Within hours of being sworn in, Robert Abela’s populism took a turn for the reckless. “We must arrive at a point where we adopt the style where it will be a personal choice of the individual as to how he believes he should take care of himself” he commented in his first message to the nation after taking his oath of office. He was referring to COVID restrictions.
“While I will continue to seek expert advice, the government will continue on the road to remove all restrictions” he added.
That was on 28 March. The following day, Tuesday 29 March, Malta recorded 603 positive COVID cases. Just one month earlier, 28 February, the total number of cases was just 40. This was a fifteen fold increase.
The European Centre for Disease Control placed Malta in the “very high concern” category. The case positivity rate had risen to 14%. The Omicron BA2 sub variant which is currently becoming more prevalent around Europe is 30% more infectious than the previous. But Robert Abela couldn’t care less.
The only thing he’s interested in is repaying those lobby groups who contributed to his victory. This is not responsible decision making. This is reckless political expediency of the most dangerous kind.
Abela has already decided. He might seek advice but he’s determined to ignore it. He’s told us himself in no uncertain terms – “the government will continue on the road to remove all restrictions”.
Irrespective of what the situation is or how badly out of control the infection is spreading, Abela won’t back down. COVID is not on the decline. It’s getting worse and will continue to get worse if Abela implements his mad plan to remove all restrictions. Pulling back restrictions must be based on robust data not on the prime minister’s whim.
Abela lost no time demonstrating to the nation that his victory has gone to his head. He feels empowered to make decisions about health issues without consultation and without advice. Even worse, he wants to “arrive at a point where we adopt the style where it will be a personal choice of the individual as to how he should take care of himself”. The man is completely clueless.
In pandemics and infectious diseases you don’t rely on the personal choices of individuals “as to how they should take care of themselves”. That’s called a public health disaster.
Stopping the spread of infections, whether COVID or measles, relies on herd immunity. Unless a very high percentage of the population is vaccinated, infectious diseases will spread throughout the community. And when that happens the most vulnerable individuals suffer and die. That’s people on chemotherapy, people with transplants, those on steroids and impaired immune systems, those ill in hospitals – and the elderly.
Stopping the spread of COVID infection relies on imposed restrictions, such as mask-wearing. Given the choice, enough people will make the wrong choice. They will wreck the nation’s health and allow the virus to spread rapidly – and cripple the health service.
Given the choice, many will not safeguard their own well-being. That’s why we’ve seen people injuring themselves falling off trucks during wild celebrations. That’s why people get burnt when flares are let off in crowded places. That’s why people injure and kill themselves driving dangerously at excessive speeds.
That’s why so many people still smoke, drink excessively and abuse drugs. Left to their own devices many will choose to harm themselves. Through ignorance, stupidity, poor education, greed or pure selfishness, far too many make the wrong choice.
The problem with infections, which Abela is oblivious to, is that when you choose to harm yourself, you harm the rest of your community, you harm the entire country. Our collective safety, particularly that of the most vulnerable, depends on the vast majority making the sacrifice to do the right thing – whether that’s getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, or avoiding crowds.
Abela, now more than ever, only trusts himself, especially after an eminent respiratory physician obsequiously lauded him for ignoring medical advice and following his gut instinct. Abela is determined to ignore the data and the experts. He’s ignored them before and he’ll ignore them again. Now he’s advising the public to ignore them too.
Even when rules were in place Abela flagrantly and insolently ignored them. He’s Robert Abela. The rules don’t apply to him. He was caught breaching mask rules repeatedly, including at the Sigma event.
He was photographed repeatedly without a mask including when he met Russell Crowe on his film set. Abela organised “a night at the palace” where rules were openly breached and where he was photographed sitting in close proximity to hundreds of people without a mask.
He undermined efforts to control the spread of the virus by promising to refund fines for breaching COVID regulations. Health Minister Chris Fearne rigidly stuck to the rules even wearing a face mask when he greeted nursing graduates who all wore a mask. But Abela arrogantly uploaded a photo of himself with graduates at his party headquarters with nobody wearing a mask – including Abela.
Abela thinks it’s smart to undermine his health minister. He thinks he’s too clever to heed medical expert advice. Now he’s determined he will call the shots even in health matters and particularly in COVID matters.
Abela will remove restrictions, no matter what. That’s what the people want. That’s what people voted for. “Now I aspire that with the choice from last Saturday, Malta will enter a new phase,” he bragged. “The choice you made confirms our will as a people to turn over a new leaf – first of all, we must leave behind the two miserable years of the pandemic,” he declared.
“You may be done with COVID, but COVID is not done with you, nor is COVID done with the world,” Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the US president, warns. Abela’s hardly going to listen as he rides his wave of anti-expert populism.