The Malta Independent 15 August 2020, Saturday

The big summer

Rachel Borg Saturday, 1 August 2020, 07:11 Last update: about 14 days ago

Summer of 2020 is churning in its grave.  Originally having been thought to be a write-off and consigned to the history books, it has resolutely risen from the ashes, taken the form of a ghost, shrouded in controversy and menace and gate-crashed the party.

Just when we began to feel safe to emerge from our residences, meet up with family and friends and even book that hotel-stay in one of our local resorts, the scene was reversed, sending us to an even worse place than we were before, in the spring. 

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The number of cases with Covid 19 has risen dramatically over this short period of the last 2 weeks of July and is not easing at all.  What is different this time is that the mentality, infrastructure and organization that had been put in place in spring, to take measures and provide a coherent professional service to prevent the spread, has been relaxed.  All the volunteers who were available before have gone back to work or are out and about enjoying the summer, the daily bulletins are not happening, the recommendations and advice are haphazard and alter very much depending on the audience.  Worst of all, contradiction and impunity is the summer anthem, il tormentone.

When you challenge nature, be sure that it will have the last word.  Just because the first episode in our battle with Covid was relatively mild and the dramatic demand on the hospital ventilators, graciously, did not materialize, does not mean that this pandemic is over.

The question that needs to be answered now is, are we going to carry on as normal, treat Covid 19 like a mild ‘flu and jump into the deep end without regard to the impact on our health? Or are we going to take account of the fact that we achieved the choice to lift restrictions due to the sacrifices made and the hard work put in by our health workers, carers, families, businesses and the elderly and that all of that is now being discarded like half-eaten birthday cake with melted candles? 

The impact on the economy has probably been worse than we are led to believe but there are also those who are forsaking patience and solidarity and just pushing ahead at all costs to get back to a place of energetic money-making that harms the prospects for the majority and only benefits a few select partners. 

Slowly, the general population is coming to its senses and not taking those unnecessary risks by avoiding marching in crowds at the feast or resisting the call for large parties.  Rather than the immediate consequences, their uppermost thought is for the school children who may be deprived of another term if the virus continues to spread.  Moreover, the elderly are now exposed as they were not before and it is falling to the families to protect their loved ones.

In spite of these concerns, we see the government organizing all sorts of mass gatherings without observing protocol.  Whether it is the concert in Girgenti, the opening of St Francis Square in Victoria, Gozo, firework shows or other meetings and events, the message has been one of one law for Robert Abela and another for the SMEs and non-governmental cultural events. 

This is not surprising as we have experienced this double standard for years now, under Labour. 

Just at a time when we really need a responsible leadership with foresight, all we continue to get is the short-sight and then the hindsight.  If the social and medical associations and organisations were of the same opinion as Robert Abela, then we would feel assured that the right decisions were being made in the interest of the famous balance.  Unfortunately, the reverse is true and the government is practically alone, apart from the rich and famous who depend on its patronage, in encouraging a mad dash for summer.

This is doing no good to our mental state and the division it is causing amongst people, those of whom are conscious of the risk and obey protocol and the others who advocate kicking the virus to the kerb and getting on with it, whatever ‘it’ is.

Then there is the division over the migrants who were before kept away from our shores for health and safety reasons (of the local population) and who are now flooding in, carrying the virus.  This on / off state of affairs is working only as a management by crisis.  The country needs an open and transparent policy to deal with the immigration problem that we are facing and that the immigrants themselves face.  The only radar on immigration seems to be the notorious Neville Gafa’ and depends on which side he is playing for.  This is no way for an EU member country to conduct its immigration policy.

We have been informed that the government has made a call for a supply of vessels on which to host rescued migrants, other than those who are at risk of drowning.  This has been tried before and is a very expensive way of operating and is only a short-term solution.  We hope that the European Union is in the loop of going down this route and that it does not have negative repercussions on the way Malta is perceived abroad, adding to negative publicity.

All these risk factors leave us, our children, the economy and our health at great risk.  Now is not the time to play the super hero, the dad who spoils his children and goes against the mother’s discipline.

Abela is fortunate in having a distracted and complacent population, who are generous in their cooperation and who reserve judgement.  Surely, though, he should have some more sense of leadership and purpose and begin to take on responsibility as Prime Minister by listening to professional advice?  That “balance” that has been repeatedly flaunted as the catch-all phrase for dealing with tourism of the masses, is as empty as it is stupid.  It exists only in the mind of the reckless.  It is like bringing a baby home and saying that we will make sure it does not cry or disturb the neighbours because we have a dummy to put in its mouth.  How far any changes will go in this regard, remains to be seen but there is a lot of pressure coming from the people who do sense the response is inadequate.

Of course we wish to enjoy the big summer of 2020 and return to a place of normality.  A castle built on sand, however, will only get washed away by the sea.  Better to build on solid ground, good advice and common sense of the people, who seem to be better equipped in dealing with this pandemic than short-sighted profiteers, political or commercial.

 

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