The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - We are back to square one

Wednesday, 14 July 2021, 09:35 Last update: about 22 days ago

After several weeks in which the number of new Covid-19 cases were negligible, we have once again moved into three figures.

We had days with zero cases, and we were happy about that. We had days with single digit cases, and we were happy about that too. Even when the daily number was slightly more than 10, it was still a low figure and we were still happy that the situation was under control.

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After the crisis we had over the autumn and winter months which culminated in March, when we had days with more than 300 new cases and one record day with 510 cases (10 March), the numbers dropped exponentially as the effects of the vaccination campaign kicked in.

But it did not take much to go back to where we were. Over the past week or so we first moved into the 50s, then into the 100s, and now we are getting close to 200.

And this does not make us happy at all.

The influx of unvaccinated foreign students – whom we encouraged to come over even by offering them money to spend – has unfortunately led to a return of the virus, a return with a vengeance. These students did not stay in a bubble; they mixed with others, and it is likely that the virus has spread into the community in large numbers again.

We are even getting some bad press in nearby Italy because of what is happening. Italian media are interviewing mothers of students who were forced into quarantine in Malta, and they do not have nice words to say about how we are treating their under-age kids. They were angry that their children are “trapped” in hotel rooms. But what did they expect? That we let them roam about with the possibility of infecting others?

So apart from now having to deal with a fresh predicament, one that could possibly lead to the re-introduction of restrictive measures which had been eased some weeks ago, Malta will probably have to face some backlash from the Italian market.

Yet, this is not the biggest problem we have right now. What should concern us the most is that we are probably heading towards a third wave of the virus, very much like other European countries have also started to face. With the delta variant being more contagious than the original virus, the chances that the numbers will multiply quickly are high.

The health authorities have always said that they wanted to avoid a tsunami of cases that put strain on the health services. There were occasions when Mater Dei Hospital was close to breaking point, so much so that new Intensive Care Units had to be opened to deal with the situation. We survived those times, and so far the number of people needing hospital treatment since the start of this latest surge has not been high.

But we have no guarantee that the situation will not change. Thankfully, most Maltese have followed the health authorities’ advice and got vaccinated, so much so that Malta is top of the vaccination list in Europe.

It was also positive that the health authorities reacted immediately to limit the spread. But so few official details are being made available, and people are getting more worried.

Maybe it is time for health chief Charmaine Gauci to re-commence her press briefings. At least once a week, hopefully more frequently.

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