Pathologists still sceptic about lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

Malta College of Pathologists doubts whether wholesale lifting of restrictions is based on advice from health specialists

Malta’s specialists on disease and infection are still unconvinced of the island’s decision to lift the public health emergency restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

The Malta College of Pathologists said it was concerned that most, if not all, social restrictions in relation to COVID-19 control will be lifted in the coming weeks.

“It was the prompt and wholesale introduction of these restrictions, when other countries hesitated for economic reasons, that was the main reason why Malta was so successful in avoiding the scenarios witnessed in places like Bergamo and New York,” MCP secretary Dr Joan Betts said in a statement.

The College has already declared that a prudent exit strategy should involve phased scale-downs, spaced sufficiently apart so that if cases start to increase, there will be the possibility to identify which measure was linked to the increase and reverse it.

“The College therefore finds it difficult to understand how the authorities have apparently already decided to remove all flight restrictions on the 15 July when the first tentative flights would have started only a fortnight earlier, which is exactly the maximum incubation period of COVID-19.”

The MCP said pointed at New Zealand, probably the most successful country in this pandemic, which lifted its domestic lock-down but maintained almost universal restrictions to air travel since – as an island – this was the main route for reintroduction of the virus into that country.

But the MCP also expressed doubts about the input of health specialists in decision-making on exiting the COVID restrictions. “For this reason, the College encourages the government to publish the risk assessments that informed the decisions to lift the public health emergency and remove practically all COVID-19 precautions. This would provide the needed reassurances to the medical profession and the front liners who would need to again repeat the efforts of the past months should a second wave materialise.”

While Malta is one of the highest densely populated countries in the world, the MCP said immunity to COVID-19 amongst Maltese could still be as low as 1% or less. “It means that practically all the population remains susceptible to the virus. Therefore, any laissez-fare attitude from politicians or the general public could have disastrous consequences. It would be a pity if all the achievements of the past three months were to be lost in the haste to return back to a ‘normal’ which – at this stage – does not appear possible until a vaccine is finally available.”

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