Abela returns to Ragusa holiday, but Fearne refuses to be drawn into PM’s trip

Deputy PM shrugs off repeated questions on Abela’s absence during week-long COVID-19 increase due to Ragusa holiday

Updated at 2:00 pm with governemnt reaction 

Save for his quick return on Sunday to address Labour audiences on One TV, Robert Abela is officially on holiday from the 11 August, and Chris Fearne is acting PM.

Today, deputy PM and health minister Chris Fearne refused to comment on Prime Minister Robert Abela’s trip to Sicily in the midst of a global pandemic which has seen the fastest growth of COVID-19 cases in Malta over just two weeks.

Fearne was addressing a press conference announcing new measures aimed at curbing the further spread of COVID-19. 

The deputy prime minister was asked on Robert Abela’s whereabouts a number of times by journalists from different media houses. Fearne shrugged off the questions, stating that the issue is not related to the country’s COVID-19 situation. 

“I don’t think the question is related to the COVID situation, and so I will leave it to other competent people to answer that question,” Fearne said. 

In follow-up questions, the deputy PM also refused to answer questions related to the Prime Minister, stating they were not related to COVID-19. “If you keep asking the same questions, you will receive the same answers,” Fearne said, laughing the questions off.

On Saturday, the PM was pictured in Ragusa, Sicily doing spinning classes, as Malta suffered its highest ever increase in COVID-19 cases. A request for comment on Saturday morning asking the OPM for details on Abela’s holiday went unanswered.

MaltaToday turned down a Labour Party request, made just 10 minutes after its enquiry with the OPM on the PM’s holiday plans was sent, to be one of three journalists facilitating Robert Abela’s appearance on One TV with questions. On Sunday, Abela complained on One TV that “journalists invited to ask [him] questions here in full transparency refuse the invitation because they do not work on Sunday”.

Abela said he has been teleworking from Sicily.

Abela returned to Malta to answer questions on ONE TV on Sunday afternoon, but was seen returning back to Sicily on Monday morning.

On Monday, Malta registered 69 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 607. 2,269 tests were carried out.

Government statement 

In a statement, a government spokesperson said that the PM halted a short holiday with his wife and daughter to address the nation and journalists, before leading a discussion with the deputy PM and Public Health Superintendent over the restrictions announced today. 

The spokesperson also said that during the holiday, Abela continued to work and shoulder his responsibilities by keeping constant contact with the cabinet. 

On Sunday, the PM, together with the state advocate drew up the respective laws announced on Monday. 

Abela will be returning to Malta later on today.