Temporary closure of non-essential services, prohibiting the mixing of families, greater emphasis on online learning and a reduction on the number of people allowed to gather are measures being called for by the Malta College of Pathologists as it raised concerns about the deteriorating COVID situation in Malta.
The first week of March marked a grim turning point as Malta continued to grapple with the ongoing ‘second wave’. Between 1st and 3rd March alone, Malta registered 584 new cases of COVID-19, with the total number of active cases reaching 3,000 on Wednesday.
Its calls for the closure of non-essential services and a greater emphasis on distance learning is likely to cause concern among the business community, particularly for working parents.
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, the Association of Catering Establishments and the President of the Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure division at the SME Chamber, Philip Fenech, have all called for stricter enforcement of current measures, rather than the introduction of new measures.
Prime Minister Robert Abela on Wednesday ruled out the introduction of a lockdown, but said higher fines for non-observance of COVID restrictions and new measures would be issued “within hours”, however no announcement has of yet been made.
Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne has touted the COVID-19 vaccine programme as a “circuit breaker” for the rising case figures.
The Malta College of Pathologists, have, however, poured could water on this strategy, saying the vaccine “is not a mitigation measure and it is not a circuit breaker”.
“Although the situation has not been under control since the start of the second wave, it is clear that the token mitigation measures, non-enforcement of restrictions and people letting down their guard is resulting in the rapid spread of the virus,” the College of Pathologists said in its statement.
“Hospital admissions increased following the Christmas and New year period and once again after the carnival recess, suggesting that this is the result of gatherings.”
“The impact the UK variant of the virus has is still uncertain. The message coming across from government and the health authorities seems to give the impression that the ongoing vaccination programme is the be-all and end-all of the pandemic.”
“The vaccine is not a mitigation measure and it is not a circuit breaker. It will not reduce numbers in the immediate future, as we have already witnessed.”
“Malta currently has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in Europe and one of the lowest in terms of restriction measures.”
“Our hospitals are once again struggling to cope with the COVID admissions, our ITUs are nearly full and worryingly, younger patients are now being admitted with
complications from the virus.”
“We urge the authorities to take the bull by the horns and take all the necessary measures to reduce the spread of the SARS CoV2 virus before the situation becomes totally unmanageable.”
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Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri notes that education and awareness are the best tools to combat such threats