A public health emergency | Stephen Spiteri

Frontliners, our own heroes are exhausted.  These doctors, nurses, paramedics cannot cope with the load. Their dedication is impeccable but their physical strength is giving way

Going back: 7 March 2020, the first active case tested positive for Covid-19 in Malta. This led to the official opening of the first wave on the island. Daily testing, swabbing accelerated with daily numbers increasing. Our neighbouring countries, Italy and Spain experiencing a devastating healthcare crisis.

A new pandemic, spreading across the globe landing here too! An alarm bell sounding to close all borders could contain the spread. It was late, but finally heard, and our airports were shut. This left us with local transmissions easier to control. Flattening the curve was the aim. A public health emergency was set up and proclaimed. We managed to prevent the catastrophic situations seen all around the globe. It was a victory. Some proclaimed it aloud. We were seen as the best in controlling this pandemic, an eye-opener. The ideal example of how to do it. Other countries praised our success story. So, with both eyes closed, ears shut, it was business as usual. The term ‘second wave’ was erased out of our vocabulary, “waves exist only at sea”! Consecutive days with zero new active cases gave the reassurance to whoever was not listening. Measures crucial to control the spread of the virus were abruptly halted, enjoy the summer, Maltese, now we can do it!

That was the mistake: COVID-19 was increasing, multiplying, transferring, spreading all around us, ready for the surge to appear, and it happened.

Today, we have to cope with the mistake committed earlier in summer. What is happening now?

Number of active cases daily average has increased to one hundred and fifty compared to the 1st wave. We have daily mortalities, daily additions of infected patients to our hospitals with morbid conditions related to the virus. The Intensive Care Unit (ITU) is at full capacity, with critical ventilated patients. The overloaded system, displaced almost all the routine, medical and surgical services in hospital.

Emergency surgeries have to wait, operations postponed, outpatients’ visits cancelled.

Frontliners, our own heroes are exhausted. These doctors, nurses, paramedics cannot cope with the load. Their dedication is impeccable but their physical strength is giving way. We need to help them.

This is a red flag, a warning, an anticipation that our health care system can collapse. The writing is on the wall, let’s act on time, before the horse escapes. The coming weeks are not easy to control dealing with the COVID and the seasonal flu. It’s a first, and we know it can be difficult. The hope of having a vaccine soon is there, but we have to be modest in our perceptions with months ahead, in controlling the spread.  We have to be fair and just to our own people. Public health care is our priority. Let us all support this. All the ingredients for a public health emergency are still there, it is in the best interest of our nation. It is to protect  the most vulnerable, our elderly, those with concurrent illnesses. A public health emergency will empower, the department of public Health to lead in the true interest and priority our country deserves. This direction will lead us to a victory, a true one this time.

Stephen Spiteri is a Nationalist MP