The Malta College of Pathologists expressed incredulity at Malta’s decision to allow mass gatherings to take place, highlighting that they were the ideal breeding grounds for the spread of Covid-19.
Consequently, the college is asking to reverse the approval of mass gatherings where alcohol is likely to be consumed, and to enforce strict conditions of social distancing and face coverings in other mass gatherings where people will be seated close to each other.
In a statement, the college expressed its alarm at the recent cluster of Covid-19 cases linked to a pool party in a St Julians hotel, emphasising that the pandemic was still very much a reality, as much as one would want to wish otherwise.
“Anyone who believes that the challenge from this virus is over shows a disregard to history and obliviousness to the fundamental principles of infectious disease transmission,” the college exclaimed.
“Just because we have thankfully experienced numerous days with no positive cases, does not in any way infer that the virus is defeated. Like all similar respiratory viruses, it is simply lying low… waiting for the right conditions to rear its frightening head; as last week’s event clearly proves.
Authorities urged to carry out proper risk assessments
Consequently, the college advised that policymakers should apply caution and to take decisions on the basis of proper, evidence-based risk assessments.
“It is incomprehensible that mass gatherings like these weekend parties, as well as festa afternoon marches, are allowed to take place,” it said. “If one were to design the ideal scenario to maximize COVID-19 spread, it would be these types of events. Large crowds of people, literally touching each other with no face coverings, in various degrees of inebriation and dispersing droplets liberally through shouting and singing.”
It highlighted that public health authorities rightfully insisted on social distancing and the use of face masks in supermarkets, buses and churches. However, it lamented that mass gatherings – that offer a risk “that is ten or even a hundred times higher” – continued to take place without any real precautions.
The college acknowledged that a balance needed to be reached between health and economic concerns, but stressed that this should not lead to a free for all.
“Each and every permitted economic activity should be assessed to establish the risk of COVID-19 spread and its economic benefit to the country. It is difficult to accept how these type of mass gathering events can, in any way, be categorized as beneficial after such a risk assessment,” it maintained.
Second lockdown inevitable if numbers rise again
The college also defended the restrictions implemented at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that Malta’s relative success was not by chance.
It insisted that they were not in any way excessive, stating that they were instrumental in avoiding “full-blown, harmful and prolonged shutdowns like those seen in England, Spain and Italy.”
“However, all that work will be undone if we now let go of the reins and risk a second wave, like that being seen in many states within the USA. No matter how much we can say that a second lockdown is not on the cards, our politicians will have no choice but to implement one if cases recur in numbers and deaths start to take place… as the Australian state of Victoria has illustrated. This will bring infinitely more economic pain than disallowing a few mass gatherings over the summer,” the college said.