The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Pathologists call for phased scale-downs, say population remains susceptible to the virus

Tuesday, 16 June 2020, 18:12 Last update: about 27 days ago

The Malta College of Pathologists has expressed its apprehension at recent announcements that most, if not all, social restrictions in relation to COVID-19 control will be lifted in the coming weeks.

The College said it is of the opinion that the prompt and wholesale introduction of these restrictions was the main reason why Malta was so successful in avoiding the scenarios witnessed in places like Bergamo and New York.

It reiterated that an exit strategy should involve phased scale-downs, spaced sufficiently apart so that if cases start to increase, there will be the possibility to identify which measure was linked to the increase and reverse it.

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"The College therefore finds it difficult to understand how the authorities have apparently already decided to remove all flight restrictions on the 15 July when the first tentative flights would have started only a fortnight earlier, which is exactly the maximum incubation period of COVID-19."

"One cannot but look at New Zealand, probably the most successful country in this pandemic, which lifted its domestic lock-down but maintained almost universal restrictions to air travel in the understanding that - as an island - this was the main route for reintroduction of the virus into that country."

The College said it appreciates and understands that the country needs to run a fine line between the health-related impacts of the disease and the equally disastrous lack of economic activity.

"Such a balancing act can only be achieved by wide consultation with experts in both fields and of qualified risk assessments. As members of a highly interactive medical community, we are not aware of the input of health specialists in these deliberations. For this reason, the College encourages the government to publish the risk assessments that informed the decisions to lift the public health emergency and remove practically all COVID-19 precautions. This would provide the needed reassurances to the medical profession and the front liners who would need to again repeat the efforts of the past months should a second wave materialise."

Malta is one of the highest densely populated countries in the world. Furthermore, it would appear that presence of immunity to COVID-19 amongst Maltese could still be as low as 1% or less, it said.

"While this is a testament to the success of the preventative measures in the past months, it means that practically all the population remains susceptible to the virus. Therefore, any laissez-fare attitude from politicians or the general public could have disastrous consequences. It would be a pity if all the achievements of the past three months were to be lost in the haste to return back to a 'normal' which - at this stage - does not appear possible until a vaccine is finally available."

 


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