The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

Declaring public health emergency will only instil fear – Abela

Shona Berger Sunday, 11 October 2020, 13:02 Last update: about 14 days ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela rejected calls to declare a public health emergency, as he argued that this will only cause more panic and fear.

The Labour party organised a political gathering on Sunday following all health protocols and regulations, which involved the Prime Minister answering questions put to him by those present.

In an answer to a question regarding the tourism sector and COVID-19, Abela said that tourism has been, is and will always remain a backbone of the economy.

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He remarked that in recent months the realities have led to a decrease in the number of passengers coming to Malta.

He said that closing the airport again due to Covid-19 is not the way forward, but to ensure that travelling is made safe is, he said.

This is done by developing a reliable system and monitoring very carefully the people who are coming to the country, in order to ensure that "we do not have people with the virus arriving," Abela said.

In addition, PM Abela also mentioned the use of rapid testing for all passengers, however, he did not give any specific details.

Speaking about the COVID-19 vaccine, Abela said that this may come in weeks or months, "but regardless, life cannot stop, and we have to learn to live with it."

"I understand that this is a new reality not only for Malta but for the whole world, but we must find other ways to continue living our lives in a safe manner," he said.

Abela remarked that enforcement is very important because all regulations must be obeyed, and people must be socially responsible, but "we will not lock people inside their homes and scare sectors in our country."

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Abela expressed his belief that "we will see a bright future for our country, even in the tourism sector."

Although the coming winter months will not be good for the tourism sector, "they will pass". The important thing is that tourism operators remain open and on their feet. The government will make sure to help them as much as possible," Abela said.

He added that the COVID-19 wage supplement will be given "as long as deemed necessary."

"I am convinced that in a few months' time, the economy will have a strong rebound, bouncing back even stronger than before the outbreak. Our economy is resilient," Abela said.

Asked about keeping in contact with the public, Abela said that this is crucial for the Labour party.

"To hear what people have to say and act on what they are saying is very important as we want to remain close to the people and understand their needs."

PM Abela guaranteed that the government will remain determined and focused in protecting its social soul and will remain close to those who are young and those who are poor. He also guaranteed that the party would continue to champion social justice.

The Budget for 2021, which will be presented on 19 October is based on many important themes, however one of the main themes relates to protecting the young and the poor, Abela said.

Speaking about the re-opening of schools and its impact, Abela reiterated that children returning to school after a number of months is a crucial moment.

One of the questions addressed to PM Abela was presented by an assistant head of a State School in Paola. She highlighted that since parents are not obliged to send their students to school, some may abuse of this situation. 

She said that this is a challenge they are currently facing as attendance is not compulsory.

Abela said that "education is what will mark the social and academic development of a generation of children."

He agreed that there may be those who abuse the situation and do not send their children physically to school due to negligence, but there are also those who are still afraid and do not feel comfortable.

He spoke about his own daughter, who recently went back to school as well.

"We strongly believe in the advice and protocols imposed but the health authorities to safeguard our children and we also believe that keeping our child physically away from school, from her friends and teachers, would be detrimental to her educational development and would only leave a negative impact on her life," he said. 

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