Watch: “No one foresaw and no one was prepared for coronavirus pandemic” – Minister Abela

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

“No one could have foreseen the outbreak of the global pandemic and we were clearly not prepared for it,” Minister Carmelo Abela said during a Q&A hosted by Editor-in-Chief Sylvana Debono who was also joined by the Director General of the Department of Department of Employment and Industrial Relations Diane Vella Muscat.

Asked whether one could have foreseen the outbreak of the global pandemic, Abela said that the current situation was only a reality in films or dystopian novels. He referred to a TEDtalk by Bill Gates who had said that the world was not prepared in the eventuality of a pandemic.

Abela remarked that not only no one expected the outbreak of global pandemic but states were not even prepared to face the challenges it brought with it both at a collective level and at the individual level of the nation-state.

The Minister said that over the past years Malta had built a strong economy and in the current scenario the government was in a good position to borrow money in order to help businesses weather through the outbreak.

The two guests throughout the Q&A answered questions sent in by our readers and audience. One such question related to whether employers can put employees on forced leave. Vella Muscat said that forced leave was provided for in the Employment and Industrial Relations Act. An employer may force leave on an employee in special circumstances however the decision has to be communicated beforehand with the employee.

Abela reminded the public that specific helplines have been set up to see to queries. These are 1575 for employees and 1576 for employers.

The Minister highlighted that despite the unprecedented situation the world is in, this did not mean that employees’ rights could be reduced. He underlined that whatever has been achieved throughout the years in terms of rights should not be lost now. “We don’t want a situation where we have to start from scratch,” the Minister said.