Grech takes aim at Prime Minister for breaching face mask rules

PN leader takes issue with press conference debacle in which PM removed his mask to speak to press

Robert Abela addressing the press in Santa Luċija
Robert Abela addressing the press in Santa Luċija

Opposition leader Bernard Grech has sharply criticised Prime Minister Robert Abela, after Abela lashed out at journalists who criticised his “complete disrespect” for COVID-19 precautions and others’ wellbeing during an official ceremony.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) had criticised Abela for ignoring government-recommended precautions such as wearing a mask and social distancing when taking questions from journalists at a press conference on Friday morning.

The OPM reacted to the accusations, saying that “the Prime Minister is consistently wearing a mask as per the terms of the legal notice, while it is being removed, as the Superintendent for Public Health stipulated that it can, while he is addressing the public.”

Abela said it was the responsibility of the individual to take care of themselves and those around them, and goes on to state that the journalists should maintain a safe distance between themselves.

“The Prime Minister was asked by the media to take questions, which he did, and it is the responsibility of journalists as well not to congregate,” adding that journalists were given instructions from the Prime Minister’s officials to move back, and it was stated several times that microphones should be attached to an extender.

In a post on Facebook on Saturday afternoon, Grech said that “yesterday, the Prime Minister not only took off his physical mask, which he appears to hate wearing, but also his metaphorical one which occasionally slips without his realising.”

Abela had responded to the criticism by issuing two official press releases: one blaming the journalists for not maintaining distance from each other and another “boasting that surveys showed that Malta has a low rate of trust in the media,” Grech pointed out.

“This is not the behaviour of a serious Prime Minister. This is the behaviour of an arrogant Prime Minister.” Grech said.

The PN leader defended the media, saying it fulfilled an essential role of holding the Government and also the Opposition to account for their actions.