The Malta Independent 19 April 2021, Monday

TMID Editorial: As the lockdown comes to an end

Saturday, 3 April 2021, 09:45 Last update: about 16 days ago

On the 13th March, we clamoured editorially for a circuit-breaker lockdown of three to five weeks – and the government duly obliged. Ever since, the results have been there for all to see. In just three weeks, the infection rate fell by 90% from a high of 500+, to under 50 per day. So, what next?

Whilst there are undoubted pressures on the Prime Minister and his government to open up various sectors, we need to emulate the UK model which converted Britain from worst in Europe, to best. This is based on following the science and letting experts, and not politicians, decide.

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It is based on four main points: aggressive vaccination, border control, gradual reopening, and social mixing.

Aggressive vaccinating is something Malta too has done well. There have been cases of unjustified prioritisations, such as in clerical, non-frontline staff getting vaccinated before those in the 70-80 years of age bracket, but by and large it has worked well, and the government deserves to be commended for this.

Ensuring control at our borders, by insisting on a negative PCR swab test, and only allowing travelers coming from countries with Covid numbers at least as good as ours, countries such as the UK and Israel, into the country is another important point. We shouldn’t let those worse than Malta into the country unless they are quarantined.

Ensuring all protocols are only reduce gradually is also important. We need to gradually open first schools, then retail and restaurants and finally bars, gyms, hairdressers. If we leave a gap of three weeks between each step, by the end of May numbers will have hopefully dropped to below 20 per day, and we can open up provided we stay vigilant.

The most important control, however, is on social mixing. This needs to make sense, however. When outdoors, it’s draconian to wear a mask and not to exceed two persons. Why is this necessary? We should focus on banning all parties and meetings indoors of families and friends. These should be initially limited to 2 households and a maximum of 6 persons, and later relaxed slightly.

Malta did well last year between March and June, but then lost control from July onwards. It has regained control in the past few weeks, and we must ensure that this time we remain in control. With increasing vaccination, prudent measures and sensible border control, we can still salvage our summer, a critical period for our economy, without jeopardising our health and healthcare system.

Let’s do it, without euphoria and triumphalism, without unjust criticism, for what is a tough decision. Let’s listen to the experts, and gradually rebuild the economy.

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