The Malta Independent 9 March 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - More information needed

Friday, 22 January 2021, 08:50 Last update: about 3 months ago

When, nearly one year ago, the Covid-19 pandemic started and, as a consequence, there was so much alarm in the country, the health authorities made it a point to be constantly present in the media to explain what was happening.

We soon started having the health superintendent, Charmaine Gauci, delivering daily press conferences to explain, in great detail, how each and every individual who contracted the virus was doing. It was at the time when we had a handful of cases and when, if we had more than 10 a day, it was considered to be a bad day.

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As time went by, and the cases diminished, Gauci’s presence was staggered over more days until it was decided to eliminate her briefings completely. The government and the health authorities perhaps thought that the crisis was over. But the numbers soon started to creep up again and, as from August, Gauci returned with her press conferences, this time on a weekly basis.

The authorities continued to update the public via the social media, with numbers of cases being posted every day along with other information. But few details were provided about the cases per se, even when the numbers shot up into three figures. Many times, if for example there were 100 cases, the information provided as to where the virus was contracted covered just half of the new patients – some from family gatherings, others from social occasions, others still at work… but no word about the rest.

This information has now been completely withdrawn from the daily updates. As of last Monday, extra information started being given about the number of vaccination doses that were administered, which is a good move. But why did the authorities then choose not to continue to give more data about the way the virus is being spread? Isn’t it no longer important to highlight the need to be more cautious when there are family gatherings, social events and at the workplace?

That kind of information helped people understand the consequences they could face if they were negligent or if they ignored instructions the health authorities themselves have repeatedly given on the need to maintain social distancing. We understand that it is no longer possible – and it would be a tedious exercise too, given the high numbers – to give individual accounts as used to take place in March, April and May of last year. But is seems that as we go along, the authorities are being more reluctant to provide information.

Something else – until last week, the government issued statements via the Department of Information about the people who died, giving details on their gender and age, when they contracted the virus, and where they passed away. But, after skipping giving this information on patients who died in the past weekend, this information started to be given in the daily update on social media – again, with a twist, because part of the information regarding when the patient tested positive is no longer being given.

The authorities should be more forthcoming with the public in the quest to control the spread of the virus and, hopefully in the not too distant future, bring it under control.

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