The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

Charmaine Gauci passes the buck onto Speaker on wearing of masks by MPs

Tuesday, 23 November 2021, 11:15 Last update: about 11 days ago

Public health chief Charmaine Gauci has passed the buck onto Speaker Anglu Farrugia when it comes to the wearing of masks by MPs in Parliament, although she did say that everyone “must pay attention to” Covid-19 rules.

Earlier this month, The Malta Independent had reported that PN MP Robert Cutajar had written to Gauci asking her whether MPs are required to wear masks during Parliamentary sittings. This was done after it was noted that the majority of government MPs failed to wear a facemask during the Budget speech and subsequent sittings.

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Up until then, Gauci had not replied. Asked for an update, Cutajar said he has now received a reply from Gauci, who said that “questions regarding protocols related to Parliament should be directed to the Speaker of the House, however, one should pay attention to subsidiary legislation under Cap 465 and the related standards.”

Chapter 465 is the Public Health Act.

Current rules exempt the wearing of masks “during official public speaking provided that a physical distance of at least two meters between individuals is maintained.”

It is widely understood that this applies to the person who is speaking at the time, and not to the entire group.

Cutajar had said the Opposition MPs had worn their masks during all Parliamentary sittings. He had also pointed out that Gauci had been present for the debate on the health ministry estimates, during which she wore her mask. Most government MPs, however, were not wearing theirs.

The Speaker’s office had told this newsroom that every visitor to Parliament must wear a face mask, and that it is recommended that all MPs wear a face mask as well, unless they are addressing the House.

Gauci had previously failed to criticise MPs who failed to wear their mask when interviewed by Times of Malta. The public health chief has often been criticised for remaining silent on Covid-19 issues related to political decisions and politicians.

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