Everyone must play a part, Fearne insists

People’s actions in the face of the coronavirus epidemic can mean the difference between a manageable “river” of coronavirus cases and a “tsunami” that would overwhelm Malta’s health system, Health Minister Chris Fearne said this afternoon.

His message was echoed by the opposition’s health spokesman Stephen Spiteri in a parliamentary sitting devoted to the outbreak.

‘Greatest crisis in living memory’

As he opened debate, Fearne described the epidemic as the greatest crisis the world has faced in living memory, adding that it was everyone’s responsibility to rise to the occasion.

Though the situation may be more serious elsewhere, Fearne warned that it would be foolish to believe that Malta would be immune to such developments.

“So we must all be responsible, we must stand united, we must be ready to work together so that we can be prepared to face the situations we are witnessing in other countries,” he said.

The minister highlighted that Malta’s small size presented a disadvantage, that while countries like China and Italy mobilised national resources to tackle outbreaks in problem areas, Malta had no such luxury: the whole country immediately becomes a problem area.

A river or a tsunami

Fearne said that a wave of cases was coming, and stressed that letting the epidemic run its course was not a feasible option.

“We can either let a tsunami of cases come, or minimise transmission as much as possible so that we get a river instead. A tsunami will sweep us off, but a river can be kept in check,” he said.

The minister emphasised the importance of social distancing, emphasising that the measures announced by the government sought to limit crowds as much as possible.

“It may take weeks or even months, but we will pass through this,” the minister said. “But it is important to limit harm, and to keep the trickle of cases under control.”

Buying time to prevent avoidable deaths

Spiteri made a similar argument in his speech, stating that he was particularly concerned about the outbreak’s impact on Malta’s health system.

“We have a challenge ahead, but if we work together, we can buy ourselves time,” the MP said.

“We must not end up like Italy or Spain, facing avoidable deaths because not everyone can be given treatment in time.”

If you want to be the first to receive the latest news on the coronavirus in Malta, download the Newsbook APP here.