The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

We never ignored Charmaine Gauci’s advice when taking decisions – Fearne

Tuesday, 20 October 2020, 15:25 Last update: about 3 months ago

There was not a single occasion when the government ignored the advice given by public health superintendent Charmaine Gauci, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne said on Tuesday.

He was asked to react to comments made on Sunday by PN Leader Bernard Grech, who said he believes that Gauci has been wanting to introduce new Covid-19 measures but is being ignored by the Prime Minister.

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“The brief I gave to the technical people in public health is to defend their position in public health and think only about public health, and to leave other considerations to us. This does not mean there are no other considerations. We also listen to the advice of other technical people, like economists. And then a political decision is taken.”

“Whenever such decisions were taken, we always gave priority to public health. There has never been a situation so far, where public health said we should go in one direction and the people making decisions went in the other direction. There was never an occasion where we did not take the advice of public health.”

Replying to another question, Fearne insisted that masks need to be worn at all times in public places. “Let us not try to find loopholes to avoid wearing them.”

He clarified that people are allowed to take them off when smoking, but said that, as a doctor, his advice is against smoking in the first place. 

Fearne was addressing a press conference on the 2021 Budget together with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, who did not answer a question on whether this was his last budget.

There is speculation that Clyde Caruana, currently the OPM Chief of Staff, and who was co-opted to Parliament on Monday, will replace him in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Speaking about the budget, Scicluna said Malta is also feeling the economic impact of the pandemic. Government revenue is down 6% while expenditure has increased by 20% as a result of the pandemic, he said.

“Some ask us why we did not decrease tariffs. We did not win a lottery. The focus is on protecting jobs during this difficult time.”

He said the wage supplement will be fine-tuned, whereby those who need more help will get more, and those who don’t need it will get less. The government is also increasing several benefits and allowances.

The budget, he said, does not only address current concerns but also has a long-term vision.

“This financial programme was possible because we were prepared economically. We had low debt and strong finances,” Scicluna explained.

Chris Fearne said this was a budget for all society. “These times prove that the Maltese made the right choice in 2013 when they elected a Labour government.”

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