Editorial | Finding the middle ground

A stronger effort is required to speed up the roll out of the booster dose along with an educational campaign harping on the importance that people get inoculated


Coronavirus infections have spiked and are very likely to continue rising in the coming weeks.

The record number of new cases registered yesterday is unlikely to be the last as Malta is gripped by the same wave of infections that is hitting Europe.

The reasons for this are varied and include waning vaccine immunity, heightened social interaction because of the Christmas period and a lax attitude to personal hygiene and mask wearing as a result of pandemic fatigue.

At a purely superficial glance, today’s situation does appear to be vaguely similar to that of a year ago when cases were also on the rise.

If one were to look at the sheer numbers alone, the latest surge is alarming but there are also significant differences between the situation today, and 12 months ago.

Despite the significant rise in new cases the corresponding statistic for COVID-related hospitalisations, and, much more pertinently, cases requiring intensive treatment, is visibly much lower than it was in 2020. Fatalities are also much lower.

The reason for this is the highly successful vaccination drive, which has seen Malta with a high coverage rate for all people aged 12 and over.

The COVID-19 vaccine has helped control the pandemic during the summer and autumn but waning immunity is now cause for concern.

This is why getting the booster dose is of utmost importance and people would do well not to delay taking it. The booster is important to get us out of the current situation.

Vaccines help prevent infection and in those cases where an individual still gets sick, the severity is greatly reduced.

Within this context, businesses require a plan of action covering the next month until the booster dose coverage increases further. It would be tough on businesses, jobs, public finances and mental health if the country were to go into another semi-lockdown.

While shutting down parts of the economy or schools should remain the last resort if that is required from a health perspective, an attempt to find the middle ground has to be done.

For starters, enforcement of existing regulations must be beefed up. It is useless having COVID rules for bars, clubs and restaurants, which are openly flaunted because this will only lead to the inevitable closure of establishments to curb the spread.

The Malta Tourism Authority has to get its act together and ensure inspections are carried out and establishments fined or closed if found in breach of the few obligations imposed on them. Trying to talk good sense into those who openly flaunt the rules has to stop and inspectors must bite the bullet. If this lax attitude continues everyone will suffer the consequences.

The contact tracing teams within the public health superintendence must be more expeditious in identifying contacts of COVID-positive people so that quarantine regimes can kick in the earliest possible and cut the risk of spread.

With the infection numbers being recorded, the contact tracing teams need to be boosted with more human resources.

But on top of this, a stronger effort is required to speed up the roll out of the booster dose along with an educational campaign harping on the importance that people get inoculated.

Postponing the booster dose until after the holidays is a risky strategy and people should be educated on the risks this entails.

Similarly, a strong drive is required to get children between 5 and 11 vaccinated. Although the severity of infection in children is very low, vaccination will not only protect their health but enable schools to remain open and lessen the disruptions to the economy.

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