‘The coronavirus is not the plague, let’s not react with panic,’ Robert Abela says

The first cases of Covid-19 in Malta, the 12-year-old and her parents, are recovering and in good condition, the Prime Minister says

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela appealed for calm and composure in the event of the first cases of Covid-19 in Malta and said that the 12-year-old girl and her parents who contracted the virus were in good condition and recovering well. 

"The coronavirus is not the plague, as most people seem to think. We must be calm and rational and not react sensationally. Let's talk about facts and not perceptions," Abela said.

Speaking at a political activity in Rabat on Sunday, Abela said that the coronavirus is not as deadly a disease, that it's a virus that manifests itself in a respiratory illness that a large majority recovers from without requiring hospitalisation.

"I appeal for calm and rationality. Let's not react with panic. Malta has very high-quality healthcare and we've been preparing for the outbreak for a long time. Rest assured, we won't play games with your health," he said.

The first case of coronavirus in Malta was identified on Friday with the 12-year-old girl testing positive after she and her family returned from a trip to Trentino in Northern Italy on Tuesday, having flown back to Malta through Rome.

The Health Ministry said on Saturday that the family had been in self-quarantine and that the child did not attend school. The family is currently isolated at Mater Dei hospital.

"We have had good news today. The girl and her parents who contracted the virus are recovering well and are in good condition," Abela said, adding that the priority for the government would always be the wellbeing of the Maltese people.

MaltaToday revealed on Sunday that deputy prime minister and health minister Chris Fearne called on Abela to temporarily stop flights from northern Italy as a precaution against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

Abela said in Rabat that there was no room for extreme decisions.

"The easiest decision would be to isolate the island and cutting all travel ties. We might get there someday but it's not the right moment. If we make extreme decisions, such choices might lead to the suffering of the Maltese people.

"I also appeal to all associations to remain fair in their comments. I will keep making decisions in accordance with my conscience. Rest assured, there will come a time when you'll say I was right," Abela said.

Hamrun building collapse

Six days after a home collapsed in Hamrun, killing 55-year-old Miriam Pace, Abela promised government commitment to make sure such an incident would not reoccur.

"What happened here is not acceptable, that a person inside her home ends up being buried under the rubble," Abela said.

The house collapsed due to an adjacent construction site, the first incident of its kind this year after multiple such incidents last year. The search for Pace lasted for more than eight hours before she was discovered under the rubble.

"We understand that the construction industry is the main motor of our economy—it is, was, and will continue to be—but this does not justify sloppiness and irresponsibility. Work needs to be carried out in accordance with professionalism and skill," Abela said, adding that he had appointed a committee to review the incident and the construction sector holistically.  

Women's Day

Abela said that the number of women working in various sectors in Maltese society, including the judiciary, was heartening, but that the numbers contributing to politics were a different story.

"In politics, the number of female participants is consistently low. There's something wrong here... we can discuss why such a figure is disappointing but ultimately this is resulting in lower quality politics," Abela said. 

He insisted that the gender corrective mechanism was a much-needed procedure that would contribute to a snowball effect to rectify the gender imbalance in the political sphere.

"Now is the moment to introduce this mechanism. There will come a time when such a mechanism would not be required anymore or will be used for males, but until then, we need to implement it now in the name of gender equality," he said.