The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Prefabricated hospital idea scrapped; restaurants, hairdressers to reopen in coming week - Abela

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 17 May 2020, 11:45 Last update: about 3 years ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that the prefabricated hospital that was planned to be built has now been scrapped after the government received advice that it was not required.

Abela also indicated that the government will announce the reopening of restaurants and hairdressers this coming week. This would mean the relaxing of further restrictive measures that were imposed due to Covid-19.

Speaking during an interview on One Radio, Abela said that he is looking ahead with a sense of positivity. He said that the country is in the best situation since 7 March, "and tomorrow will be better than today."

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The government is tomorrow expected to announce the easing of certain measures.

He said that some are concerned as over the past days there was an increase in the daily number of virus cases, "but in the last days we also tripled the number of tests conducted, so logically numbers were going to increase."

"We saw a marginal increase in cases that two weeks ago were already there, but were not being caught with the 800 tests taking place back then. If we had the number of tests we are doing today back then, the numbers would have been higher."

He highlighted that the number of cases, from 500 cases, went down to 90 active cases. "There is no other country with such a low number of cases.  Where are these 90 cases?  People who have no symptoms or minor symptoms and are at home. Our beds set aside for Covid-19 patients in the hospitals are empty. This is an important point that guides us toward the decisions we will announce."

"We took another important decision. Regarding the proposed prefabricated hospital that was to be imported in containers from abroad and built in the Mater Dei Hospital area to increase bed space, we received advice that we didn't need it and so a decision was taken not to buy it."

"This shows how the situation has improved."

He spoke of the past relaxation of measures, and said that he is pleased that the number of new cases remained low. "It is important not to scare people."  He said that this will lead to the next step to continue relaxing measures.

He said that the government has always protected the people's health first and foremost, and that the government always aired on the side of caution.

He urged people to go and enjoy the sea, but to observe social distancing. He said that social distancing, protecting the vulnerable and protecting the elderly are the three principles that must carry the country forward.

"We cannot decide to keep everywhere closed until a vaccine is found, as the situations shows that there is no reason to keep establishments closed. If there was a reason I would be the first to say that between the people's health and the economy we would pick the former. But today we are not taking a decision that will break people's quality of life. Why should we keep people locked in their own homes when the scientific evidence shows that there is no need to do that?"

"Keep practicing social distancing, but we will not tell them not to go to the beach."

He spoke of the importance of educating people on measures.

The Prime Minister said that through prudent measures one uses those results to improve people's quality of life.

He indicated that by the end of the coming week he would be able to tell people to go to a hairdresser, or a restaurant, but in a different way than before 7 March. "It doesn't mean that we will revert the clock to how we were last February as though nothing happened, that would be a stupid step."

"We will have restaurants and hairdressers, but in a way that makes sense for today's realities."

He said that everything is being done according to scientific evidence.

The Prime Minister said that education is crucial and that this is not a situation handled by fining everyone, whilst if people do abuse then fines are necessary.

"We are speaking about people who found themselves in a pandemic, not people who committed crimes."

"One must obey the health authorities regulations as they were done to protect everyone. This government will not take a big brother approach. If there is a regulation by the health authorities, they are there for our own good and should be followed. Here is where the element of education comes in."

He said that if retail, hairdressers and restaurants are opened, the message should be encouraging people to go, but go while observing the health authorities' measures.

"I can never accept opening establishments while telling people not to go to them. If I open restaurants next week I would be the first to go. Once the health authorities say that measures are safe, then there must be a clear message. Will we go back to a situation like last February? No."

He said that there will be many establishments who will say their operations might not be viable due to the way they will be allowed to open and measures imposed, "and there as a government we must be creative."

Regarding restaurants, he said that there will be a new reality. They might not have the number of tables they had in the past and so "we need to think differently. While in the past we told them that we cannot allow them to have tables and chairs outside due to regulations, we need to ease up a bit, otherwise we risk leaving everything closed."

He spoke about advertising Malta as a Covid-19 safe country. "This is how we should advertise our country, not by scaring people."

He made a distinction between domestic tourism and tourism coming from abroad. "Discussions are taking place, but it doesn't mean that we will take a premature decision that would put in peril what we have acquired so far. You speak now, follow what happens abroad and then take decisions when the moment comes. It does not mean that because we are speaking (about foreign tourism) we will run towards that decision. Decisions will be taken prudently and cautiously always while taking onboard the medical advice, and then decisions will be taken according to the circumstance."

Turning to judicial reform, the Prime Minister said that said that while combating the pandemic, the country managed to do a lot in this field.

Abela spoke about discussions with the Venice Commission regarding Malta's proposals. He said the government made the changes needed. He said that agreement had been reached with the Opposition regarding the way members of the judiciary are appointed. The executive will be removed from the appointment of the judiciary, he said, where the President will have the final say.

He said that the government did this as it believes in it.

Prime Minister Abela said that over the past four months the country made giant leaps forward. "We did all this without any mistakes."

Turning to the appointment of the next Police Commissioner, Abela said that he wants the Opposition to participate in the process and ask all the questions they should ask in the grilling phase. 

 


 

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