Doctors accuse tourism lobby of COVID-19 ‘disaster’ on health and economy

Doctors union pauses industrial action, accuses MHRA of putting pressure on government for mass events and taking in tourists from high-risk countries

MHRA president Tony Zahra (left)
MHRA president Tony Zahra (left)

Malta’s doctors has blamed the tourism lobby for a spike in COVID-19 cases and its resultant effects on the economy.

The Medical Association of Malta announced a pause on industrial directives for a week as from today Saturday, saying it expected decisive action by the government.

But it said that if Malta wants to avoid a lockdown, social distancing and widespread wearing of masks with very strict enforcement under pain of fines, was necessary.

“MAM must unfortunately register that all the consequences it had foreseen and publicly warned about are now materialising. The Santa Maria feast which normally commemorates the end WW2 siege by the Malta convoy, may now be associated with ‘our darkest hour’ as air travel is seriously limited in the COVID crisis,” MAM said as Malta went on several orange and red lists of EU countries limiting travel to the island.

MAM president Martin Balzan blamed the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association for putting pressure on the Malta Tourism Authority and the government.

“Most EU countries have shown us the red card, practically issuing Malta a formal certificate of incompetence. Opening the airport to high-risk countries with no precautions whatsoever, the promotion of the  delusion that ‘the war is over’ and the completely irrational decision to actively promote mass events to irresponsible revellers created a lethal, poisoned cocktail which the Maltese people will find very hard to swallow,” Balzan said.

The MAM said that with COVID-19 cases steadily rising, frontline health staff were risking their own health because of “greed, false expectations and disregard of logical scientific advice.”

“The livelihood of both employers and of thousands of employees in the tourist sector is now at grave risk. The government cannot afford to be in denial of the grave situation… it must recognise its errors and deal immediately and decisively to prevent further irreparable damage. It is now time to follow the advice of the experts in public health and be guided by scientific evidence,” Balzan said.

The MAM want effective public health measures to reduce the COVID-19 numbers in as short a time frame as possible are necessary. :There is no place for partying, for discos, or clubbing in the thick of such an epidemic, when very sick people are presenting to Mater Dei. All events of more than ten  people are the root cause of our problem and must be stopped immediately.”