The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

TMIS Editorial: 12 months of pandemic

Sunday, 7 March 2021, 10:15 Last update: about 2 months ago

This time last year, Malta had its first case of Covid-19. We had been expecting it, for other countries across the world were already well into their pandemic experience, but nothing could have prepared us for what was to follow. We certainly did not expect back then that the pandemic would last a year and over.

Over the past 12 months we have seen life as we knew it turn upside down. We have become socially distant. Schoolchildren and teachers alike had to adapt to a new learning system. Many shifted to working from home or have alternated between the office and home according to the fluctuations of the pandemic.

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The wearing of masks has become second nature, at least for most of us. Eating out has become something to be avoided. Going out for a drink or to a nightclub is a thing of the past. Travelling is something we used to do back in the day. Tourists are a distant memory.

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only reshaped our lifestyle; for many it has meant hardship, loneliness, loss of work or, worse, the loss of loved ones. Almost 330 people have died so far, and the pandemic is far from over.

Over the past year we have seen a government divert funds, that would usually have been used on capital projects, to other more pressing issues. Hundreds of millions have been spent to support struggling businesses across various sectors. We have seen various measures introduced and re-introduced over the months as the country experienced spike after spike in infections. Every time that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, another wave hits and we go back to square one.

Forgive us for sounding pessimistic, but this is the reality of the situation. And it is better to be realistic than to be overly optimistic only to face disappointment.

This is the mistake that Prime Minister Robert Abela has done time and time again and this week he got what had long been coming.

Some argued that journalists were too harsh on Abela during Thursday's press conference. Journalists who dared to ask uncomfortable questions were metaphorically hung, drawn and quartered on social media for daring to ask if responsibility would be shouldered, if apologies would be forthcoming.

But people tend to forget that the questions fired at the PM that day reflected the thoughts of many members of the public. They forget that we are not here to ask the questions that politicians want to answer, but the ones that they do not.

The Prime Minister cannot be blamed for everything that happened over the past 12 months. He was rather unfortunate to take the helm of the country a few short weeks before the pandemic hit.

The country has handled the pandemic reasonably well, both from a health and from an economic perspective.

But the PM's cardinal mistake was to try and instil an unrealistic feel-good factor when he knew that he could not guarantee what he was promising. He made this mistake more than once, and he's getting punished for it.

A few weeks ago, he said that he wanted the country to have recovered substantially by March and be back to 'business as usual' by May. But he got a reality check over the past few days when the country registered its highest number of daily cases so far.

Now, we are back to a semi-lockdown, with restaurants only allowed to offer take-aways, bars still closed, and gatherings of more than six people still banned.

The PM is not to blame for the situation we find ourselves in now. People's lack of responsibility and adherence to the rules and the new Covid variant did that. But the PM should have known that this could, and probably would happen and should never have made such assurances.

We understand that, as Prime Minister, Abela wants to give hope at a time when there's not a lot of it going round, but he also has to keep his feet on the ground and not get people's hopes up when the situation remains so volatile. One hopes that he has learnt his lesson and will measure his words more carefully in the future.

Ultimately, this is not a time to point fingers. We all have a collective responsibility to get us out of this pandemic and, unfortunately, not all of us have been acting selflessly. This is a time to remain vigilant. It is a time for more sacrifice and patience. The pandemic is no one's fault, and we have to deal with it, for as long as it takes.

This is also a time to remember all those who left this world sooner than they should have, some of them as a result of wrong decisions and the carelessness of some of their peers.

Let us not keep repeating the same mistakes. Let us learn from what we did wrong - from the top politicians down to the man in the street - and make sure that the coming year will not be as punishing as the one we just went through.

 


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