The Malta Independent 10 July 2020, Friday

TMID Editorial: Pandemic – It’s over, they said

Wednesday, 3 June 2020, 08:28 Last update: about 2 months ago

And so, with the snap of its fingers, the government declared the Coronavirus pandemic as a thing of the past.

On 5 June, we will go back to normal life, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Monday when he addressed the media, face-to-face for the first time in two months.

We have won the war, Health Minister Chris Fearne said moments later.

Our strategy and discipline enabled us to overcome the pandemic, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci added.

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With the number of new and active cases diminishing day after day, measures that were introduced in March when the first cases appeared have now been relaxed. Social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitisation still remain important, but as from Friday all establishments will be allowed to re-open. Restaurants, vanity shops and retail outlets already had the go-ahead last month; now it is the turn of bars and gyms. And, as from 1 July, the airport will be re-opened too, albeit to a restricted group of destinations.

At the start of the pandemic, it was said that the government took too long to take restrictive action. Now there will be talk that the relaxation of measures has come too soon. This will be particularly so if the number of cases rises again. In other countries it has happened that measures which were relaxed had to be enforced again because of a fresh spike.

Time will tell whether the decisions announced yesterday were the right ones.

There are, of course, still too many issues that have to be seen to. For one thing, why is team-sport still prohibited when, for example, other countries with much worse scenarios are allowing it? If groups of friends can now meet around a table for a meal, why can’t they play a six-a-side football match?

Mass events are also still banned, but what’s the difference between a large gathering for a concert and a similarly large gathering of people as we have all seen in photos taken in Sliema and other places at a time when the regulations were still in place?

Even the airport reopening is an issue in itself, considering that some of the countries “opened” by Malta still have a travel ban that extends beyond 1 July, while Maltese travellers will have to face a 14-day quarantine if they travel to some of the destinations listed by PM Abela.

The Prime Minister said that as from Friday people can return to the office. Well, many have continued to work during the last three months, albeit from their homes, and on the specific instructions of the health authorities. So, for them, the last three months have not been a holiday. If anything, they worked harder and longer hours – and for some of them at reduced pay – because there was no distinction between work time and home time. In no small way, even they have contributed to keep the economic wheel turning, maybe at a slower pace, but turning nonetheless.

The loudest applause will however be always for the front-liners, those who dealt with the patients and their families and those who saw that regulations were being followed to the letter; and, why not, to all the people who obeyed the instructions and spent so many lonely hours away from their loved ones, a sacrifice they will never forget.

Let us hope that the pandemic is really and truly over, and that there will be no relapse. It is only then that we would be able to safely say that we have survived.

 

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