Fearne cites stable numbers to insist pandemic under control

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Health Minister Chris Fearne cited apparently stable numbers of new Covid-19 cases as evidence that the situation in Malta was under control.

During question time in Tuesday’s sitting, he observed, in response to a question by Nationalist Party MP Claudette Buttigieg, that while the number of new cases regularly surpassed 100, this trend has remained constant, in contrast with other countries where the numbers kept rising. With daily cases averaging 120-130, Fearne said that the health authorities’ measures were proving effective in limiting the spread of the pandemic.

The minister also argued that it was not realistic to expect a decline before widespread vaccination takes place.

Buttigieg also asked the minister to comment on the controversial Christmas in the City programme, specifically citing an article by consultant surgeon Kevin Cassar stating that Fearne, as “the only adult in cabinet is clearly being excluded and kept in the dark.”

But the minister insisted that the article should be tabled in Parliament before he could respond.

Minister evasive on hospital staffing issues

Buttigieg also asked Fearne a series of parliamentary question on whether there were staff shortages in Malta’s healthcare system, but Fearne proved evasive.

He refused to confirm or deny whether there were enough nurses and anaesthetists to man Malta’s 115 ITU beds, instead simply stating that “continuous training is being provided to nurses and doctors in various specialties to be able to assist all the patients requiring ITU care.”

In response to another question by the PN MP, Fearne did not directly answer how many nursing positions were vacant at Mater Dei Hospital, instead stating that 44 new nurses were recruited over the past 7 weeks, and that 11 others will be employed in the coming days.

The minister did provide a straight answer to another related question by Buttigieg, however, confirming that at present, 151 healthcare professionals were in quarantine.