The Malta Independent 13 July 2020, Monday

Distancing

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 25 May 2020, 07:10 Last update: about 3 months ago

With the relaxation of controls  on people staying at home and on where they go, the need still remains for full precautions to be in force against the spread of corona virus.

The major tool for the containment of the pandemic will become the social distancing in all areas where people live and stay.

However, observance of this precaution will depend mostly on the prudence shown by individuals in streets, shops and offices. Can one be sure that this will be done? I think it’s yes for many – and no for many others.

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Thus, the question becomes: How should the imprudence of those who do not give a damn be reined in? Some say that police bookings and fines are not a solution for they create much extra bureaucratic work while it would be difficult to monitor effectively what’s going on everywhere.

So, should one encourage citizens to confront those who indulge in abuse, at the risk of seeing communal fights develop?

Or rather should one promote fullscale programmes of health education, at the risk of there still being those who continue to ignore all precautions?

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NATURAL

Obviously, when governments come to decide whether to call for a lockdown of all public establishments, and when later they begin to reopen them, there will arise a strong debate within the administration. This has been happening everywhere.

The tension is between those whose function in a government is to promote public health – and those who are charged with ensuring that the country’s economy is doing as well as can be.

The two sides will have different perspectives – which again, is both natural and desirable. Indeed when there is no internal debate, one can only begin to imagine the worst. Such as: Could the top decision makers have become so dictatorial that they now decide blindly, according to their momentary whims?

It is just as natural at some stage, for somebody – the head of the government – to come to a conclusion regarding the way forward.

Pathetic efforts have been made – still are – by some to portray this normal and healthy debate as a narrative of infighting and confusion.

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SEPARATE AIMS

As Europe faces up to the priority of launching a wideranging economic recovery, there are many who while agreeing this should be done (for can they say otherwise?) are worried. What’s going to happen regarding aims about which there had already been a European agreement – will they be allowed to drop?

The disquiet is being felt by those who had lobbied for the EU to be a protagonist in the global efforts to reverse climate warming. They had succeeded in this and the priority for the coming years was meant to be a “green deal” that would be a central factor in determining all the Union’s activities.

Also wary are those who in the past years have successfully managed to dilute the European commitment to financial austerity, in favour of a renewed emphasis on the need to attain social goals.

Both the environmental and the social objectives require lots of money. In the same way and by far, so do efforts to achieve an economic recovery. Will the latter end up gobbling up the funds that would have been earmarked for the other two aims?

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