PM more concerned about tourism than health – MAM

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Medical Association of Malta noted that while Prime Minister Robert Abela might be having a change of heart and is considering re-introducing restrictive measures to decrease the number of active coronavirus cases, he seems more concerned about the tourism lobby rather than public health.

The association commented following Abela’s interview on Partit Laburista’s media on Sunday, prior to the announcement that the government would be revealing new restrictive measures a day later.

Malta is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases with the highest single day record registered on Saturday, when 72 cases were detected overnight. Various countries have moved to impose restrictions on travellers arriving from Malta.

MAM paused its industrial directives for a week as from yesterday, saying that it expected decisive action by the government. It warned that if Malta wants to avoid a lockdown, social distancing and widespread wearing of masks with very strict enforcement was necessary.

MAM has demanded effective public health measures to reduce the coronavirus number in as short a time frame as possible saying that there is no place for partying, for discos, or clubbing in the thick of an epidemic, when sick people are turning up at Mater Dei Hospital. According to MAM, events of more than ten people are the root cause of the current situation.

Don’t blame us for the second wave – MHRA

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said that its President Tony Zahra was not to blame for the second wave. Following various statements, the association’s council, which is composed of 15 members, said that it was wrong and deceitful to try and use the association or its president as scapegoat to the unfolding situation.

The council said that Zahra enjoys the unequivocal support of the MHRA’s council, adding that he had no direct investment in any hotels or restaurants.

The association said that the tourism industry employs over 10,000 people directly and a further 10,000 indirectly. It is responsible for generating €2.1 billion a year into the economy with a very large multiplier effect on the economy.

“When the MHRA fights for tourism it is fighting to ensure that jobs within the industry are retained and to ensure that the economy continues to prosper to everyone’s benefit including all other businesses servicing tourism,” the statement reads.

The association clarified its position in a number of points:

  • The MHRA has always lobbied for the Tourism industry to be strengthened locally and will continue to do this for the benefit of the economy of the Island in the most holistic way possible.
  • The MHRA supported the Government in its decision to lock down the island and close the airport to all incoming travel when there was a great deal of uncertainty about the real danger of COVID-19 to people’s lives.
  • Once there was more clarity about the virus and it was deemed by the experts, amongst which were the World Health Organisation and the European Union, that it was safe to reopen the airport the MHRA lobbied for this to happen as fast as possible as this was the only way its members could commence operations and safeguards as many jobs as possible.
  • The MHRA has at all times advocated for the proper protocols to be used across the whole industry from arrivals at the airport to procedures in their members establishments.
  • At no point did the MHRA advocate for mass events to take place. The association categorically denies that it applied any sort of pressure at all to allow for mass events to take place.
  • The MHRA further notes that the various clusters on positive cases have in their majority resulted from local events and not from tourist related cases thereby clearly showing that the recent spike has not been caused by the opening of the airport or by the small number of tourists visiting the Island.
  • The MHRA is not the government. The MHRA is a lobby group that over the years has made numerous suggestions to the government of the time which contributed to the growth of the Tourism industry from which the whole Island has gained. The Association does not take governmental decisions, does not control legislation, and does not implement government policy. Executive decisions taken, over the many years since the inception of MHRA rest solely with the government of the day.

Malta has just had a record week” – MAPHM

The Malta Association of Public Health Medicine noted that Malta had a record week in a statement released on its website, observing how the country went from one of the countries who responded the best to the coronavirus pandemic, to one of the worst-hit countries in terms of having to deal with new cases.

The association said that Malta registered the highest rate of new cases per capita in the entire European Union meaning that people in Malta are currently at the highest risk of getting infected within the EU.

The MAPHM said that within the next few weeks more hospitalizations will be registered as a result of the numbers being registered.

“This is all thanks to the failed experiment of stimulating the economy with tourists and parties which went against all public health advice, despite what the Prime Minister said this morning,” the association remarked in reference to Prime Minister Robert Abela’s interview on PL’s media.

The association said that the three-week period between each transition phase was not followed, adding that the country did not revert back to previous transition stages when the case numbers picked up again.

Taking aim at what Abela claimed on Sunday, the MAPHM challenged the prime minister to publish a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act related to the transition strategy and risk assessment. A request which to date has been refused.

The association remarked that any measures which the government will announce will arrive late.

It also called for a state of public health emergency to be declared saying that gatherings of over than ten people should be stopped with immediate effect. It also closed for the closure of bars, clubs and stopping of all parties. The MAPHM also called for the strict enforcement of social distancing and for the use of face masks. A call for the reintroduction of self-isolation and testing for all incoming travellers was also made.

Addressing Abela, the Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne, and the Superintendent of Public Health Professor Charmaine Gauci, the association said that the responsibility is theirs.

“This virus is not something that can be bullied into submission. Neither is it something that can be negotiated away. We need to be respectful of how it works and what it does to people. We are not in favour of locking everything down. What we need is a measured and balanced approach which would allow the situation to stabilise so that people can once again go out, go to work, and eventually send their children to school safely.”

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