Doctors say PM putting economy before health in ‘high-risk decision’ to re-open outlets

Doctors union: one infected patient at Mater Dei led to 10 infections among health care workers, three wards closed for disinfection, and tens of health care workers put on quarantine

Malta Medical Association president Martin Balzan • Photo by Ray Attard
Malta Medical Association president Martin Balzan • Photo by Ray Attard

The Medical Association of Malta (MAM) has expressed concern regarding the “high-risk decision” Prime Minister Robert Abela has taken to re-open business after the COVID-19 measures.

In a statement, MAM said the prime minister was putting economic interest before health. This was in response to an announcement by the prime minister on Sunday, where he said that restaurants and hairdressers would be allowed to reopen by the end of this week – although with strict measures.  

MAM said the high number of cases last week for four consecutive days occurred exactly two weeks after the first easing measures by the government.

The association said that people were given the impression that wearing surgical mask protected them from COVID-19 – with many not complying to social distancing rules – with venerable groups such as the elderly seen outside of shops.

These concerns were echoed by Malta’s nurses’ union who on Sunday penned an appeal to the prime minister to rule out any ‘safe tourism corridors’ in summer. With Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses boss Paul Pace saying he was shocked that the government could consider the option.

READ ALSO: Nurses pen COVID-19 appeal to Prime Minister: Do not reopen Malta to tourism

MAM said that the result of the latest figures, Malta moved up to the top twenty nations in the global world meter scale for COVID-19 cases, having twice the number of daily cases per population when compared to Italy, Spain and Germany.

“The country may have lost eight weeks because we now have the numbers we had two months ago. This is most unfortunate as to date Malta has had the lowest death rate in the European Union. Just one infected patient in a single ward led to at least 10 COVID-19 cases among health care workers, three wards to be closed temporarily for disinfection, and tens of health care workers put on quarantine,” the association said.

The association said that tests show that five of every 1,000 of the population are asymptomatic carriers while 100 people referred for testing by medical doctors every day do not turn up for swabbing, at great risk to the Maltese community.

MAM said the rising numbers should have advised more caution rather a “very hazardous” move of reopening restaurants and bars, a move which led to major problems in Japan, Singapore and South Korea, who it said regretted the decision and reversed it soon after.

The association said that it sympathised with workers in the tourism and leisure industry and their call for an early easing of measures, however, the more COVID-19 cases could further harm the industry.

 “MAM is disappointed that the government is putting economic interests before health and appeals to the Maltese public to remain very alert and cautious and as much as possible keep social distancing and avoid any form of crowding in public places. Staying at home remains the safest option.”

READ MORE: Restaurants and hairdressers to open by end of next week – PM

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