Pathologists concerned about rapid lifting of Covid-19 restrictions

Miguela Xuereb

The Malta College of Pathologists expressed its concern about the authorities’ plans to lift “most, if not all” social restrictions aiming to keep the Covid-19 pandemic in check, arguing in favour of a more prudent exit strategy.

In a statement to the press, the college emphasised that Malta’s prompt introduction of the restrictions were key to Malta avoiding the tragic scenarios witnessed in places like Bergamo and New York.

It believes that the exit strategy should “involve phased scale-downs, spaced sufficiently apart so that if cases start to increase, there will be the possibility to identify which measure was linked to the increase and reverse it.”

Consequently, it said that it found it difficult to understand how the authorities decided to remove all flight restrictions on 15 July when the first tentative flights would have only started a fortnight earlier.

“One cannot but look at New Zealand, probably the most successful country in this pandemic, which lifted its domestic lock-down but maintained almost universal restrictions to air travel in the understanding that – as an island – this was the main route for reintroduction of the virus into that country,” the college said.

Though it recognised the need to run a fine line between health and economic concerns, it said that this balancing act could only achieved through wide consultation with experts in both fields and through qualified risk assessments. However, it noted that it was not aware of the input of health specialists in these deliberations.

Consequently, it asked the government to publish the risk assessments guiding its decisions to provide the needed reassurances to medical professionals and other front liners “who would need to again repeat the efforts of the past months should a second wave materialise.”

The college flagged Malta’s population density, and said that it appeared that immunity to Covid-19 could still be as low as 1% or less – which would mean that practically everyone remained susceptible to the virus.

It thus warned that any laissez-faire attitude from politicians or the public could have disastrous consequences.

“It would be a pity if all the achievements of the past three months were to be lost in the haste to return back to a ‘normal’ which – at this stage – does not appear possible until a vaccine is finally available,” the college concluded.