The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

We are not just numbers

Claudette Buttigieg Friday, 20 November 2020, 08:49 Last update: about 14 days ago

Last Sunday, in his first public political event (within COVID-19 restrictions), the Leader of the Opposition, Bernard Grech, had strong words to say on the way Prime Minister Robert Abela is handling the pandemic crisis. 

There was anger in his voice when he defined Abela and his close team as "irresponsible and immature" in the way they are handling all things COVID.

Of course Abela could not have prevented the pandemic from entering our shores back in March 2020, but the criticism is more than justified with respect to the mixed message which Abela himself gave back in June. 

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Sadly, these mixed messages are back. This time it is to the detriment of more lives, especially the elderly and vulnerable. 

Back in June the Prime Minister didn't want his summer ruined. He insisted that the "waves are in the sea." It's a comment we all saw he would regret. The second wave turned out to be a tsunami compared with the first wave. The damage of the second wave has in fact seen the death toll rise to over a hundred persons. 

Could these deaths have been prevented? Sadly, the answer is, for many of them, yes.

When Dr Grech says that the Prime Minister "must stop fooling the public and stop saying that this pandemic is under control," he is right. 

The prime minister might think he is instilling a good feel factor, but he is simply confusing people even further. Worse still it encourages some members of the public to let their guard down.

Globally, the effects of the pandemic are much worse now than what they were back in the March to June period. The pandemic fatigue is having its toll on all of us. This would definitely be the time to leave matters in the hands of the health experts.

The constant warnings and concerns of the healthcare professionals through public statements are strongly indicative that they think we have an irresponsible government. Their message is clear. We are where we are because of the government's mixed messages.

Take the latest decision to call for people to go into Valletta over the Christmas period. The launch of the campaign was totally lambasted. It was a stark reminder of how our "mechanisms" were (not) in place.

The good news is once again coming from the scientific world. The news of possibly two vaccines is giving us hope but, once again, the Prime Minister has to be careful on how this message comes across to the public.

The vaccine is not expected to work miracles. It will be administered in phases, starting with the frontliners, the vulnerable and the elderly. The process for all the population to be vaccinated will therefore take months, possibly right through summer 2021.

Once again these will be unchartered waters for all of us and it is wise to be cautious.

Naturally we cannot ignore the economic concerns and huge difficulties which some businesses are facing but giving false hopes is definitely the most irresponsible way forward. What is the use of spreading a feel-good factor when the consequences can be so devastating?

 

Too much

 

Two weeks ago, in this space, I wrote to voice the concerns of all the Naxxar residents who are facing the possibility of massive developments which (as I explained in my article) will forever change the way people live in this sought-after locality. 

This week we got to know of yet another proposed development also in the same area, a field adjacent to the Trade Fair Grounds car park extending into Pjazza Celsi, a quaint square in Triq il-Markiz Scicluna, in the urban conservation area.

I immediately submitted a parliamentary question (which will hopefully be answered in the coming days or weeks) to Minister Aaron Farrugia, who is responsible for both the environment and development. In my question, I asked the Minister to table in Parliament all the plans for all the projects which have been submitted to date to the Planning Authority within a parameter of roads and streets all adjacent to one another and which have an approximate total area of 120,000 square metres.

 

Once again, I stress that while it is understandable that an amount of development needs to be done in the area, there is huge widespread concern that this part of Naxxar, which was once pristine countryside, cannot be overdeveloped. Not only is this unhealthy for the wellbeing of the people who already live there and the new residents; it is also clear that the road and drainage systems of the area were not built for such volumes.

Is development being considered individually or holistically, as part of the total development proposed for the area? How will each development complement the other developments? 

What considerations are being made regarding open spaces and recreational areas? Has an area been earmarked as a purely recreational space? 

Will all this development happen in stages or at the same time? What is the impact of this massive development on the residents who live all around it?

I am listening to the anger and concern of the people who are struggling with difficult times, while facing the trauma of the unknown. It is my duty to voice these concerns to the authorities. 

It is the duty of the authorities to take the necessary action and guarantee the wellbeing of all citizens. We are not just numbers.

 


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