Ignoring quarantine rules has become the most common crime all over

We have entered pandemic fatigue. Meanwhile, COVID-19 keeps multiplying and even mutating... and the pandemic rages on

This week the number of people infected by COVID-19 in Malta has been increasing alarmingly – climbing back to the previous worse heights. The mortality rate of the pandemic worldwide is between 2.25% and 3% of confirmed cases. Figures differ probably because different countries compile their numbers in different ways.

In Malta, the rate is around 2.5%. This means that every time new cases are registered, one can predict the number of deaths by applying this percentage. This does not seem to have sunk in with the general public. When the statistics indicate that there have been, say 160 new cases, nobody seems to translate this figure into four extra deaths in the future.

In the recent ‘festive’ season all caution seems to have been thrown to the wind with the obvious consequences that we are now discovering.

Why have people suddenly let go, ignoring the advice of the health authorities and ignoring all protocols and recommendations that were based on scientific facts?

The mood has certainly changed from the time last year when we thought we had beaten the virus. People have got tired of the pandemic, more so as the vaccines are on the way.

Are the Maltese suddenly suffering from a rush of pandemic fatigue?

‘Pandemic fatigue’ is a mental and physical tiredness as a result of people facing constant change and uncertainty. It is not an official or a diagnosable condition but simply a term to describe the impact of COVID-19 related stresses on our feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. This induces people to feel ‘done’ to the extent that they do not bother any more about precautions and the loss of personal freedom that the pandemic necessitates.

People are fed up of the pandemic and yearn to go back to when we had never heard of COVID-19.

The drastic change in lifestyle – especially in the way this has affected the work-family balance – has caused shifts in the ups and downs of emotions and a lack of motivation in many.

Many have acclaimed the advantage of remote working that has become more common because of the pandemic, but remote working has also led to new stresses. The blurring of boundaries can make it seem as if both the work and home “shifts” never end. Working from home needs a dedicated workspace with physical boundaries to be respected by both the worker and others in the household.

Indications of pandemic fatigue are people not feeling diligent about wearing a mask, washing their hands, keeping social distance. People feel exhausted even though they get enough sleep, become more impatient and irritable, stressed by tasks that they normally take in their stride, refusing to engage in things that used to be enjoyable, feeling hopeless about the future, consume more food and alcohol, and even find it harder to focus and concentrate.

I believe that while the health authorities are doing their best to suppress the virus, the psychological effect of the pandemic is not being tackled. Imploring people to obey directives has not worked.

The forays in Gozo during the Christmas and New Year’s Day period have amply shown that people are fed up of the situation and are rebelling against restrictions, in spite of such an attitude being foolish and harmful to society at large.

This has not happened only in Malta, of course. Recently, several Britons went for skiing forays in Austria, ignoring all COVID-19 protocols. Last summer many travelled to sunny beaches in holiday spots where coronavirus infections were starting to surge. Many normally law-abiding people are harbouring a guilty secret: they are the COVID-19 holiday quarantine-breakers.

Ignoring quarantine rules has become the most common crime all over the developed world, and has led to governments consistently raising the value of fines for those caught doing so.

This situation is mostly attributable to pandemic fatigue.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 keeps multiplying and even mutating... and the pandemic rages on.

Punishing endeavour

The recently announced new COVID subsidies to the self-employed and small enterprises punishes creativity and enterprise and awards the lazy who think that they just have to wait doing nothing until things become again what they once were.

Small businesses are going to be subsidised according to their losses – the more losses, the more subsidies! This means the system will be penalizing those businesses that managed to adapt more and better to the new market conditions, whilst inefficient ones are being encouraged to lay back and resist change.

This attitude assumes that when (and if) the pandemic is over Malta’s economy will revert back to an ‘as we were’ situation. This will never happen in Malta or in any other part of the world.

It is about time for the government to let market forces play a larger role in piloting our new economy in the current business atmosphere. This could be done – amongst other things – by increasing unemployment benefits, rather than by subsidising inexistent jobs as it is now doing.

The government should allow the market to reallocate resources efficiently.


Trump’s ‘marmalja’

I always felt that Donald Trump lacked the basic belief in democracy that puts the will of the people over the pride of politicians. This was confirmed last Wednesday when an organised mob sacked the US Capitol in Washington – the climax after four years of Trump’s incitement, conspiracy allegations, lying and pitting Americans against each other.

The violent invasion saw elected politicians cowering under their seats, police guns drawn in the House of Representatives and Trump supporters interrupting the ceremonial process confirming Joe Biden’s election victory. Incredibly, the sitting President of the United States had incited thugs to attack the citadel of US democracy and block the will of the people.

I was not surprised with what happened as I always felt that Trump’s relentless drive to rebuff Biden’s victory could lead to this sort of thing.

Last Wednesday’s incidents reminded me of the ‘marmalja’ days during the Mintoff governments in 1970s Malta. Mintoff unashamedly used violence to press a point, while claiming that the ‘enemies of the people’ had provoked a violent reaction, but his personal pride was never the motivation.

Mintoff genuinely respected the people’s decisions at the polls and in the peaceful transfer of power. That is why Mintoff redeemed himself by saving the same Maltese democracy that his brinkmanship had imperiled.

Trump is beyond redemption. The ugly stain that he has wrought in US political history can never be washed away.