Poll: Should a public health emergency be called?

coronavirus swab test centre hal farrug
Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

We’d love to know what you think, though we do invite you to read on before casting your vote.

The story so far

Back on 7 March, only 3 cases of Covid-19 had been reported, but these were deemed to be sufficient grounds for a state of emergency.

The number of active cases now stands at 396, and today, Malta had the dubious honour of setting a new record when it comes to the number of daily cases reported in the community, at 54.

The R number, which measures how fast an infection can spread by calculating how many people, on average, will contract the virus from a single infected individual, has been growing alarmingly.

It was just 0.3 around 3 weeks ago, suggesting that the pandemic was on the way out, but by Saturday it had reached 1.5: rates higher than 1, if maintained, translate into an exponential increase of cases.

The R number is likely higher after today’s bulletin.

So if the science suggested that a state of emergency was warranted last March, what would it indicate today?

Divergent positions

Speaking to Newsbook Hour on Saturday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that the government could implement the necessary measures to keep the pandemic in check with or without an emergency. While the state of emergency would allow Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci to implement measures through a simple declaration, they can nevertheless be implemented via legal notice.

But this distinction troubles Medical Association of Malta president Martin Balzan, who was a guest on the same edition of the radio programme. He noted that while the state of emergency left the matter up to health professionals, the lack of one left things up to politicians. Balzan also observed that Gauci had opposed the holding of mass events which are believed to have been key to the rapid growth in Covid-19 cases.

During the same programme, the Chamber of Commerce’s president David Xuereb recalled that the issue was discussed during last Thursday’s meeting of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development, which led to the latest measures announced by the government. He said that it was generally agreed that there was no need to declare a state of emergency because enough was now known about the virus to intervene without one.

So, who do you agree with?

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