Malta has just had a record week. We have gone from one of the countries who responded the best to the COVID-19 pandemic, to one of the worst-hit countries in terms of having to deal with new cases. This past week, Malta registered the highest rate of new cases per capita in the entire EU. This means that people in Malta are currently at the highest risk of getting infected within the EU. Not only this, but we’re also in the top 10 in the World. Whilst our leaders are behaving like we are still the best, and that there is nothing to worry about, our frontliners and our amazingly dedicated volunteers are burnt out and stressed having to work in the sweltering heat, over the weekends, late at night, and away from their families wondering why on earth no one is listening.
As a result of the numbers we are currently experiencing, within the next few weeks, we will see more hospitalisations, critically sick people, and sadly but inevitably, further deaths. This is all thanks to the failed experiment of stimulating the economy with tourists and parties which went against all public health advice, despite what the Prime Minister said this morning. The three-week period between each transition phase was not followed, and we also did not revert back to previous transition stages when the case numbers picked up again. The Prime Minister can say all he wants that he followed Public Health advice, but cherry-picking does not count. If he wants to prove he followed Public Health advice he should allow the transition strategy and risk assessment to be published under the FOI request which was made months ago.
Whatever measures will be announced later on today, we are already 3 weeks late. Had we done more sooner, we wouldn’t have reached this stage. We are still in time for targeted measures based on where our clusters came from, but if we wait any longer, or if our measures are not far-reaching enough, things will get even worse.
We immediately need to declare a public health emergency. We immediately need to stop gatherings of 10 people or more, close bars, clubs and parties, strictly enforce social distancing and use of masks, and reintroduce self-isolation and testing for all incoming travellers. This is the advice the public health community is giving our leaders, and anything less will not be enough. The situation would get worse, and we would need even stricter measures.
Dear Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Superintendent of Public Health. The responsibility is yours. This virus is not something that can be bullied into submission. Neither is it something that can be negotiated away. We need to be respectful of how it works and what it does to people. We are not in favour of locking everything down. What we need is a measured and balanced approach which would allow the situation to stabilise so that people can once again go out, go to work, and eventually send their children to school safely.
In the name of the entire public health community, please take decisive action now, before it is too late. Your citizens are your responsibility, and you have procrastinated for too long already. Please don’t make it worse with half-baked measures, for all our sakes.
Featured Image by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash