Grech’s U-turn on vaccine passes finds strong support on Facebook

Just five days after endorsing mandatory vaccine pass for patrons, PN leader now calling for a repeal of the measures

Opposition and PN leader Bernard Grech (Photo: PN)
Opposition and PN leader Bernard Grech (Photo: PN)

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has called for a repeal of mandatory vaccination for hospitality industry patrons, just five days from when he himself endorsed the same measures.

In a U-turn on his previous stance in support of a mandatory vaccination for patrons of indoor establishments, Grech is now calling for an “adequate balance between public health and people’s liberties”.

Originally on 8 January, Grech endorsed upcoming rules to limit entry to restaurants, bars, gyms, sports events and other venues to adequately vaccinated people. “We’re making it clear that we follow the health authorities’ official instructions as they have all the details in hand, and we will keep endorsing official decisions,” Grech then said.

But on 12 January, Grech modified his prior stance, with a Facebook post questioning the health measures set to go into effect on 17 January pertaining to booster shots, vaccine certificates and denial of access to goods and services.

While Grech said he supported advice on the administration of vaccine and booster, he has now championed “the right of people to take their own decisions”.

While Grech’s apparent U-turn immediately drew criticism from the Labour Party, accusing him of playing political games, his Facebook post drew hundreds of comments in support of his stance.

“I had lost all hope that people still had principles. Vaccinated and yet you can still catch and spread the virus. So what is the point that someone else can travel… but not me?” said one commentor to Grech’s Facebook post.

“Until now without the vaccine we didn’t have these numbers. Pressure to investigate whether the challenges vaccinated people are going through is being reported and how deaths are automatically declared covid deaths without an autopsy. We need the politics of transparency and of principles,” another one wrote.

One man said: “I was eagerly waiting for this message, finally… we have someone that really stands up for people. Those without the booster aren’t going to be allowed to go and vote? That’s what I want someone to answer for me. Because then for votes it’s not a problem not to have a booster.”

Grech’s stance may chime in with a minority of misgivings about the COVID vaccine, which in Malta has enjoyed huge take-up, with at least two-thirds of the country now having received a booster dose.

A few manifestations against the COVID vaccine and other public health restrictions have taken place in Malta by a minority of opponents.

But the mandatory vaccination pass for patrons or workers in the hospitality industry, brings on a debate over individual freedoms and the common good, vaccine effectiveness, and related public health restrictions.

“At last! You can’t restrict people’s liberty and make them do what they don’t want,” one Facebook reaction to Grech’s post, said. “For various, serious reasons. The authorities must be much more transparent if they want the people to believe and trust.”

But on Thursday, the Medical Association of Malta said it agreed with the proposed measures, adding they could be withdrawn when 85% of the population received their booster dose.

READ ALSO: Doctors' union endorses mandatory COVID vaccine pass for outlets until herd immunity is reached