The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

Covid-19: Malta suffering consequences of PM’s ‘know-it-all’ attitude – Bernard Grech

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 18 October 2020, 11:59 Last update: about 5 days ago

Malta is suffering the consequences of the Prime Minister’s know-it-all attitude, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said on Sunday.

Interviewed on Net TV by TVM presenter Quinton Scerri, Grech said he also believes that Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci has been wanting to introduce certain measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 but is being “ignored” by the PM.

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Grech’s reply was spurred by a question on why he had ‘instigated’ the PM to hold an early election. “I told Robert Abela that the timing of the election should reflect the best interest of the country, not of the Labour Party.”

He said the PM keeps performing u-turns and acting in a populist way. “This is a time when decisions in the best interest of the country are required. We are heading into a crisis and the PM keeps saying that everything is under control.”

“MUMN has said that up to 50 operations a day are being cancelled. This means that loved ones who need urgent surgery are being told they will have to wait even longer. This is happening because, instead of ensuring that the country remained vigilant, the PM told us that the pandemic was behind us.”

The PM now said that rapid testing will be introduced. But this has been available for some three months now, Grech said. “Had this type of test been introduced at the airport when cases were low, we would have been reassured by the fact that no infected persons were entering the country.”

Tourism is important, but tourists are afraid to come now, because they no longer see Malta as a safe place. Many countries have problems with Covid-19, but not all of them are on red travel lists, like Malta is, he added.

“Instead of leaving decisions up to doctors, the people who know their stuff, PM is acting as if he knows everything and we are suffering the consequences.”

The government, he said, has now introduced “fake” measures and has placed emphasis on enforcement, “as if this is the fault of the people.”

“This is the Prime Minister’s fault,” Grech charged.

Admitting that cases are on the rise globally, Grech said that 204 cases in Malta would translate to tens of thousands of cases in other European countries – numbers that are far higher than what they are actually experiencing.

The PM, he said, should leave things to Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci, rather than take decisions on his own.

“I have no doubt that Charmaine Gauci has been wanting to introduce certain measures but is being ignored by the Prime Minister.”

The PM, he said, was more interested in holidaying abroad than being here to work.

He referred to the system being proposed in the UK, the so-called ‘circuit breaker,’ where certain sectors could be shut down temporarily to reduce Covid numbers.

“This is something that could have been planned during the summer months, but the opportunity was lost beause the PM was sailing on his boat and taking unmasked selfies with the Tourism Minister. Decisions were not taken for weeks and months, and they need to be taken now.”

Asked how he would seek to reach a balance between health and keeping the social partners happy, Grech said: “You save the economy by taking prompt action where it is needed, not by acting too late and worrying more about votes you might lose. This is what the PM is doing.”

Regarding schools, he said the government wasted time “doing nothing” in summer, instead of planning ahead. While the country should not necessarily go to the drastic option of shutting schools down, the government must admit that the situation is not ‘business as usual,’ he said.

Turning to matters that are closer to home, Grech said he has a “good” relationship with Adrian Delia. “We met, discussed and understood where we want to go not only with our relationship but also our parliamentary work. We will continue building this relationship so as to strengthen the Nationalist Party. Unity within the party is increasing.”

It was untrue that Delia had refused a shadow portfolio, Grech said, adding that no offer had been made. Delia has expressed his wish to act in line with normal procedure and, as a formed leader, not be assigned a portfolio. Grech confirmed this, but admitted that he still wishes to see Delia have a role in the shadow cabinet, adding that no one’s talents should be wasted. The issue is still being discussed, he said.

The PN Leader also assured that there will be no public spats between PN MPs, saying that any arguments will be held internally. “We are not like Labour, where people have to shut up or face losing the tens of thousands of euro they are receiving from government jobs and consultancies. People have stopped fighting openly not because I pulled their strings because they understood that this is the way forward.”

Grech was also asked about reports quoting him saying he wishes to have a female Deputy Leader. Does this mean that David Agius and Robert Arrigo are on their way out?

The PN Leader clarified that this is something he would like to see happen after the next general election. “This is a tangible way of getting more women in politics. It might not be the perfect way of doing it, but it is something I am willing to discuss.”

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