[WATCH] COVID-19 situation still under control, PM says

Prime Minister Robert Abela calls out politicising of coronavirus pandemic, insists decisions are being taken in the interest of the country

Prime Minister Robert Abela has insisted that despite the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, the virus’ situation in Malta is still under control.

“It was inevitable that numbers would be rising with the opening the of airport and arrival of tourists, what is important is that the country has adopted the necessary measures to retain control of the spread in the country,” Abela said.

In an interview hosted by Lovin Malta’s Chris Peregin, the PM echoed previous statements that government must find a balance between the health and the economy, insisting one cannot survive without the other.

“Facts show that government has managed the pandemic in a good manner, but one has to understand that that is a constantly changing situation,” he said.

Abela also praised the resilience and strength of the country’s healthcare system, stating it was crucial in not allowing for the crisis to spin out of control.

“If we compare our numbers to those of other countries like Luxembourg, we have 10 deaths, while they had over a hundred. This shows how far off we are from losing control,” he said.

He also said decisions were taken jointly between him, Health Minister Chris Fearne and Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci, but called the politicising of such a crisis.

“Let us get out of this collectively, then we will have time to discuss politics and the general election,” he said.

Government doing its best to tackle migration crisis

Speaking on the issue of illegal immigration, Abela said that the problem was never taken seriously by previous administrations.

He explained that government’s strategy is based on two principles – stopping boats from leaving Libyan shores and only allowing access to those who truly need it.

“We are not obliged to carry out rescues on every boat that comes near us, that is why we are only allowing boats who are truly in crisis to be allowed entrance into our territory,” he said.

On a parliamentary petition which has collected more than 40,000 signatures, calling for a referendum on migration, Abela said that while he understands their concerns, one must first understand the crux of the problem.

“For now, we must properly understand the issue and see how we can amend it,” he said playing down the possibility of a referendum being held.

He did insist of more policing so that those who decide to break the law are brought to justice.

“I will not tolerate that Maltese are uncomfortable in their own houses and streets,” he said.

Broadcasting reform

Having promised a reform in the country’s national broadcaster, Abela was asked whether the axing of Malta’s most watched current affairs programme, Xarabank, was ordered by him.

“The decision came from the Public Broadcasting Service’s editorial board,” Abela said.

He did however say that government is currently working on a reform in the country’s broadcasting policy.

Abela also said that an exercise is underway to have ONE TV’s, the Labour Party’s television station, audited accounts released.

No deadline was given.