infected.
What is really ripping through this country is not just a deadly virus. It is a far deadlier disease that is caused by a complete failure of institutions.