Editorial | There is a way out

Decisions must continue being informed by scientific data and sober risk assessments with the understanding that measures can be re-introduced if the epidemiological situation changes


Government must be commended for adopting a cautious approach to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

The timelines for lifting the measures allow the health authorities space to evaluate their impacts and take corrective measures accordingly.

The press conference delivered yesterday by the Prime Minister, the Health Minister and the Public Health Superintendent provided a sober picture of the situation. More importantly, it was bereft of the loose political talk that in the recent past gave rise to false hope.

The authorities were clear that restrictions could be tightened if the main indicators of the pandemic – the daily positivity rate, the seven-day moving average of new infections, hospitalisations and patients in intensive care – worsen.

They also warned that vigilance and discipline must be maintained if the country is to reach the end of the tunnel.

After more than 12 months of restrictions, dashed hopes and economic and social hardship, it is understandable for people to experience fatigue. But now that the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, everyone must pull together and continue walking forward.

Any attempt to run because the end is in sight will risk taking us back to square one.

Within this context, the cautious approach and guarded language used yesterday are more than welcome.

From a business perspective, non-essential shops and services will be able to reopen with mitigation protocols on 26 April.

Restaurants and bars, so far, have not been given a deadline for reopening. One hopes that ongoing discussions over the coming weeks should lead to a deadline for restaurants and bars to reopen.

In this case, it is important that any timeline, even if it stretches deep into May, is communicated as early as possible to allow these commercial establishments to prepare and stock.

One understands as well the need for mitigation measures to continue being enforced across the board.

With government targeting 1 June as a deadline for reopening the tourism sector, it remains crucial that infection numbers remain low and the vaccination drive continues unabated.

The arrival of a fourth vaccine in mid-April – Johnson & Johnson – provides additional hope that the inoculation targets could be met earlier than expected.

Short of the development of a new virus variant and a hitch in the supply of vaccines, Malta appears on track to aim for economic recovery in summer.

The path will remain fraught with risks and setbacks but a concerted effort can see the country through.

How the country deals with the return of tourists will be crucial to ensure the recovery remains steady, albeit a slow one.

Proper controls at the airport and seaport must be in place to ensure that people coming here are either vaccinated or can produce a negative PCR test.

It must be mandatory for travellers to Malta to have a negative test before boarding their flight.

This is why the Malta Tourism Authority should consider a scheme of reimbursing travellers to Malta who would have had to pay for a COVID test. Tourists will be able to have the expense reimbursed in vouchers to be spent at restaurants and shops in Malta.

Another big decision will have to be taken at some point on mass events. This should not be a rushed decision and lessons from last year must be learnt.

Limiting the number of people who can attend these events, the presentation of a vaccine certificate and profuse testing will be necessary to lower the risk of virus spread in these circumstances.

Decisions must continue being informed by scientific data and sober risk assessments with the understanding that measures can be re-introduced if the epidemiological situation changes.

The hope that has been lit must be nurtured. There is a way out.

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