The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Coronavirus – From near zero to new high

Wednesday, 12 August 2020, 08:17 Last update: about 2 months ago

When, in the middle of July, Health Minister Chris Fearne proudly announced that Malta had gone through a whole week with zero new Coronavirus cases, we never expected that, a month later, Malta would reach a new peak higher than the one we had at what was then the height of the pandemic.

We have gone from just three active cases to more than 400 in these last 30 days, and the Medical Association of Malta is saying that the worst is still to come.

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It is clear that the biggest part of the blame is to be placed on the holding of mass activities. They are the major culprit. Social distancing rules cannot be maintained at parties, band marches and clubs, and what is happening today is a result of having crowds in small places, even if they happen to be in open-air conditions.

The president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, Tony Zahra, has told us that with hindsight Malta could have delayed relaxing measures pertaining to mass activities. But Zahra should know that organisations like MAM, as well as sections of the media, were anticipating that this would have happened, even without having the benefit of the hindsight we have now.

Before this latest rise, MAM and others were saying that Malta was risking a new increase in cases if we relaxed measures too soon. But the Prime Minister told us that waves were only in the sea and that we had won the war. And Zahra himself was advocating a return to normality too, a normality which included mass activities.

The health authorities may have pointed out the risks too. If they didn’t, then they were not on the ball. If they did, then the government did not listen. Our guess is that they did but were ignored.

The experience in other countries should have served us to be able to programme better. Many nations, including nearby nations in Europe, had also gone through an upsurge in cases once the measures they had introduced were relaxed in full.

We should have been content to have restaurants and hotels re-opening, together with retail establishments and vanity outlets, where risk of contagion is at a minimum. But we went full blast ahead to have mega-parties and band marches that quickly led to a spread of the disease. It’s one thing sitting at a restaurant table far from other diners and having your hair done in contained and sanitised conditions; but it’s another to dance and make merry in crowds where you’re barely two centimetres away from others, let along two metres.

Many continue to belittle the situation, saying that the deaths have been few (tell that to the families of the ones who passed away), hospitalisation is rare and that the symptoms are not strong, while some do not experience any at all. This is a very selfish way of seeing things, especially when one considers that many vulnerable people live within the community and they will be the worst off if they get the virus.

It will take us several more weeks to get over this second wave, by which time we will have to start worrying about the influenza season that will add to the pressure on the health authorities.

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