The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Thank you, genius

Claudette Buttigieg Thursday, 22 October 2020, 10:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

How do you go from just three active COVID-19 cases on 17 July to 699 cases a month later, on 20 August? And, two months after that, on 17 October, an all-time high of 204 new cases in one day?

And what do you do with the man who, confronted with all this, shrugs and says that it could have been a lot worse? Especially if he’s the prime minister, carrying the ultimate responsibility for the mistakes that led to all this?

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The spike in Coronavirus cases over the past weeks has turned our country’s situation upside down in relation to where we were last June. Consequently, the question on everybody’s mind is, how could we have gone from such a successful period of controlling the number of infected people to the current situation, which is out of control?

The easiest thing for us to say is that the numbers are rising everywhere, and Malta is no exception. Of course, but the numbers were rising even when we were doing so well. 

I am sure we all remember how proud we all were of our achievement as a nation. We clapped in praise of our front-liners in the health sector. We shared posts of them in hero capes. We lit candles, sang songs, and hung out our national flag proudly.

In the meantime, our neighbours in northern Italy were burying their dead by the hundreds at the end of March. The Italian news bulletins were packed with macabre stories of hospitals bursting at the seams, exhausted doctors and nurses who died while caring for the sick, and elderly dying in a lonely bed with nobody by their side to care for them or bury them.

Perhaps the shock of when the whole pandemic started in March shook us to the core and we did what we do best in such circumstances. We put aside our differences and fought tooth and nail, but above all we obeyed the Health Authorities.

The Superintendent of Health, Prof Charmaine Gauci, was given unprecedented powers by Parliament. She could take any decision for our nation’s good and soon the people were calling out for her to be honoured as a national hero. Her popularity was beyond anything we had ever seen before.

Then something happened. The Prime Minister started to interfere in the health bulletins and came out with some very unusual messages of his own. He went rogue. 

Abela started his own narrative. He started making strange statements which would have a disastrous effect. In his eagerness to create a positive feeling he went overboard with statements like; “the waves are in the sea,” “we won”. Worst of all, he defined the doctors (the heroes without capes who sacrificed everything for us) as “scaremongers”.

On one occasion, he actually begged us ordinary people not to ruin summer. And in a celebratory “Let’s Party” tone, he opened the floodgates for tourism, parties, festas, and all populist activities. 

Soon we were to learn that while our front-liners were struggling to maintain discipline over the weekends packed with activities of merrymaking and participants intoxicated with alcohol, he was enjoying himself on his boat. 

He really meant what he said, about not wanting ordinary people struggling with health risks and bills, ruining his summer.

In no time we went from three infected cases on the 17th of July to 699 infected cases just a month later on the 20th of August.

The curve went down to 356 cases on the 8th of September and, being Victory Day, there was once again talk of us overcoming the pandemic. Sadly the numbers fluctuated up and down until they reached an all-time record high of 204 cases in one day on 17th October.  

In all this time, we saw the tragic deaths of 46 Maltese men and women who succumbed to the COVID-19 virus. With each death, we were told that they had “underlying conditions.” How insulting is that? 

Can you imagine if we were to say that a person died in a car crash but had underlying conditions? 

The truth is that, no matter how old, how fragile, and how vulnerable, these victims would not have died had it not been for the COVID. Of course they would have, eventually, died of something else, but the fact remains that they died of COVID and not because of their underlying conditions.

Our insensitive Prime Minister tried to defend himself by saying that we were lucky not so many people died, because it could have been worse! Thank you, genius. 

Our reply is simple. Prime Minister, there could have, and should have, been much fewer deaths had we all made the efforts to flatten the curve.

Sadly, the man who is at the helm of our country preferred his boat to our safety and well-being. He enjoyed his first summer as Prime Minister while our elderly and vulnerable were locked up in their home petrified of what could happen to them.

In Italy, the numbers have increased, but the deaths have gone down. They learnt the lesson the hard way. Robert Abela too could have learnt the lesson from them, but he did not.

Today there is anger at Abela’s incompetence and irresponsibility. The healthcare professionals are up in arms and furious. They have been warning us repeatedly that this is where we would end up. 

Announcing the availability of 115 ITU beds is fantastic but knowing that we actually do not have the number of anaesthetists and nurses to man these beds simply proves to us that throwing money at the problem is clearly not enough.

We have one thing to be thankful for.  The boat season is over.

 

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