Watch: Protocols in place in case Covid-19 cases reported in schools – Abela

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Plans have been devised in the eventuality that coronavirus cases are reported in schools, Partit Laburista leader Robert Abela said during an interview with former PBS CEO John Bundy and which was aired on the party’s media station on Sunday.

Without delving into the details of the protocols and plans in store, Abela insisted that the reopening of schools was a crucial and important step. He reiterated that Malta does not afford to have a generation lost, adding that nothing could replace the physical attendance.

“Protocols have been prepared by the health authorities in collaboration with different stakeholders,” Abela told Bundy on Sunday, saying that he could not guarantee that schools would be Covid-19 free.

The government’s plans have not been without controversy, with both the Malta Union of Teachers and the Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers arguing that the physical reopening of schools should be delayed.

A delay has been announced – state and church schools will first welcome students on 7 October.

He noted that those parents who opt to keep their children at home and follow online classes would not be fined.

Abela insisted that the pandemic is not a short-term situation and would not be resolved once a vaccine is made available. Speaking about the surge in cases and the Covid-19 deaths reported lately, Abela said that while the authorities were successful in the first phase by imposing restrictive measures, such measures would cause suffering if imposed again.

The prime minister claimed that he got to know about the situation in a certain home for the elderly from relatives of a resident who informed him that their loved ones were not receiving sufficient care. During the interview, Abela said that he convened an urgent meeting on the situation in care homes.

Coronavirus outbreaks in care homes have been registered over the previous weeks, with St Joseph’s Home in Fgura being the worst hit.

We need to be convinced that Malta is full up”

Replying to loaded questions on migration, Abela said that local political leaders need to be convinced that Malta is “full up” and cannot take any more migrants and asylum seekers.

He referred to international conventions which Malta is party to and wherein obligations arise as “responsibilities imposed on us by others”.

Abela claimed that the solution lies in Libya and this issue cannot be dealt with by Malta alone.

“Let’s solve the problem by killing… by halting arrivals. If then a boat manages to leave from Libya, we ensure that it does not enter the Maltese search and rescue region. If it is adrift in our SAR, we still try to find a solution,” Abela said.

Malta is responsible for the coordination of search and rescue activities in a zone under its responsibility. Its international obligations arise out of various international agreements governing search and rescue obligations, most notably the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS Convention), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention) and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention).

According to these conventions, Malta is responsible to coordinate operations whereby, once rescued, these people are to be taken to the nearest port of call by the rescuing vessel.

Abela said that he could not promise there will no be further migrants arriving from Libya, however, he noted that the numbers had significantly decreased when compared to the same period last year.

COVID-19 wage supplement to be extended

Speaking briefly about the upcoming budget, Abela said that the COVID-19 wage supplement will be extended beyond the end of October and will be also made available to some other sectors affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.

Abela once again did not commit himself to the voucher system aimed at boosting consumer spending, however, he acknowledged that it had been well received.

Abela speaking at a virtual conference by the Malta Chamber
Watch: Government not committed to launch a fresh voucher scheme – Abela

Video: Partit Laburista