Doctors in symbolic strike hit out at MTA over short-circuiting of COVID-19 restrictions

Doctors: ‘We cannot be made responsible for the failure of the government to prioritise the population’s wellbeing over the short-term economic interests of the few’

Doctors from both the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) and the association of public health medicine (MAHPM), have railed against comments by an Malta Tourism Authority director instructing bars on how to short-circuit COVID-19 public health rules closing down drinking establishments.

“This is one of the examples of how certain lobbies are continuously attempting to undermine the efforts made by public health professionals to bring this pandemic under control,” the unions said.

Rules to close down bars and clubs appeared to have been circumvented when the MTA suggested that bars provide patrons with food platters or packets of crisps in order to fulfil the basic condition of being a food-serving establishment to remain open.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of constant attacks against the public health profession whose only interest is the public’s wellbeing. We can no longer work in an environment where we are constantly undermined and called fear-mongers, and we cannot be made responsible for the failure of the government to prioritise the population’s wellbeing over the short-term economic interests of the few,” the doctors said.

Today public health doctors launched a symbolic one-hour strike. Doctors working within the COVID-19 Response team which includes Public Health Medicine specialists, Specialist Trainees and Foundation Doctors will be protesting against the government’s handling of this pandemic by striking between 8am-9am with the exception of doctors working at the Testing Centres.

“Public Health Medicine doctors, together with many others, have been working tirelessly day and night, seven days a week, and away from their normal duties for the last 6 months to attempt to control this pandemic. Our advice based on scientific evidence has been proven to be effective, since the pandemic was well under control in the beginning of summer,” the unions said.

The doctors said they had proposed a transparent framework, based on an evidence-based risk assessment with clear thresholds to follow to allow certain establishments and activities to restart with mitigation measures. “Instead of following this plan, government decided not to publish it and go against all reasonable public health advice,” they said.

They complained that Malta’s second wave of COVID-19 was a resurgence in cases worse than in April and May. “This virus is not something that we can wish away, or trick into submission. It is a real threat against our way of living, and unless we control it using tried and trusted public health measures, we will continue to lose control and end up in an even worse situation than we are in now.

“Unless the public health authorities are allowed to function without undue influence and pressures, there will be consequences on the population’s wellbeing which none of us wish to even dream of.”

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