The current Covid 19 situation was brought up in Parliament following a statement by the PM Robert Abela about the meeting of the European Council at the end of last week which discussed the pandemic and other topics.
The leader of the Opposition Bernard Grech expressed his concern about the increase in the number of cases over this last week and said that the system of contact tracing has collapsed. He said that people are suspecting that the vaccination programme is not open and transparent. He also said that the emergency services are close to collapse.
He said that Malta has obtained vaccines also thanks to Nationalist MEPs and he praised the Greek PM’s proposal for the creation of a vaccination certificate.
The Opposition leader said that enforcement measures need to be protected and enforced. He said that the Government should also be transparent in its strategy because it is painting a different reality to what people are facing. He said that priority should be given to vulnerable people.
While calling on the Government to shoulder its responsibility, he said that the country needs to see economic growth within a short time without endangering people’s lives. He said that a European vaccination certificate is needed and appealed to the Government to provide more information to remove any doubts which many have about the vaccine.
PM Abela accused the Opposition leader that instead of appreciating the work carried out over a whole year as the country fought against the pandemic, he was being negative in his discourse once again and had not mentioned any proposal which was any different to what the Government is already doing.
The PM said that talks are taking place with the authorities to improve enforcement and increase the penalties because this Government does take action. He said the people know who should take credit for Malta to have obtained so many doses of the vaccine and that the country is at the forefront of EU countries in its vaccination programme.
While mentioning that more resources will be made available for contact tracing, he said that up to a few weeks ago the Opposition had defended the person in charge of the contact tracing, but now it is saying that the system he manages has collapsed.
PM Abela called for the Covid situation not to be politicised and said that the strategy continues to be to bring as many doses of the vaccine of every brand possible so that the vaccination programme can be accelerated. He said that instead of showing a sense of national unity, the Opposition only wants to criticise everything which has been done.
The Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne said that the increase in cases is due to the variant which is now in Malta and also because discipline among the public has decreased due to what he described as “pandemic fatigue.”
Minister Fearne said that 35,000 people have already taken the second dose and 54,000 have taken the first dose. He said that the vaccine in Malta is being distributed at twice the rate of other European countries. He said that discussions are taking place with specialists so that in a few weeks, enforcement, discipline and fines will be increased.
The Health Minister accused the Opposition leader of negativity and insinuations to mislead the public. He said that he even had a request from a PN MP to jump the queue and take the vaccine before other people.
Speaking about contact tracing, Minister Fearne said that over the last few days, this has fallen behind by a few days and therefore he is looking for more resources. He announced that another vaccination centre is being set up in Gozo while other centres at MCAST and Boffa hospital will be opened.
He said that those over 85 who are housebound are being inoculated and more than 80% of people over the age of 80 have taken the vaccine. Invitation letters to take the vaccine are currently being sent to people over 75.