The Malta Independent 8 August 2020, Saturday

Fare well or goodbye: The second wave

Sunday, 2 August 2020, 07:28 Last update: about 7 days ago

Albert Bezzina

Diverse opinions on one issue commonly amalgamate into a binary controversy.  We see this with football teams, village feasts, politics; red or blue, racism; coloured or white and of course along religious or ethnic lines; Muslim or Christian and Jews or non-Jews. This, ‘us and them’ is ingrained in most of us to a smaller or greater extent. Extremism leads to militancy for the cause. Rationalisation and moral considerations lead to some of the ‘us’ defending the rights of the ‘others’. Discrimination recurs decade after decade despite the enlightenment of history.

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Following the first weeks from the ‘recognized’ onset of the SARS-CoV-19 or COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that young healthy individuals had little or no risk of getting complications if infected.  Publicity of new findings is scant.  These findings describe chronic post-COVID syndromes even in the young who contracted the virus.  Deaths and serious complications from COVID-19 predominantly affect elderly people and those with secondary, pre-existent, medical conditions at any age. So, for young to middle-aged persons, with or without children, they inevitably come to conclude that they are not at risk of serious complications from the infection.  A large cohort of working citizens become convinced that lockdown and other precautions taken locally to prevent catastrophic spread, was ‘over-the-top’.  They could only experience the negative effect these precautions had, on their income, their way of life and the economy. They were oblivious to the dangers from not taking such precautions from the beginning.  It would have led to an ever-deteriorating situation (c.f. Sweden) with significant loss of life.  This scenario is now playing out right in front of us in Malta as our government’s mind is set on the economic comeback. The early days of relaxed anti-COVID policies have already shown the consequences. Lack of an epidemiological response shows the disrespect by the person at the helm towards the health and safety of at least a third of the population, half of which will keep cheering as they or family members are summoned by death from COVID.

There are presently two, very distinct, opposing camps.  The first is the pro-lockdown-maintain-pandemic-protocol camp made up of the elderly, the vulnerable persons, many of those with a scientific background and the frontliners, especially those working in the medical services.  The other camp is made up of those whose income has stalled because of the precautions taken in the first weeks of the pandemic, the businesses which stopped making money and the government who does not want to remain without money.  There is a large number of vulnerable people who cheer whatever the party in government decides. There are vulnerable persons who still need to work but have to weigh the risks of getting an income or face  possible death. From last week, the risk has increased greatly even not including the large number of positives in the quarantined immigrants saved at sea.

As easing progressed, the larger, low-risk group and business owners exult.  The second group becomes more anxious. The decisions are being taken totally subject to the needs of the economy, in effect, the needs of the influential business associations and the misguided belief that GDP can be salvaged with all round relaxations of pandemic protocols. The recommendations from health authorities to safeguard the health of the vulnerable persons have apparently became a suppressed voice.

The Prime minister, as reported on Sunday 14 June, has clearly spoken of the need to return to normality, going out and to spend to support the recovery. This is economically sound advice. He was totally mute however on the effect this would have on vulnerable persons. This is part of the playbook of denying the possibility or even the existence of second waves, calling those who are still concerned, ‘scaremongers’, a direct offence towards the work done by the front liners. Gaslighting all possible decent to the recovery plan, getting the majority to be grateful.

The onset or not of the Second Wave is anybody’s guess. Those in the health profession will not exclude the possibility; some think it is inevitable once we open to tourism.  It is, after all, common sense. There is likely a premeditated plan not to consider a return to an effective lockdown as numbers are starting to increase.  Vulnerable persons and health personnel will take the brunt of any major increase or established second wave. It will be a holocaust of sorts. The general sympathy of the population towards the old and the infirm has been erased. “It will not kill us.  It will kill them”.

First, they took the Jews and it was alright because we were not Jews. The PM, a lawyer, knows what liability means.  Orchestrating the circumstances which lead to the death of vulnerable persons, even if with good intentions for the sake of the economy, it is still manslaughter.  Liability will have to be shared by him and the those who pushed to ignore sound medical and epidemiological advice.  

Society has decided to tell the infected venerable, either a cynical ‘fare well’ (maybe you will recover) or worse, a ‘goodbye’.

 

Dr Albert Bezzina is medical professional with many interests and a person vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.

 

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