[WATCH] Coronavirus: Delia calls on government to deliver food and medicine to elderly, aid businesses

PN leader Adrian Delia welcomes closure of schools, says government must discuss financial measures to aid businesses and elderly deal with Covid-19 impact

PN leader Adrian Delia addressed a press conference on the coronavirus on Thursday
PN leader Adrian Delia addressed a press conference on the coronavirus on Thursday

Adrian Delia has called on the government to discuss which measures can be put in place to help Malta’s businesses and the elderly in coping with the financial burden caused by the coronavirus.

The Nationalist Party leader said the Opposition was encouraging the government to engage in joint discussions on which financial help can be offered to the most vulnerable sectors of society, including small businesses and older people.

Delia, who was speaking during a press conference on Thursday, welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Robert Abela earlier today that all schools would be shut for a week from tomorrow. “The government has finally listened to teachers and parents,” he said.

The PN leader said while the government’s measure, put in place today, to deliver a two months’ supply of medicine to the homes of the 140,000 elderly people listed under the Pharmacy Of Your Choice (POYC) scheme was positive, it wasn’t enough.

Elderly people - which the experience of other countries has shown are more vulnerable to Covid-19 - had two main needs, Delia said: medicine and food. Many older people might not have the resources to stock up on food and medicine and would therefore need to leave their homes often to top up their supplies.

“The government should therefore set up a service, even if need be involving the army, to deliver food and medicines to all elderly people, not only those included in the POYC scheme,” Delia said, “We need to take all measures to ensure the elderly remain safe and that their financial burden does not increase. If need be, the government must provide financing for this - the Opposition would vote in favour of such a measure.”

Organisations such as Meals on Wheels could be used to help provide such a service, he said.

Government should shoulder quarantine leave burden

Delia said that, for both the public and private sectors, employees should not have to use their own leave to cover for any necessary quarantine periods. “The government should shoulder the burden itself,” he said, “It boasted of a surplus… and now is the time to use this surplus in the best interest of the country.”

Government workers, which number about 50,000, should work remotely, he said. “The government needs to use the available technology to allow public sector workers to work from home […] If the majority of these stay home, we’ll stop most of the risk of transmission.”

He said the private sector should also be encouraged to work from home. “Less people outside means less chances of transmission.”

Businesses, he said, understood in the most part that it was better to manage the problem now, before it was too late.

“The Opposition urges the government […] to see what resource packages can be offered to help our businesses,” he said.

"We’re in for a rough ride. Let us plan together with all stakeholders. Our businesses are small and fragile and cannot ride it out for a long time. Hard decisions will have to be taken."

Delia lamented that the government had not been amenable to cooperating with the Opposition on the coronavirus issue, but that the PN remained open for this and would still contribute as it could.

“Let us suspend Parliament’s normal schedule and discuss in the House what needs to be done for Malta. We don’t have many resources and can’t afford to get lost in partisan squabbles,” he said

He added that the PN had set up an internal taskforce to discuss Covid-19, including through the input of experts in the field. The group would be offering advice in this regard to the government.