Watch: Summer will offer limited window of opportunity for businesses – Fearne

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne said that at the beginning of the outbreak he was convinced that Malta was well prepared to take on the coronavirus once it hit the country. He described the transition period as the most difficult, an uncharted territory, where one had to take crucial decisions based on the information at hand.

Speaking during an interview, hosted by Fr Joe Borg on Newsbook Hour which is aired on 103 FM Malta’s Heart, Fearne spoke about the need to find a balance between the economy and public health. Summer will offer a limited window of opportunity for businesses. Speaking about resuming flights and international travel, Fearne said one needs to be caution warning that if there is a spike in coronavirus cases registered in Malta, no one would want to come to the island.

The death rate in Malta stands at 1% way below the global average which stands at 8%, Fearne noted during the interview.

Ahead of the daily coronavirus update by the Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci, Fearne announced that 1,700 swab tests were conducted in the last 24 hours. This was a record number for Malta.

Speaking about migration, Fearne highlighted that this was not a Maltese problem but more European solidarity was required.

09:59 Thank you for following us. Keep yourself updated, and subscribed to our WhatsApp alerts.
Monique Agius
09:55 The last question relates to the development of the vaccine. The ebola vaccine was developed over four years. Fearne highlights that ebola is more deadly.

He underlines that since the pandemic was not only affecting developing countries, but has hit developed countries both states and pharmaceuticals have thrown their money at developing the vaccine fast.

Fearne says that one needs to ensure that the vaccine is safe to administer to the population before releasing.

The government is in talks with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that Malta is not left out from procurement. He adds that the possibility exists that countries ban the export of a vaccine once developed. Such a scenario should be avoided, he says.
Monique Agius
09:52 Asked about travel corridors which would allow for some flights to operate, Fearne says that these are being done to mitigate the effect on the economy.
The predictions are showing that there will be a global recession after the pandemic.
He explains that those who will manage the outbreak well, will emerge economically strong.
Fearne notes that no one would want to travel to countries with a high number of active cases.
Monique Agius
09:49 There's is a contract signed between Malta and the government, he explains.

There are ongoing negotiations on the contract, Fearne says. According to Fearne, the American giant is arguing that the contract is more in favour of the government. He adds that the government would like to keep the contract as is.
Monique Agius
09:47 Why are we still paying Steward Health Care? Both MAM and UHM have criticized the deal.

Fearne says that the American giant offers a good service in the US.
Monique Agius
09:45 The Cabinet decided that Maltese ports are closed, Fearne notes. The port closure is not limited to cruise liners, but also to migrant landings.

'We did not send anyone back. We sent them to an open port,' Fearne says referring to the migrants who were pushed back to Libya.
Monique Agius
09:43 On the criticism leveled at Malta on the issue of migration, Fearne says that this was a bit rich. He explains that migration was not just a national issue but an issue of European solidarity.
Monique Agius
09:41 'Whoever resides in Malta, needs to be given treatment that they need,' Fearne says.

The health minister says that there have been cases of third country nationals who did not have the means to pay for treatment, but they were treated just the same even in cases where the patients could not pay for the treatment.
Monique Agius
09:38 Speaking about Hal Far open centre, Fearne says that residents were treated in the same manner as any other family in Malta.

Every case detected was isolated and treated, while those who were in contact with the person are under quarantine.

Fearne says that following a risk assessment the decision was taken to place the whole centre under quarantine. This was done for their own good.

A record number of around 1,700 swab tests were carried out in the last 24 hours, Fearne announces.
Monique Agius
09:36 The death rate stands at 1%, Fearne says. He adds that globally the rate stands at 8%. He noted that the majority had now recovered from the virus.
Monique Agius
09:34 Senior citizens and vulnerable people need to be protected, not only by asking them to remain home but also by keeping the numbers of coronavirus cases in the community, low.
Monique Agius
09:32 Fearne says that we cannot keep everything closed forever. We need to learn how to live with the virus, he adds.
Monique Agius
09:31 Health Minister says that had there been people in intensive care, Malta would not have the opportunity to develop systems which could help normalise life.
Monique Agius
09:26 Fearne notes that private clinics have developed their own system to operate during this period. While some took visits to Skype or video calls. Others have spaced out appointments and asked patients to remain in their cars and wait until they are called into the clinic.
Monique Agius
09:23 One of our readers compared the situation in a supermarket and the possibility of having people attending a funeral.

Fearne refers to trading off. He says that while one would like to see life resume as pre-coronavirus times, one needs to contain the spread.
Monique Agius
09:19 Addressing conspiracy theories, Fearne says that the evidence is clear – it was a natural occurring virus. He adds that history will judge whether the information was divulged in the correct manner.

There will be a war for the vaccine. Unless a vaccine is developed, the virus will remain around. Fearne says that a possible scenario would see a vaccine is successfully developed, but the country bans its export. He adds that this would be the next war. A country with a covid-19 vaccine would gain competitive edge and can restart its economy.
Monique Agius
09:18 Speaking about internal discussions, he says that there would discussions about the next move but they always seek to reach a balance.
Monique Agius
09:16 Fearne says that he has been having sleepless nights during this period as they continue having intensive discussions on what should be the next move.
Monique Agius
09:13 The easing of measures will impact the individuals directly. Fearne refers to the 2008 financial crisis, and says that as we have seen it's not the businessmen or the rich who are impacted in such situations, but the worker, the self-employed will be worse off.
Monique Agius
09:11 Malta is struggling to keep its R factor below 1. At present it stands 1.3. Are we going to lift more restrictive measures?

Fearne explains that the R factor is calculated on a number of days. It would show a spike in the R factor when one looks at it on a daily basis.
Monique Agius
09:10 'We're in an unknown territory with the limited information at hand,' Fearne affirms.
Monique Agius
09:06 Health Minister Fearne speaks about an interview he had at the beginning pandemic. He speaks about the difficult times during the pandemic. Every time there was a coronavirus-related or someone was admitted to intensive care, we were worried.

'This is the most difficult period for me. It's about the easing off measures. We can't keep everything closed off. But we are aware that by opening up, we know that there is a price. One may contract the virus. However, we can't keep everything closed forever.'
Monique Agius
09:03 Health Minister Chris Fearne reflects about the effect of the pandemic on his personal life. He describes life before coronavirus. After parliament is adjourned, he would meet his constituents or go out to dine.

He says that he is relieved that he does not have to travel abroad for one day. Describing video conferencing as a positive aspect.

Coronavirus took over my personal and political life. He says that in the past few weeks he was wearing the doctor's hat rather than that of a politician. He explains that his medical training and as a surgeon he's used to take such decisions based on the information at hand.
Monique Agius
09:00 Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne will be interviewed on Newsbook Hour today, hosted by Fr Joe Borg.
Monique Agius
08:59 Good morning and welcome to this Live blog.
Monique Agius

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Chris Fearne on Saturday at 9am, on the radio station 103 Malta’s Heart, will answer questions by Fr Joe Borg as well as many questions that were submitted by the listeners of the station and the readers of Newsbook.com.mt which will also broadcast the interview.

Fr Borg, the presenter of the programme Newsbook Hour, said that he was pleasantly surprised both by the number of questions as well as by the variety of interests shown.

Among other topics the Deputy Prime Minister will be asked:

  • Some senior citizens feel that they are being discriminated against. They cannot go shopping and are being told that they will not be allowed to travel abroad once the airport is open for travel. Is this correct or just?
  • Has the tender for the pre-fabricated hospital been awarded?
  • How did you live on a personal level the drama of this pandemic?
  • Is it not about time to allow proper funerals with the celebration of the Mass?

These and other questions during Newsbook Hour on Saturday between 9am and 10am on 103 Malta’s Heart and Newsbook.com.mt