Editorial | Exceptional times require exceptional decisions

The country is in an emergency situation and as the maxim goes, exceptional times require exceptional decisions


There are no two ways of interpreting the latest numbers characterising the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of daily new cases has hit record after record over the past seven days with yesterday’s 510 cases raising alarm.

The surge in cases has resulted in more hospitalisations with health professionals yesterday warning that this was causing pressure on the intensive care units at Mater Dei Hospital.

The indicators point towards a crisis that is spinning out of control and risks destabilising the country’s wellbeing.

This is not alarmist talk. The pandemic is ravaging lives, health, social cohesion and threatens economic wellbeing.

It is time for tough decisions to be taken to curb the spread of what is now a more infectious coronavirus variant, accounting for more than 60% of all new cases.

The decisions taken yesterday by the authorities are welcome, even if they could have come earlier.

However, it is pertinent that enforcement be stepped up and no excuses be made for people trying to find loopholes in the law. Enforcement should not be hindered by cheap talk from politicians trying to paint an unrealistic rosy picture.

The pandemic has already left a huge impact on the mental health wellbeing of many. Raising false hope only makes things worse because it leads to disappointment, anger and distrust.

From a business perspective, this soft lockdown will hurt. It is undesirable but if this country is to harbour any hope of gradual recovery in summer this is the only option.

Businesses are already being crippled by the growing number of people in quarantine as a result of the higher infection numbers.

At this rate of infection, Malta also risks being blacklisted for travel purposes, which would represent an additional blow for tourism.

Decisions informed by science had to take centre-stage amidst the spike in cases. The rhetoric that Malta will be back to business as usual by May must be ditched for a realistic and honest assessment of the current situation and its aftermath.

Hope must come in the form of a concerted effort to vaccinate more people at a quicker pace and continued government support to families and businesses. Hope must come in the form of cooperation by all and sundry to obey directives.

It is within this spirit of guarded optimism that the declarations by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana and Enterprise Minister Miriam Dalli this week that the COVID-19 wage supplement will continue being paid until June and in some cases until the end of the year are welcome.

So is yesterday’s declaration by the Prime MInister that the full wage supplement will now also be paid to those business that were forced to close from today under the new measures.

A survey carried out by the Chamber of SMEs earlier this year, and another one conducted by the Malta Employers’ Association recently, showed that operators were clamouring for clarity and certainty on the government wage support scheme. Indeed, for some, survival depends on it.

The country is in an emergency situation and as the maxim goes, exceptional times require exceptional decisions.

We hope that this new soft lockdown until 11 April will help break the cycle of infections and give hospitals a chance to recover and more resources be directed towards the vaccination programme.

Shock therapy now will help to save lives and save the economy.

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