[WATCH] Abela on mass events: decision did not favour any particular industry

Government introduced fresh set of measures to mitigate spread of a new wave of COVID-19

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela
Decision to open for mass events did not favour any particular industry, PM says

Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that the decision to open mass events was not taken to favour a particular business sector. 

The PM was speaking during a press conference where he briefed the media on the meeting held between government and social partners on Thursday evening. “The scenario we are living in is continuously changing. We are basing our decisions on evidence, and this is a developing situation,” he said.

He said that government has not stamped its feet when taking decisions, case in point the cancellation of four mass events which were to be held later on this summer. “Those events would have netted government €25 million, which would have been spent on health services, but we took the difficult decision of cancelling them,” he said.

Abela hailed yesterday’s meeting as a positive one. “Industrial serenity is crucial to the country’s success, and so we must ensure that a common consensus is reached,” he said.

Praising the country’s health services, Abela still appealed for caution, while stating that if hospital beds are still vacant, extreme measures would cripple the economy and affect people’s livelihoods. “We are working with two principles in mind – people’s lives and their livelihood. We cannot sacrifice one for the other.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne was also present, giving  details on newly adopted measures agreed on last Thursday evening.

Abela addressed the press conference with Chris Fearne
Abela addressed the press conference with Chris Fearne

No more than 100 people can be within an enclosed indoor place for any event. No more than 300 people will be allowed for out-door events.

Fearne also said that strict enforcement by health, MTA and police officials will be carried out.

Fresh measures will be introduced today in a legal notice, including a €50 fine for not wearing masks in public transport, stores, the airport and the Gozo ferry.

Restrictions will also be imposed on visitors at Mater Dei Hospital and elderly homes.  “We must continue to protect the most vulnerable in society,” Fearne said.

Two new swabbing centres will also be opened. “The widespread swabbing we have carried out since the pandemic started will continue to be carried out.”

READ MORE: Under fire Prime Minister in meeting with social partners over COVID-19 situation

MCESD meeting

Yesterday in an eight-hour-long meeting the PM met with union leaders and employers bodies to brief them on the COVID-19 situation in light of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The PM was under pressure to ban mass events and ensure measures to curb the virus spread are enforced. Abela said the government had recognized the spike in cases, with the cancellation of four major festivals as proof of such attention.

“We are not stamping out feet. The four events would have netted government around €25 million, which in turn would have been spent on projects such as the improvement of the country’s health services,” he said.

On Friday morning the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) said that industrial action would continue into its second day after the government failed to ease their concerns.

The union said the government proposal to allow mass/public events of up to 300 people was absurd and dangerous. Another proposal to limit the number to 60 indoors and 100 outdoors was also not accepted.

However, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses has since halted industrial action after citing it had reached an agreement with the government over the organization of mass events.

The nurses’ union also said the PM committed to introducing rigorous enforcement which will be taken “seriously and effectively”.

Despite halting industrial action, MUMN stated that it will continue to monitor the situation, and will reintroduce the directives if it is not satisfied with the situation.

After the marathon meeting, a decision was made to impose a €50 fine on those refusing to wear masks at crowded places such as buses, in shops.

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