Charmaine Gauci: Floriana championship celebrations ‘worrying’ for health authorities

Public Health Superintendent says people who attended the Floriana FC celebrations on Monday and who develop symptoms in the coming days should contact the health authorities immediately

Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci has dubbed the Floriana championship celebrations on Monday as “worrying” for the health authorities and urged anybody who develops symptoms to get in touch. 

“The regulation which restricts group gatherings to six people are there for a reason, we are still not out of it just yet,” she warned when contacted by MaltaToday. 

On Monday, Floriana FC were declared Premier League champions for this year’s football season, after a decision by the Malta Football Association council. The league was awarded on the basis of the league table when the tournament was stopped. 

Soon after the decision was made public, social distancing rules were put on the back-burner after an unstoppable wave of Floriana supporters made their way to the Granaries to celebrate their 26th league title after a drought of 27 years. 

The celebration sparked outrage on social media, with people calling out the authorities for the lack of policing in controlling the crowds. 

“It is dangerous to have large groups of people who have not met regularly over the past three months to congregate in such numbers,” Gauci said. 

She insisted the virus is still in the community, and yesterday’s celebrations could mean that COVID-19 could have been transmitted between those attending. 

She also said that vulnerable people could have been present, making it even more dangerous for them. “We could also have had a situation where people who attended could have taken the virus back home and transmitted it to their family members,” she added. 

In recent weeks, authorities started conducting random testing on vulnerable groups in order to identify asymptomatic and hidden cases among the community. 

Asked if random testing would be conducted among those who attended, Gauci said it would be impossible to identify all those who were present. “We must remember that those in attendance yesterday hailed from different regions of Malta, and it would be impossible to track down everyone,” Gauci said. 

She also insisted it would be of utmost importance for anyone who attended the celebrations to call the COVID-19 helpline on 111 if symptoms emerged in the coming days. “We are here to help, people should come forward immediately if symptoms emerge,” she said. 

Floriana FC secretary-general Dione Borg told other press on Monday morning that celebrations were not organised by the club, stating it had urged supporters to stay home. 

Borg said the minute he saw people congregating, he made announcements on a microphone for people to spread out. “When we saw that this was not working, we closed the club and asked police to intervene,” he said. 

The celebrations were also condemned by one of the constituted bodies. 

The Chamber of Commerce called the behaviour “irresponsible and deplorable”. 

“This lack of discipline is a slap in the face of the country’s health workers who for the last months have been working round the clock to control the situation to the best of their abilities,” it said.