The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - Our elderly are paying the price

Monday, 21 September 2020, 06:43 Last update: about 30 days ago

Saturday saw the highest number of single-day Covid-19 deaths in Malta since the start of the pandemic.

Three people aged 72, 85 and 86, all passed away with the virus.

The elderly are the most vulnerable group in terms of the effects of Covid-19, and currently a number of elderly homes are dealing with an outbreak of the virus. This is the worst possible situation. Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci, at the beginning of the pandemic, used to stress just how important it was for the elderly not to contract the virus.

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At the beginning of the pandemic, a number of care homes had their employees live in with the elderly and then change out after around a month. This was a major sacrifice made by the employees at such homes and one that was very much appreciated by both the elderly and their families, as it meant that the homes were relatively safe. Perhaps it might be worth exploring the possibility of asking such employees if they are willing to do this once more, while of course making it worthwhile for the employees themselves.

Most of the elderly infected most likely caught the virus from the workers who are employed at the homes given the minimal contact with family members. There is no doubt that these workers are doing their utmost to make the elderly comfortable, but whatever the homes decide to do, they need to take better precautions to protect the vulnerable.

Some members of the general public are also not taking the virus seriously, mainly because they fall in the age groups with a minimal chance of fatal effects. Others argue that the elderly people would have had underlying medical conditions. In truth, how many elderly people do not have underlying medical conditions?

The fact remains that if we do not care about containing the spread of the virus, then more of our parents and grandparents will die earlier than they would have without the virus.

Adhering to the Covid-19 recommendations is of the utmost importance, and those being selfish should think twice, and imagine if it will be their loved ones who contract the virus next.

At the same time, many elderly people, as well as those with medical conditions that classify them as vulnerable, are isolating as much as possible to protect themselves.

This would mean limited contact with loved ones who do not reside in their household. Just imagine how scared the elderly with Covid-19 stuck in elderly homes are. Would anyone want to be in that position?

The number of increasing virus cases also shows just how little control the health authorities have over the situation any more. It is proving hard to really grab hold of the situation like was done with the first wave, before the government thought it a good idea to allow mass events and open the airport to countries that, at the time, had high virus case numbers.

The elderly in the country are paying the highest price for government’s bad judgement when it came to which restrictive measures it decided to lift towards the end of the first wave, and for those people who decided to throw caution out the window and continue life as though the virus wasn’t here.

The debate regarding opening schools is also in full swing, with the government somewhat adamant that schools will physically reopen. But one must ask, is this a move putting the economy ahead of public health, again? Kids remaining home would cause problems for working parents.

Getting children to follow the guidelines imposed, including wearing masks at school, will prove to be a major challenge for teachers for example, as will ensuring social distancing in small classrooms.

The Malta Union of Teachers themselves raised concerns about opening schools on the deadline given, highlighting that implementation issues should first be sorted out and suggesting that the physical reopening should be postponed. Perhaps Education Minister Owen Bonnici should heed the concerns made by the union and other organisations on this point.

Meanwhile, the University of Malta’s student council said that lectures will be streamed online and where possible a physical option on campus will be provided.

Contact tracing remains pivotal in the fight against the virus, and the government seems to be taking this seriously. Health Minister Chris Fearne on Friday even launched a Covid-19 contact tracing app. The app - COVID Alert Malta - will let users know if they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the Coronavirus.

 

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