Watch: Not declaring a public health emergency is a political decision – Dr Balzan

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Not declaring a public health emergency at this stage is a political decision, the president of the Medical Association of Malta, Dr Martin Balzan, said during Newsbook Hour aired on 103FM – Malta’s Heart and hosted by Fr Joe Borg on Saturday morning.

During the programme, deputy prime minister and health minister Chris Fearne, MAM President Martin Balzan, the Malta Chamber of Commerce president David Xuereb and statistician Vincent Marmara were asked whether Malta should declare a state of public health emergency given the recent resurgence of the coronavirus.

By declaring a public health emergency, according to the Public Health Act, the Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci gains specific powers in a pandemic.

The Public Health Act empowers the superintendent to “make, vary or revoke orders prescribing” measures to guard against or control dangerous epidemics or infectious disease, including regulations that ensure “the prevention or mitigation” of the disease.

Further, she can also declare a state of emergency which would grant her more power.

Speaking during Newsbook Hour, Dr Balzan remarked that by not declaring a public health emergency as Malta experiences a resurgence of the coronavirus, the government is opting to hold the reigns over the situation. He noted that four countries had already taken action against Malta due to the rising figures, while the American health institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have advised against traveling to Malta, classifying the country as high risk.

Reflecting on the powers conferred to Professor Gauci in a public health emergency, Dr Balzan remarked that the superintendent is against mass events. He noted that after opening to mass events, regulations have been revised and the maximum numbers have been lowered for indoor and outdoor events. He added that politicians cannot appease or promote the economy in such circumstances and mass events should have never been allowed in the first place. ‘There isn’t a country which is promoting mass events,’ he said.

‘We know more about the virus now’ – Perit David Xuereb

Malta Chamber president Perit David Xuereb remarked that there is a difference between what was known when the public health emergency was declared to the situation at present. He noted that in March, there was little to no information about the virus and the health authorities were still learning how to handle the situation.

He stressed that at present, we know more than we knew back then and this allows us to adapt to living with the presence of the virus. He underlined the importance of abiding by the different regulations and guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of the virus within the community.

Perit Xuereb also noted that the Chamber never favoured the opening for mass events, saying that in such events it was difficult for one to abide by basic social distancing rules.

Noting that the economy and health go hand in hand, Perit Xuereb said that Malta was experiencing the second wave. He remarked that a solution needs to be found to bring it under control as he warned that more waves would follow until a vaccine is found.

Declaring a public health emergency will not make a difference in the fight – Dr Fearne

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne noted that by declaring a public health emergency, this would not make a tangible difference in the fight against the coronavirus.

He explained that the Public Health Act would empower Professor Gauci who would be able to change laws or enact new ones without resorting to subsidiary legislation.

‘We need to find a balance’ – Dr Vincent Marmara

Statistician Dr Vincent Marmara said that the declaration of a state of a public health emergency needs to based on scientific evidence.

Commenting on the current figures, Dr Marmara said that while Malta was registering a steady increase – many of the newly registered cases belonged to known clusters, unlike during the first wave. He added that the authorities are basing their decisions on the experience gained so far.

Should we declare a national emergency?

On the 7th March, the Superintendent of Public Health declared a national health emergency. At that point there were three active cases of Coronavirus. Today we have three hundred active cases. Should a national health emergency be declared or not? Perhaps people should trust the Prime Minister’s words that everything is under control?

On Saturday 8th August at 09:00am on Newsbook Hour Fr Joe Borg will examine the situation.

Is everything truly under control or is it time to strike the panic button? Deputy PM Dr Chris Fearne gives his opinion.

On 103 Malta’s Heart and Newsbook.com.mt, he will interview statistician Dr Vince Marmara on the R factor. Dr Martin Balzan, President of the MAM will speak out about the seemingly isolated position which the union is taking. Perit David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce will weigh in on the economic situation which seems to be prodding the country to turn a blind eye to the coronavirus surge.

Newsbook Hour on Newsbook.com.mt and on 103 Malta’s Heart at 09:00am.

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