The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

Wave after wave

Noel Grima Sunday, 4 April 2021, 06:35 Last update: about 10 days ago

The numbers, we say, speak for themselves. But they do not solve the Covid pandemic.

Ever since the authorities imposed a virtual lockdown, we have seen the number of infections decrease exponentially. Where just a few weeks ago we used to have daily figures in excess of 500, we now get impossibly low figures, averaging 50 a day.

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Hurrah, we exclaim, we have solved the matter. People start preparing themselves for the rapid reopening and the return of life as we know it.

We are also buoyed up by the increasing number of people getting vaccinated. Soon we will get widespread herd immunity.

Our thoughts and wishes are very understandable, given the past terrible months, the deaths, the damage to the economy and to the quality of life. Recovery cannot come sooner.

We look around us and we find that the peoples around us are passing through more or less the same crises. France has just imposed a three-week lockdown. So did Germany, where the virus was on the verge of collapsing the health system. The UK, on the contrary, is now reopening after a three-month lockdown. And so it goes on.

They too have the vaccine and, bar the inevitable conflicts, are busily vaccinating as many of the population as they can. But they do not declare that the virus has been overcome. For they know there are many mountains to climb and the going will still be hard.

Apart from the official statements of hope and optimism, the reality is very different. Scenes from ordinary life in all of these countries, as one can see on any social media, show masses of people ignoring the most elementary rules such as the wearing of facemasks, keeping a safe distance from the others, etc.

In Paris, people crowded in the banks of the Seine, and in the UK the amount of rubbish left by people has to be seen to be believed.

Although flights still connect the main airports, a rather confusing regime of requirements and quarantine faces those who dare fly. The British have been told to forget foreign travel this year and to enjoy the British countryside.

No doubt, both here and abroad, things will hopefully get clearer as time goes by and as countries feel able to collaborate with each other.

But the truth is that while we may have found the way to bring the number of infections down, we know too that once we again relax, the numbers will shoot up again. So far, no country has brought itself to such a state of immunity that it could relax the controls.

People mention New Zealand and Israel but these two countries have unique and specific conditions and even they have suffered spikes.

What many people fail to see is that life post-Covid will be completely different from life as it was and that it will be impossible to go back to 2019.

For starters, it will be life with far more controls – over who you meet not just outside your house but also inside it.

There are two points I want to make here.

What will be most affected happen to be among our strong points: crowds and masses and the high incidence of mass tourism on our economy.

Now people who work in these two sectors will no doubt try their hardest to bend the government to open up as soon as possible, and any government will be very sensitive to these pressures.

But we all know where this leads to. We know how when irresponsibly the airport was opened with the minimum of controls and how the mass entertainment promoters jumped in to make hay while the sun shone. And how the second wave came upon us before we were ready.

Unless we learn how to handle Covid better we are going to find it difficult to halt the third wave and all the other waves that will follow. 

Farewell Godfrey

The well-known journalist, entrepreneur and public personality Godfrey Grima who died this week may have been the most known victim of Covid we have had so far, or rather the one we know about.

Godfrey began his journalistic career at Il-Haddiem, issued by the Young Christian movement, which later, after his time, became the Church’s paper Il-Hajja, where I began mine.

He moved abroad and made a name for himself mainly at the Financial Times, where they still remember him. I happened to meet Tony Barber, their redoubtable Europe commentator who asked me about him, while also asking me if we were related.

Among other scoops, I remember he predicted the Labour victory in the October 1996 election. He was one of the very few who did so.

We were, and remained friends despite clearly having different opinions. I remember the few times when he invited me to his Saturday morning meetings with Oliver Friggieri and Richard Vella Laurenti in the cottage at Ta’ Kandja, next door to the Gaffarenas.

He sued Daphne Caruana Galizia and me over an article where she had taken the Nationalist Party to task for asking him to draw up a report on the party’s defeat in an election. Daphne refused to make the apology he demanded.

The last time we met was at an Air Malta presentation at the Portomaso tower presided over by Konrad Mizzi. Towards the end, we gathered round, like old-timers in a village square, reminiscing about the past.

As always, he was well-informed, boisterous and irreverent. Farewell Godfrey.

 

 

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